This month marks the golden jubilee of a watershed event in the history of this nation that should cause all Australians to pause and reflect.
On July 15, 1968, while searching for clues to past climates and ancient landscapes on land under the joint care of Paakantyi/Barkindji, Ngiyampaa and Mutthi Mutthi people, Earth scientist Jim Bowler ambled across the cremated remains of an Aboriginal woman eroding from a crescent-shaped dune flanking the shoreline of now-dry Lake Mungo in western New South Wales.
The 40,000-year-old “Mungo Lady” and the equally ancient remains of Mungo Man, found nearby in 1974, doubled scientific estimates of how long Aboriginal people had called Australia home.
The discovery taught us Aboriginal history stretched back to a time when the only humans in Europe were Neanderthals, and people had not yet reached America. The scientific, cultural and political reverberations still resonate today.