A Brief Review of the 2019 ASHA Conference

Compiled by Daniel J. Leahy

Daniel was another of the bursary recipients and his thoughts on the conference are below.  


As Armidale has been suffering from a drought for a number of months, it was great to see both green grass and blue water – the time away also gave me a few days of relaxation. I was interested by a number of papers presented at the conference. Gordon Grimwade’s paper on the WWII heritage of Horn Island in Queensland, a site which I’m including in my own PhD research, was extremely interesting and gave me some insight to an area I’m yet to visit. As the President of the University of New England (UNE) Archaeology Society, it was also great to see papers presented by current and former UNE students such as Caitlyn D’Gluyas, Karen Filewood, and Crystal Phillips. Though the standout paper for me was Matthew Kelly’s presentation on Papua New Guinean carriers during WWII, especially regarding the Orokaiva people, whose land I have visited numerous times over the past 20 years (my grandmother’s brother-in-law was killed in Oro Province during the fighting of early 1943).

However, the most rewarding aspect of attending the 2019 ASHA Conference had to be the social connections that were made. For me this included both catching up with old friends and colleagues and also making new connections or receiving new tips about additional sites for my PhD project. To me, this is what such conferences are about – the collaboration and sharing of ideas and information. It was also interesting to see what aspects and ideas people wanted to discuss about both my own presentation and a poster I had compiled for the conference.

I will admit that when the venue of the 2019 ASHA Conference was announced I was disappointed. While I understand that Port Macquarie is indeed an historic area and relatively central in New South Wales, as a non-driver it meant a 12+ hour rail journey – each way – even from the University of New England (UNE) in Armidale. Furthermore, with another annual archaeology conference commencing literally days after the end of the ASHA Conference it meant that I would be unable to attend both. Ultimately, as my current PhD project aligns with historical archaeology, I opted to attend the ASHA Conference. Additionally, as a colleague was also attending, I was able to hitch a ride, ultimately saving me from the long rail journeys. Others had expressed similar feelings about the conference in the lead up to the event, so I was a tad dubious about how it would turn out, but ultimately I am glad that I was able to attend. During the conference it was announced that the 2020 ASHA Conference will be held in Melbourne. I am thoroughly looking forward to next year’s conference, as it is close to my ‘home turf’ and I am planning to conduct fieldwork in Victoria in the near future. So I hope to have lots to share at the upcoming conference.