Researcher biography

Emeritus Professor Ian Lilley FSA FAHA (BA Hons, MA Qld, PhD ANU) is an international discipline leader whose interests focus on archaeology and heritage in Australasia, the Indo-Pacific and globally.

Ian is an archaeologist in the School of Social Science, to where he moved in 2019 after 25 years leading the academic program in UQ's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit (ATSIS). He also has a continuing visiting appointment as Willem Willems Chair in Contemporary Issues in Archaeological Heritage Management at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Leiden is continental Europe's leading university in archaeology and among the global Top 10 in the discipline. In addition, he is an Advisor to the Centre for Global Heritage and Development (Leiden University, Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam). In Australia, he is an Honorary Professor at the University of Southern Queensland, where he provides strategic advice to help build research capacity in the Centre for Heritage and Culture in the Institute for Resilient Regions.

Ian's Honours and Masters research examined the archaeology of Southeast Queensland. Following ground-breaking work in Papua New Guinea  with the Australian Museum, Ian then did his PhD on ancient maritime trading systems which linked the New Guinea mainland and nearby Bismarck Archipelago. He built on that project with a UQ Postdoctoral Fellowship, for which he won National Geographic funding to return to New Guinea. He has since undertaken archaeological and cultural heritage research, consultancies and advisory missions throughout Australia, in Asia and the Pacific Islands and in North and South America. Ian's current heritage research focuses on global issues regarding World Heritage, the World Bank and transnational corporations in the extractive industries sector, particularly in relation to Indigenous people and other descendent communities. Archaeologically he is working with French colleagues on long-term developments in New Caledonia. Ian also manages other projects concerning Indigenous heritage and issues in higher education of concern to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Ian is also an accredited Subject Matter Expert with the US Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). In this capacity, he provides strategic advice to the US Defense Department regarding the recovery of missing service members from WWII to the present and coordinates field missions to locate missing personnel. Archaeologically he is working with French colleagues on long-term developments in New Caledonia, and recently has been invited to participate in a project on mining and archaeological heritage there as well. In Australia, he has a project with Dutch partners including the Netherlands Ministry of Defence and funded by the Netherlands Embassy, concerning the WWII headquarters of the Netherlands East Indies government in exile, which were located at Wacol just outside Brisbane. He supervises PhD and MPhil research projects in many different schools across UQ as well as others at Leiden.

Ian is a Fellow and immediate past Vice President and International Secretary of the Australian Academy of Humanities, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and a member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. At UQ, Ian is a Senior Research Associate in the Centre for Policy Futures in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and a Research Group Leader in the Centre for Marine Science in the School of Biological Science. He also maintains links with the UQ ATSIS Unit. Externally, Ian a member of Australia ICOMOS, an ICOMOS World Heritage Assessor and Secretary-General of the ICOMOS International Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM). In these connections, Ian sits on the Conservation Advisory Committee for the Port Arthur World Heritage site complex. In addition, he is a member of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (member, WCPA Protected Landscapes Specialist Group) and the IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (member, Theme on Indigenous Peoples, Local Communities, Equity and Protected Areas). ICOMOS and IUCN are the statutory Advisory Bodies to UNESCO on cultural and natural heritage respectively. Ian is one of the few people globally who is a member of both bodies. In addition, he is Secretary-General of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association, the region's peak professional archaeological body, immediate past Chair of the International Government Affairs Committee of the Society for American Archaeology and Convenor of the International Heritage Group, which he founded while a Leverhulme Visiting Professor at Oxford in 2011. Ian's other professional interests are archaeology and social identity, archaeological ethics, and the role of archaeology in contemporary society.

In addition to his research and engagement with industry, Ian is Director of the ATSIS Unit's teaching program and is Convenor of the ATSIS major in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS). He teaches undergraduate courses in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and in the Faculty of Science School of Earth and Environmental Studies. He is also Convenor of the Masters in Heritage Studies in the HASS School of Social Science and coordinates a course on World Heritage in that degree. He supervises PhD and MPhil research projects in many different schools across the university. In addition he provides academic and pastoral support for Indigenous students. Ian is also the HASS Indigenous Focal Point, in which role he coordinates the integration of Indigenous perspectives in HASS teaching, research and internal and external engagement. He sits on the HASS Faculty Teaching and Learning and Research committees as well as the HASS Faculty Board and the HASS Faculty Board of Studies and the Board of Studies for UQ's BA. He also serves on UQ's Library Committee and is awaiting finalisation of an appointment to one of the university's new central research ethics committees following many years on the Behavioural and Social Sciences Research Ethics Committee.

Research Impacts

Ian's mission is to help create a global paradigm shift that integrates Indigenous perspectives with science and ethics in the study and protection of humanity's heritage. He pursues this goal in Australia and globally through his strong engagement with industry as well as his scholarly research. He focuses on heritage-related philosophies, policies and practices in three overlapping spheres: World Heritage, multilateral development banks and the transnational extractive industries sector. He is also becoming increasing involved with work combatting looting and illegal trade in antiquities and other cultural property. All of Ian's work aims to inject Indigenous concerns and approaches into the centre of ‘mainstream’ agendas at all levels, from the UN down and from the grassroots up. The objective is to promote fundamental structural change to the benefit of Indigenous communities, archaeologists and heritage practitioners across Australia and around the world. In recent years, this work has seen Ian publish widely on these matters as well as play central roles in:

  • the development of Rio Tinto’s global corporate guidance on “why cultural heritage matters”, now an international industry standard,
  • efforts to strengthen cooperation and coordination between ICOMOS and IUCN, the two statutory Advisory Bodies to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, and
  • building professional relationships with the World Bank and other multilateral development lenders to improve their approaches to heritage protection and management.


  • Bachelor of Arts (Hons), The University of Queensland
  • Master of Arts, The University of Queensland
  • PhD, Australian National University