2003 Life Membership Award for Outstanding Service to the Australian Archaeology Association

Peter White

Peter began his undergraduate days in Melbourne, where he pursued historical interests before spending two years in Cambridge in the early 1960s. He returned to Australia in 1964 to undertake research in the Papua New Guinea highlands, and became the first Australian to receive a doctorate in archaeology at the Australian National University. This led to a spell of employment at the Australian Museum, Sydney, and then a year at the University of California at Berkeley as a Harkness Fellow. In 1971 he took up a lectureship at the University of Sydney, which became his base for the next 32 years. Peter subsequently held visiting positions at several other universities, including the University of Papua New Guinea, a further stint at Berkeley, and the Australian National University. In December 2003, J. Peter White retired from teaching at the University of Sydney. During this period his name has become virtually synonymous with the study of our region’s prehistory. Throughout his career Peter has been, first and foremost, an Australian practising a brand of archaeology that rejects Euro-centric views of human history. This position came to the fore in his chapter in Sunda and Sahul (1977) and in the classic book A Prehistory of Australia, New Guinea and Sahul (1982) which he wrote with James O’Connell. One of Peter’s noteworthy contributions to the profession has been his unwavering support for the Australian Archaeological Association, for which he has helped to organise three national conferences (including the infamous one at Valla Beach in 1980!).