August 2008
(Volume 11, Number 4)
ISSN  1449-2091

Michael Michie

Tiwi designs by Jennifer Coombs
Munupi Arts & Crafts Association,
Pirlangimpi, Melville Island, NT

Indigenous Science Links






10th Anniversary

The Indigenous Science Network originated from a meeting in Darwin (Australia) in 1998 for people attending the Australian Science Teachers' Conference (CONASTA) and the conference of the Australasian Science Education Research Association (ASERA) who were interested in Indigenous science. It has expanded to include people from all over the globe and includes academics, researchers and classroom practitioners. The 10th anniversary of the first (and only) meeting of the Indigenous Science Network passed by quietly early in July. 

Japanese Diet officially declares Ainu indigenous

The Japanese Diet has officially recognised the the Ainu as the indgenous people of Japan. The following item is a news report from the Japan Times Online.

Canada apologises for indigenous child abuse

This news item comes from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's website.

National Award for Indigenous Land and Sea Managers

The North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA) was awarded top prize in the Indigenous category at the Banksia Awards ceremony in Melbourne last night. The award was presented by the Environment Minister Peter Garrett to NAILSMA Executive Officer Joe Morrison for the Alliance’s Dugong and Marine Turtle Project.

Mr Garret recognised the Indigenous people driving the project as the ‘front-line’ managers of the north Australian coast where dugong and turtle remain abundant.

Mr Morrison said it was an honour to receive an award that acknowledged the stewardship of Indigenous land and sea managers across northern Australia for nationally and internationally significant ecosystems. “The project has taken a practical approach to dugong and marine turtle management by creating new Indigenous ranger programs and supporting existing ones,” said Mr Morrison. “It demonstrates that having Indigenous people on country managing their lands, delivering environmental benefits for all Australian’s is an important asset for the national good.

“The project supports communities to combine Indigenous knowledge with modern research and training to undertake management activities such as mapping and monitoring populations and habitats, tracking turtle migrations by satellite, and developing turtle and dugong management plans,” said Mr Morrison.

The project brings together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with scientists from across northern Australia to help in the management and protection of the threatened marine species. Project partners across Australia include the Northern Land Council, Kimberley Land Council, Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation, Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation and Torres Strait Regional Authority. The project is funded by the Australian Government.

To find out more about the NAILSMA Dugong and Marine Turtle Project, visit:

Positions vacant - Faculty of Education, University of Auckland

There are some professorial positions being advertised at the Faculty of Education, University of Auckland. There is a position in science education and one in Maori and/or Indigenous Education and one in Pacific Education. Of course, combinations are considered. The link is below.

ASI link:

Applications close on 15 August.


Embedding Indigenous Science in your science programs!

Kaye Placing and Alexandra Hugman

UniServe Science, TheUniversity of Sydney
(There are active links in this article which are not coloured blue but are underlined. Ed.)

Where to start? With the syllabus! (page numbers refer to the NSW syllabus)

Cross Curriculum Content

Aboriginal and Indigenous (Page 24)

Opportunities to develop understanding of aspects of Aboriginal and Indigenous culture are provided for students as they:

·          describe (using examples including those developed by Aboriginal peoples) ideas developed by different cultures to explain the world around them

·          analyse reasons why different cultures or groups within a society, including Aboriginal people, may have different views in relation to scientific issues.

The syllabus also provides opportunities in teaching and learning programs for the inclusion of Aboriginal and Indigenous contexts relevant to areas such as ecology, the environment and astronomy.

Prescribed Focus Area (page 26)

4/5.1       the history of science

a)   identify some of the scientific ideas that different cultures have contributed to science throughout history

b)   describe (using examples including those developed by Aboriginal peoples) ideas developed by different cultures to explain the world around them

d)   discuss examples where societal, religious or ethical values have had an impact on scientific developments


Theory of evolution by natural selection (Page 35)

·       research the interactions between Aboriginal peoples and the Australian megafauna

Resources (Page 38)

·       research Aboriginal people’s use of natural materials (including ochres and natural dyes), artefacts and weapons, shelter and housing, and cloth and string production

Ecosystems (Page 39)

·       describe how the land management practices and techniques of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples have changed the environment

UniServe Science web page

While sifting through the syllabus and searching for resources on the Web, we came up with six content areas to which we could develop an Aboriginal perspective.  These are:

§  Astronomy and Cosmology

§  Meteorology and the seasons

§  Bush Tucker, Medicines, Ochres, Dyes and Utensils

§  Machines and weapons

§  Musical instruments and noise makers

§  Managing the Land

It was reassuring to see that when Michael Michie (2005) an Education Consultant from Northern Territory was asked to write a chapter for on Australian indigenous Science for inclusion in a new textbook, he came up with basically the same content areas.

So where to start on the Web?

Science Years 7-10, Aboriginal educational contexts, NSW Department of Education and Training

This is the starting point.  The resources on this web site are the outcomes of the Aboriginal Perspectives in Science Project conducted by the NSW Board of Studies in four regions of NSW in 2002 and 2003.  Each of the four units contain teacher information, cultural background, teaching sequences, suggested resources, worksheets and activities and reflective journals from some of the teachers involved. Take some time to explore these resources.

Topics covered:

§  Environment – Aboriginal;

§  Introducing Our Changing Earth;

§  Astronomy – Aboriginal Perspectives; and

§  Technology – Aboriginal Perspectives.

Engaging with Australian Indigenous Science

Michael Michie is an Educational Consultant from Darwin, Northern Territory.  His web site was prepared for a presentation given at CONASTA 54 in 2005.  The web site contains good background information, teaching ideas, classroom activities and black line masters.  Michael also hosts the Indigenous Science Network with a regular online newsletter covering issues and ideas related to Indigenous education.

Astronomy and Cosmology

The centre of Aboriginal culture is The Dreaming, which links people to both the physical and metaphysical world. Many traditional Dreaming stories are about relationships between their Ancestral Beings and the stars and planets. For more than 40 000 years Aboriginal people have observed the skies of the southern hemisphere and have developed a deep understanding and empathy with the changing seasons and environmental management.

Our understandings today, from a western and technological perspective, need not in any way detract from the wealth of knowledge and understanding gained by those ancient observers.

Aboriginal Astronomy: The Emu in the Sky

Australian Aboriginal Astronomy

Weather and the Seasons

Australia’s climate is diverse ranging from hot wet tropics, dry deserts, grasslands, temperate areas to cold mountain regions. Because of these diverse conditions, the Aboriginal people from specific regions developed their own seasons dependent on the conditions in the area.  The calendars were developed to reflect seasonal observations such as when particular plants were flowering, when they lost their leaves, when a particular species of animal was reproducing, when weather conditions changed.  As these would vary from place to place, the number of seasons in that local area also varied from three in the cooler regions such as Tasmania to six in some areas of Northern territory and Western Australia.

Indigenous Weather Network

The Lost Seasons

Using Available Resources: Bush Tucker, Medicines, Ochres, Dyes and Utensils

The Aboriginal people have been living in Australia for at least 40 000 years and during this time have developed a technology that has allowed them to survive the harsh conditions.  They were able to supply all their needs from the immediate environment: their food, medicines, shelters, clothing, materials for painting and ceremonial dress, and artefacts for cooking, hunting and collecting. 

Many native plants used by the Aborigines contain toxins e.g. Black Bean and macrozamias for which the Aborigines had developed preparation techniques to neutralise their effects. Some fruits e.g. kangaroo apple are poisonous except when fully ripe.  Kurrajong seeds are enclosed in a seed pod packed with fibrous material that causes irritation.  The Aborigines had developed a knowledge base and practices to enable them to access a wide range of food sources.

Australian Native Foods: Plant Profiles

Using Bush Plants

Mining by Aborigines – Australia's first miners

Aboriginal Plant Use and Technology

Aboriginal Bush Medicine

Traditional Aboriginal Painting Methods

Managing the Land

Visit an Australia bush area after a fire and witness the new growth from the epicormic shoots.  Many other Australian plants will only germinate after the effects of fire or smoke.  The grass tree was very important to the Aborigines providing food from the seeds, nectar from the flowers, spear throwers from the flower stalk and gum from the resin.  Fire also acts as a flowering stimulus for the grass tree with flower stalks appearing shortly after fires.

‘Firestick farming’ is the term giving to the practice used by the Aborigines to renew the environment to ensure an ample supply of both plants and animals. 

Environmental knowledge and land management

Machines and Weapons

Indigenous people did not use machines - Wrong!

The Macquarie Dictionary states –‘machine (n) an apparatus consisting of interrelated parts which is used in the performance of work’

Many of the tools used by Aboriginal people are in fact simple machines. The engineering of tools in traditional Aboriginal communities was essential for survival. Tools help people to work more efficiently. Without the tools, more physical energy would be needed to complete each task.

Aboriginal technologies had, and continue to have, a close relationship to The Dreaming. Particular people in a language group earned the right to develop and use particular forms of technology. A stone axe, for example, was taken from the land by Ancestral Beings and fashioned in a complex and skilled way before being passed on to be used in a way dictated by those Ancestral Beings. An understanding of the laws of physics and the complexities of aerodynamics enabled the skilled creation of the boomerang.

Indigenous technology (Boomerang and Woomera)

Music and Noise Makers

Traditionally, the Australian Aborigines produced only a small range of musical instruments.  The instrument most commonly associated with indigenous music is the didgeridoo, which may be the oldest musical instrument. 

However a range of traditional instruments were common across Australia including many percussion instruments such as clapsticks, rasps, rattles made with seeds, log drums, and wind instruments such as whistles made from wood, bone and shells. 

The bull-roared, a piece of wood attached to a long string is common to many indigenous cultures around the world.  It is swung around to produce a roaring sound, was used at ceremonial events to warn women, children and the inexperienced away from a particular sacred area.

Australian Aboriginal Music

For easy access to these and many other relevant links (both Aboriginal and Indigenous groups worldwide), visit the Embedding Indigenous Science web page of the UniServe Science web site at:


Board of Studies NSW. (2003). Science Years 7-10 syllabus. Sydney: Board of Studies NSW
, N. (2008) Teaching and Learning in Indigenous Education. Oxford University Press.

Michie, M. (2005) Writing about Australian Indigenous Science for a junior Secondary textbook: Some Considerations.  Paper presented at the 36th annual conference of the Australian Science education research Association, Hamilton, NZ.

Michie, M., Anlezark, J. and Uibo, D.  (1998) Beyond Bush Tucker: Implementing Indigenous Perspectives Through the Science Curriculum. Paper presented at the 47th Annual Conference of the Australian Science Teachers’ Association (CONASTA 47), Darwin NT.

Easy tracking of turtle and dugong

Indigenous rangers working with marine turtles and dugongs are trialling a new way of recording and tracking information about the animals. I-tracker, an electronic hand-held-data device with CyberTracker software, is being trialled by NAILSMA across 14 Indigenous ranger networks. It replaces pen and paper as a way of collecting information during on-country patrols. The information is then collected and stored on a computer at the ranger headquarters—allowing easy access by other Indigenous Rangers from the north.

The local data collected will—for the first time—provide a regional picture developed by Indigenous land and sea managers to support national and international assessments.

The I-Tracker project includes:

·        hand-held waterproof personal computer with touch-screen.

·        ‘CyberTracker’ program.

·        programming CyberTracker so that it matches the activities of Sea Rangers.

·        training and support program.

·        review of the trial after a three-month period.

Cyber Tracker is a free software program that can be downloaded online. It was originally developed for the patrols of African wildlife rangers and bushmen, and has sequences that can be programmed for specific uses. Djelk Sea Rangers, who have used CyberTracker for the past five months, programmed the sequences, and the rangers have generously agreed to share their experience and knowledge with the I-Tracker project.

The Cyber Tracker sequences, worked on by Shaun Ansell from the Djelk Rangers, includes the following patrol types and activities:

·        AQIS patrol

·        Customs patrol

·        Marine debris patrol

·        Sick and stranded wildlife reporting

·        Dugong and marine turtle monitoring

·        Turtle nesting monitoring

·        Fish kill reporting

·        Commercial fishing monitoring

·        Recreational and commercial boating activity monitoring

More areas will be developed over time, with potential sequences such as recording bird species for Birds Australia, crocodile egg collection and weed surveys.

More information: Joshua Kitchens, NAILSMA,


Subscribe to the project’s newsletter to keep up to date with developments

Special issue of Cultural Studies of Science Education (vol. 3, no. 3) - Indigenous Knowledge in Science Education

The special issue of Cultural Studies of Science Education (vol. 3, no. 3) with the theme Indigenous Knowledge in Science Education will be out in mid September. Click here for the Table of Contents.

Middle school Torres Strait Islander students’ descriptions of energy and force. (Having trouble with page wrapping, sorry - I will try to fix.)
Philemon Chigeza
Research is being conducted by James Cook University into how effectively middle school students from the Torres Strait Islands are learning the scientific concepts of energy and force. These are key concepts in the Queensland science curriculum, which is taught in English. The researcher, Philemon Chigeza, elicited descriptions of energy and force with 44 middle school Torres Strait Islander (TSI) students studying at Djarragun College, Gordonvale. English is the majority of students’ second or third language. Three categories of concept descriptions were identified: students who could use scientific genre to explain and demonstrate the concepts of energy and force (20%); students who could use limited scientific genre to explain and demonstrate the concepts of energy and force in terms of direct action (35%); and students who could not use scientific genre to neither describe in English nor display by direct action their knowledge of energy and force (45%).
In trying to understand TSI students' conceptual perspectives, the researcher consulted five TSI teachers and assistant teachers and local word banks to investigate how meta concepts of energy and force translate from common TSI languages. The meta-concepts energy and force need to be taught in English as comparable abstract concepts in the students' indigenous languages can not be found. However, the large majority of students in the study had difficulty communicating in English; only 16% spoke standard Australian English and the large majority of students struggled to understand the English terms used in the science classroom. The TSI students have to navigate language negotiations before negotiating the language challenges in science learning. 

A Word document of this abstract can be downloaded from Middle school Torres Strait Islander students.doc

Primary Connections - Indigenous Perspectives

The Indigenous Perspectives web pages are currently being installed at the Primary Connections website. If you would like to check it out, visit


Second International Conference on Religion and Media
Tehran and Qom, Iran
9-12 November 2008
The Second International Conference on Religion and Media will be held in Tehran and Qom, Iran, from November 9th to 12th, 2008. We cordially invite all media researchers and scholars, representatives from diverse religious traditions, professionals and students involved with the subjects of the conference to attend and submit a paper. Further information could be found at conference website:

First International Conference on Popular Culture and Education in Asia
Hong Kong Institute of Education
11-13 December 2008. 
We are pleased to inform you that The First International Conference on Popular Culture and Education in Asia is to be held at the Hong Kong Institute of Education from 11 to 13 December 2008.  This conference will bring together researchers from a variety of disciplines to focus on the implications of intra-regional flows of popular culture in East and Southeast Asia for educational practices and youth development.

This conference welcomes researchers and scholars from the fields of Sociology, Cultural Studies, Media Studies, Anthropology, Language and Literacy, Music, Visual Studies, Asian Studies, Education and other disciplines that popular culture seriously.  It also welcomes papers that elucidate changing patterns in Asian popular culture as well as papers that explore implications and applications of youth engagement with popular culture inside and outside the classroom.  Submission deadline of paper proposals is 31 August 2008.

For further details, please refer to the attached poster or visit the conference website at

DreamCatching 2009: Hands-on Workshops in Math and Science for Teachers of Aboriginal Students

May 3-6, 2009

University of Manitoba

Winnipeg, MB, CANADA

Mount Pleasant Educational Services Inc. (MPES) is pleased to announce the sixth edition of DreamCatching, a series of professional development workshops specifically designed for educators who work with Aboriginal students, It focuses on the exploration of math, science and ICT integration in a hands-on, interactive setting.

For the first time, DreamCatching 2009 will offer concurrent knowledge sharing sessions led by people who are actively engaged in considering how science and math can support the growth of Native students.

* Classroom teachers who've developed great lessons.
* Post-secondary educators whose research extends to the hands-on.

* Elders who know how science and math can support the continuity and health of the community.

Concurrent sessions will be 1-hour, hands-on sessions focusing on key topics in math, science, IT and integration of indigenous knowledge. They will be offered at the same time as limited enrollment workshops. Facilitators for the knowledge sharing sessions will be asked to present in one of the conference threads, and will be selected through a peer-review process.

Several sharing session blocks will be reserved for graduate student presentations. Each of these blocks will allow 3 graduate students to present or discuss their research and its implications for classroom practice.

This portion of the program will complement the longer workshop explorations and provide the basis for a published proceedings that will be made available and widely disseminated after the event.

Updated information will be provided shortly at In the mean time, for more information please contact Dawn Wiseman, or 514-469-0746.

Ninth International Conference on Diversity in Organisations, Communities and Nations
Riga, Latvia, 15-18 June 2009       

The Diversity Conference has a history of bringing together scholarly, government and practice-based participants with an interest in the issues of diversity and community. The Conference examines the concept of diversity as a positive aspect of a global world and globalised society. Diversity is in many ways reflective of our present world order, but there are ways of taking this further without necessary engendering its alternatives: racism, conflict, discrimination and inequity. Diversity as a mode of social existence can be projected in ways that deepen the range of human experience. The Conference will seek to explore the full range of what diversity means and explore modes of diversity in real-life situations of living together in community. The Conference supports a move away from simple affirmations that 'diversity is good' to a much more nuanced account of the effects and uses of diversity on differently situated communities in the context of our current epoch of globalisation.

As well as impressive line-up of international main speakers, the Conference will also include numerous paper, workshop and colloquium presentations by practitioners, teachers and researchers. We would particularly like to invite you to respond to the Conference Call-for-Papers. Presenters may choose to submit written papers for publication in the fully refereed International Journal of Diversity in Organisations, Communities and Nations. If you are unable to attend the Conference in person, virtual registrations are also available which allow you to submit a paper for refereeing and possible publication in this fully refereed academic Journal, as well as access to the electronic version of the Conference proceedings.

Proposals are reviewed within four weeks of submission. Full details of the Conference, including an online proposal submission form, are to be found at the Conference website -

40th Australasian Science Education Research Association (ASERA) conference
1-4 July 2009
Geelong, Victoria, Australia
The ASERA conference has for some decades now been a major venue for sharing research by Australian, New Zealand and international researchers. The conference is noted for its collegial atmosphere and support of new and emerging researchers, and has been an important institution for nurturing a lively and world renowned culture of science education research in Australasia. The Deakin STEME group is pleased to host ASERA 2009. The group has a strong record of publication and high impact research, and its science education researchers are active in a number of research areas strongly represented at ASERA. (The ASERA website is at


This is mostly a summary of upcoming conferences. More details may have been given above or in previous bulletins as shown. A web-based contact is usually included. Inclusion of conferences in this list is not to be read as an endorsement of the conference.


August 2008

8-12 August: 10th Garma Festival, Nhulunbuy NT Australia (Jun08)

16-24 August: National Science Week 08 (Australia)

September 2008

19-22 September: TSCF 2008 International Social Capital Conference, "Perspectives on Social Capital and Social Inclusion", Buggiba, Malta. (Dec07)

21-26 September: 13th IOSTE Symposium, "The use of science and technology education for peace and sustainable development". Izmir, Turkey (April08)

October 2008

27 – 29 October: International Conference on Science and Mathematics Education, UP NISMED, Quezon City, The Philippines (Jun08)

November 2008

9-12 November: Second International Conference on Religion and Media, Tehran and Qom, Iran, (Aug08)

24-27 November: Australian and New Zealand Comparative and International Education Society (ANZCIES) conference, Curtin University, Perth WA: (Jun08)

December 2008

7-11 December: World Indigenous People's Conference on Education (WIPCE 2008), Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

11-13 December: First International Conference on Popular Culture and Education in Asia, Hong Kong Institute of Education (Aug08)


January 2009

5-9 January: epiSTEME-3: Third international conference to review research on Science, TEchnology and Mathematics Education. Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (TIFR), Mumbai, India. (Feb08)

5-7 January: Fifth International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, University of Technology, Mauritius, (Feb08)

15-17 January: Second World Universities Forum, Mumbai, India,

May 2009

3-6 May: DreamCatching 2009: Hands-on Workshops in Math and Science for Teachers of Aboriginal Students, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada. (Aug08)

22-24 May: Frontiers in Science Education Research 2009 (FISER’09) , May 22-24 2009, Famagusta, Northern Cyprus (Jun08)

June 2009

15-18 June: Ninth International Conference on Diversity in Organisations, Communities and Nations, Riga, Latvia  (Aug08)

July 2009

1-4 July: 40th Australasian Science Education Reseach Association conference (ASERA), Deakin University Waterfront Campus, Geelong, Victoria.


July 2010

ASERA, University of Newcastle (NSW). Dates and venue to be decided.

Last updated: 1 August 2008