Prof Peter J. Sutton

Honorary Research Associate Anthropology

+61 8 8207 7618


Peter returned to the South Australian Museum 2004 as an Australian Research Council (ARC) Professorial Fellow.  He became an Honorary Research Associate in 2010.


Position at Other Organisation

  • Affiliate Professor, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide


Research Interests                         

Aboriginal Australia, in particular: languages; land ownership; art and material culture generally; history; policy.


Current Research Projects

Biography of Ursula Hope McConnel 1888-1957 (unfunded).

Documentation of pre-World War 2 photographs by anthropologist Ursula McConnel, funded by an Indigenous Language Support grant via Aurukun Shire Council, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, $27,500.


Awards & Achievements

  • Nuffield Fellow, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge, England (1981–82)

  • Anisfield-Wolf Award (Anisfield-Wolf Foundation, USA 1988) for serious works that combat racism, awarded to P. J. Sutton as editor of Dreamings (NY 1988).

  • James Henry Breasted Prize (American Historical Association, USA 1999) for the best English-language book on the ancient and early medieval history of Africa, North America and Latin America, awarded to the Woodward and Lewis (editors) volume The History of Cartography, Volume 2.3: Cartography in the Traditional African, American, Arctic, Australian, and Pacific Societies (1998; contains two chapters by P. J. Sutton; see Publications below) (1999)

  • Visiting Fellow, Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University (2000)

  • Honorary Research Fellow, Institute of Archaeology, University College London, England (2003–09)

  • ARC Professorial Fellow, University of Adelaide and South Australian Museum (2004–2009)

  • Visiting Professor, Department of Linguistics, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, England (2008)

  • The Manning Clark House National Cultural Award for an outstanding contribution to the quality of Australian cultural life in 2009 for The Politics of Suffering: Indigenous Australia and the End of the Liberal Consensus (2009)

  • The 2010 John Button Prize for the best piece of non-fiction writing on politics or public policy published in Australia in the previous year, for The Politics of Suffering: Indigenous Australia and the End of the Liberal Consensus (2010)


Professional Associations       

  • Fellow, Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia

  • Member, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

  • Member, Australian Linguistic Society

  • Member, European Society for Oceanists



  • BA (Hons), University of Sydney (1970)

  • MA (Hons), Macquarie University (1974)

  • PhD, University of Queensland (1979)


Current Teaching Responsibilities

PhD student supervision at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, England


Community Engagement    

With author John Strehlow, held a public conversation about Strehlow’s new book The Tale of Frieda Keysser. Ira Raymond Room, University of Adelaide Library, March 8 2012.

Invited address on Indigenous policy to members of State parliament and staff, Parliament House, Adelaide, 17 May 2012.

Invited seminar to post-graduate/staff Linguistics seminar on causes of language extinction, University of Adelaide, 22 May 2012

Invited paper on ‘Kinship as a system of shared norms from sovereignty to now’, University of Adelaide undergraduate native title course, 22 January 2013.

Invited paper on ‘Cultural mapping of Cape York Peninsula: a brief history’ at workshop at Centre for Native Title Anthropology, Australian National University, 11 February 2013.

Invited paper on ‘Kinship as a system of shared norms from sovereignty to now’ at Research Practices program (sponsored by Aurora Project) for NTRB staff, Australian National University, 13 February 2013.


Media Expertise 

History of anthropology.



  1. Sutton, P. (2010). Aboriginal spirituality in a new age. In Carolyn Schwarz and Françoise Dussart (eds), Engaging Christianity in Aboriginal Australia. Special issue of The Australian Journal of Anthropology 21: 71–89.

  2. Sutton, P. (2010). Ursula McConnel’s tin trunk: a remarkable recovery. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 134: 101–114.

  3. Sutton, P. (2010). Mediating conflict in the age of native title. Australian Aboriginal Studies 2010/1: 4–18.

  4. Sutton, P. (2010). ‘Art and Aurukun cultural history’ in Butler, S. (ed.) Before Time Today: Reinventing Tradition in Aurukun Aboriginal Art, pp. 32–55. St Lucia, Queensland, Australia: University of Queensland Press.

  5. Sutton, P. (2010). ‘The logic of Wik camping, north Australia’ in Hardy, K. (ed.) Archaeological Invisibility and Forgotten Knowledge. Conference Proceedings, Łódź, Poland, 5th–7th September 2007, pp. 91–107.  Oxford: Archaeopress (British Archaeological Reports International Series 2183).

  6. Sutton, P. (2010). ‘Linguistic Identities in the Eastern Western Desert: the Tindale evidence’ in Baker, B., Mushin, I., Harvey, M. and Gardner, R. (eds) Indigenous Language and Social Identity: Papers in Honour of Michael Walsh, pp. 43–66. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.

  7. Sutton, P. (2009). The Politics of Suffering: Indigenous Australia and the End of the Liberal Consensus. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

  8. Sutton, P. (2009). Australian anthropologists and political action 1925–1960. Oceania 79: 202–217.

  9. Veth, P., Sutton, P., and Neale, M. (eds) (2008). Strangers on the Shore: Early Coastal Contacts in Australia. Canberra: National Museum of Australia Press.

  10. Sutton, P. (2003). Native Title in Australia: an Ethnographic Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.