Higher Degree by Research Application Portal

TitleDesert People: Australian Perspectives
SupervisorProf Pete Veth
Palaeoenvironments and archaeobotany
Aboriginal and TSI Archaeology
Research areaHistory, Heritage and Archaeology
Project description

The Desert People Project brings innovative science & Indigenous knowledge together to develop new understandings of the 60,000-year custodianship of Australian deserts. The archaeology focuses on the Ningaloo coast, Pilbara & Western Desert. This region is experiencing expansion in resource extraction, energy production & tourism. This globally significant human record is poorly documented and at risk, as seen in the recent loss of Juukan Caves. The Desert People programme works with Traditional Owners & uses novel techniques to document places of the highest value for their management and protection.

We invite competitive applications for four PhDs on the Laureate Fellowship project Desert People: Australian Perspectives led by Professor Peter Veth & funded by the Australian Research Council and UWA. We are interested in candidates carrying out research on the following:

(1) investigating and correlating stratified open & rockshelter site data from varied locations across the coast to the interior with a particular focus on geoarchaeology; 

(2) studying the record, nature & role of plant grinding and processing technologies from key sites across north-western Australia; 

(3) studying regional patterns of lithic sourcing, transportation and artefact production using geochemical fingerprinting techniques; and 

(4) palaeoenvironmental reconstructions from archaeological sites using faunal, botanic or sedimentary records. 

Candidates with a background in these themes will be well positioned for success. The PhD candidates would be working with a vigorous cohort of 4 postdoctoral fellows based at UWA Archaeology & the University of Wollongong OSL Dating Laboratory, another PhD based at Waikato University Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory, 10 specialist research collaborators from around Australia, & up to 10 Aboriginal partner organisations from the north-west.

It is expected that extensive and supervised fieldwork will be carried out for three months a year with the Desert People team involving engagement with Traditional Owners & Rangers on their Country.  

Opportunity statusOpen
Open date01 Nov 2023
Close date08 Mar 2024
Funding source

Australian Government, Australian Research Council (ARC) and The University of Western Australia (UWA)

SchoolSchool of Social Sciences

Project CI, Prof Peter Veth (peter.veth@uwa.edu.au

Project Manager, Dr Chae Byrne (chae.byrne@uwa.edu.au)

Specific project requirement

A strong record of Honours level research in a suitable discipline such as archaeology, archaeological science, palaeoenvironment, palynology, archaeobotany and/or geochemistry.

Additional information

Fellowship Project Summary

Course typeDoctorates
Duration4 years


Australian archaeology 

Please email the following documents directly to CI Professor Peter Veth (peter.veth@uwa.edu.au):

(1) A cover letter outlining your suitability for the position;

(2) A copy of your academic transcript; and

(3) A brief CV including your contact details and two referees 

Students intending to undertake a dissertation or thesis as part of a Higher Degree by Research (HDR) course at The University of Western Australia, are required to have acquired adequate research preparation, prior to being admitted into a course.

The University's Adequate Research Preparation Policy (UP11/25) details this requirement.

The policy broadly states:

  • An applicant is normally considered to have fulfilled the requirements for admission to a HDR course if they can demonstrate that they have undertaken supervised individual research in which they have designed and conducted a scholarly investigation in the context of an existing body of knowledge.
  • In exceptional circumstances, consideration may be given to applicants whose qualifications do not meet the definitions of adequate research preparation outlined in the policy (clause 4.1), where the school/supervisor believes that the applicant is likely to succeed in the course. In these circumstances, admission may be granted to a Masters Degree by Research in the first instance. 


Available scholarships in this opportunity.

Desert People Project

Desert People: Australian Perspectives