Indigenous Science Network Bulletin
December 2003
(Volume 6, Number 6)

Editor: Michael Michie

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







To Members of the Cultural/Indigenous Networks,

At the July conference of ASERA in Melbourne this year two paper were presented that gave depressing reports about how valiant efforts to build recognition of traditional knowledge into science curricula in PNG and in NZ had been thwarted in the case of PNG and led to little if any advantage to the indigenous group in the NZ case.

The Papua New Guinea case seems to have been thwarted because funding agencies like the World Bank take advice from persons who are quite unaware of the very substantial work on culture and science education that has been done over the last ten years. In some cases these "expert" advisers may be expatriates from the country applying but are now in many ways by their own success in past years separated from the students and their contextual situations that cry out for recognition in the teaching of science.

Michael Michie and I conferred about this and decided to approach the members of the Networks with a proposition that a Statement be prepared by the Networks and that some of its members should take the step to arrange face-to-face meetings with very senior members of bodies like the World Bank, Asia Bank and UNESCO.

The fact that the 27th Assembly of ICSU in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, endorsed the substantial Report of the Study Group on Science and Traditional Knowledge in which the importance of traditional knowledge is affirmed, gives us a strong platform on which to base our Statement.

For those who do not know of this Study Group, it was set up following the World Conference on Science organized by UNESCO and ICSU and held in Budapest in 1999. ICSU in 2000 appointed this Study Group but it appears no science educators were part of the Group, the Report itself confirms that there is no discussion in it of the implications for the teaching and learning of science were considered.

This is, however, a powerful report and we should seek to extend it rather than do something on our own and hence appear to be unaware of ICSU’s moves in this direction.

These reports can be accessed at

Michael has prepared a draft for us to react to and suggest how it could be developed into a suitable Statement. (Click here for a copy of the draft statement)

In putting this to the Network we are asking for reactions to the idea of taking this pro-active action and the means whereby it can be done.

Peter Fensham and Michael Michie

If you would like to be involved in this process or have some comment on the draft statement, please contact either Peter or Michael (or even both of us).



"Message Stick"  is the Indigenous news service associated with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. They have a regular news service that you can subscribe to, at

Keynote Address to open the Indigenous Researchers' ForumATSIC, Message Stick News (1October2003, AEST)
Lionel Quartermaine, Acting Chairman, ATSIC
Indigenous Research: What's It About? Keynote Address To open the Indigenous Researchers' Forum 2003

ABC Central Australia - The environmental workbookEmma Haskin, (8October2003)
Sitting in a classroom and learning from a city-based textbook with city-based examples doesn t mean much to kids out bush in Central Australia.

ATSIC Applauds NSW Aboriginal Education ReviewATSIC, Message Stick News (22October2003,AEST)
Statement by Acting ATSIC Chairman Lionel Quartermaine

Darwin school scoops two national awards (12:20:40AEST)
The Kalkaringi school, 550 kilometres south of Darwin in the Northern Territory, is the first school in the country to win two honours at the National Awards for Quality Schooling held at Parliament House in Canberra last night.

World Indigenous Conference
Message Stick News (21/11/2003)

Institutes join forces for desert research(16:33:25AEST)
The Desert Research Institute in the US and the Alice Springs-based Desert Knowledge Australia are forming a partnership to explore shared interests.

Indigenous language book to keep culture alive(09:55:32AEST)
A new book is helping young Indigenous children learn some of the languages that will help maintain ties with their culture into adulthood.


Te Awa Tupua - The Whanganui Iwi Exhibition opened at Te Papa Tongarewa (Museum of New Zealand) on Saturday 29 November 2003. In partnership with Te Papa, the Whanganui iwi present the stories of their past and the challenges and hopes for their present and future, supported and enhanced by taonga (treasures and objects), photographs, video footage, and computer interactives.

Te Awa Tupua is built on the whakataukï (proverb) 'E rere kau mai te awa nui mai i te kahui maunga ki Tangaroa - ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au.' 'The great river flows from the mountain clan to Tangaroa - I am the river, the river is me.' The exhibition shows what the river means to the Whanganui iwi in both the physical and spiritual sense.

The exhibition focuses on three time periods: the pre-European traditional period, the period of European contact and colonisation until the present, and the future. It presents key elements of the river life and culture of the Whanganui iwi, whose ancestral lands follow the Whanganui River - the longest navigable river in New Zealand. This river runs from the mountains of Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Ngauruhoe to the sea.

Important issues in the iwi's history are examined, including how the river and the iwi have been affected by changes to the lands bordering the river, the use of the river's resources, as well as the issues around Moutoa Gardens, known to Mäori as Pakaitore. The exhibition concludes withwith an overview of where the iwi are heading and includes a look at the maintenance of te reo Mäori, marae-based initiatives, and the future of education.

A feature of iwi exhibitions is the presence of kaumätua (elders) at Te Papa during the time the exhibition runs. A kaumatua and kuia from the Whanganui iwi will be involved in the exhibition and will also carry out ceremonial duties on Te Papa's marae. Te Otinga Te Pehi Waretini and Piki Waretini will hold these positions initially.

Te Awa Tupua - The Whanganui Iwi Exhibition is sponsored by Wanganui District Council and Horizons Regional Council. Horizons Regional Council Chairman, Mr Chris Lester, said that Horizons see their sponsorship as a first stage in strengthening their relationship with Whanganui iwi and a unique opportunity to promote environmental education through understanding the land management practices of the past.

'Wanganui District Council is proud to support the Te Awa Tupua exhibition at Te Papa and to represent Wanganui by joining with iwi at the opening of this significant exhibition,' Wanganui Mayor Chas Poynter said.

Te Awa Tupua - The Whanganui Iwi Exhibition is the fourth in a continuing series of iwi exhibitions at Te Papa. These began in 1997 with Te Atiawa iwi, followed by exhibitions from Te Aupouri and most recently Ngäi Tühoe iwi.


Indigenous Online Network Updates (ION Updates)

ION Updates are prepared by the Aboriginal Research Institute at the University of South Australia and are forwarded to e-mail members of the Indigenous Science Network regularly (about every two weeks). The following are some highlights since the October Bulletin. ION Updates also list positions vacant, particularly in universities.

Melbourne University School of Development Studies

The tenth and eleventh of our Working Papers have recently been posted to the Melbourne University Private website and are available to download if you wish. 

The title of Working Paper 10 is 'Environment, Development and Security in Pacific Island Countries'. The author is Jon Barnett from the School of Anthropology, Geography and Environmental Studies of the University of Melbourne.

The title of Working Paper 11 is 'Economic independence through the expansion of private sector enterprise - The "prescriptive unreality" of Niue's development planning'. The author is Philip Cohn. 

The papers can be accessed at:

Contemporary Indigenous Issues in North Australia Seminars

This series of seminars was hosted by the North Australia Research Unit. All available papers have now been loaded to the website, including the last two given recently.  under the heading seminars


Also available is the Program Sales Indigenous Catalogue for purchasing of videos. This is a catalogue of the latest releases. We are able to send you the Acrobat file on request if you would like to have a copy. The attachment is a large PDF file and some people may find it difficult to download. Send us an email at the address below and we will forward you the attachment.

Kurtal The Snake Spirit
Kurtal - Snake Spirit is a rare documentary of a journey undertaken by members of an Aboriginal community going back to country to perform an ancient ceremony. Produced by Nicole Ma Productions

Dream and the Dreaming
For over thirty thousand years, the Desert People of Central Australia had walked their lands, their life governed by ancient and immutable laws laid down by the totemic ancestors and their Dreamings.
A CoJo Production with assistance from the Film Finance Corporation Australia 2003 55mins

Recent books of interest

Indigenous science/life

Brooks, David, for Mparntwe People. (2003). A town like Mparntwe: A guide to the Dreaming tracks and sites of Alice Springs. Alice Springs: Jukurrpa Books.

Cairns, Hugh, & Harney, Bill Yidumduma. (2003). Dark sparklers. Merimbula, NSW: Hugh Cairns. (Looks at Yidumduma's Wardaman astronomy, from an area south-west of Katherine in the Northern Territory, Australia. The book can be purchased from the author: Hugh Cairns, PO Box 83, Merimbula NSW 2548. Cost ~ $45 plus postage. You can e-mail Hugh at

Malbunka, Mary. (2003). When I was little, like you. Sydney: Allen and Unwin. (A children's book exploring Aboriginal life in Central Australia.)

If you come across any books which may be of interest to other networkers or you would like to write a review, please feel free to submit them to the Bulletin. MM



Registrations for the 2004 NZAEE Environmental Education Conference open on Monday, 20 October 2003. The closing date for registrations is Monday, 1 December 2003. The conference is taking place from 14-17 January 2004 in Christchurch. Full programme and registration details can be found online at or by following the links on the NZAEE website

Pacific Circle Consortium 28th Annual Conference 2004

21 - 23 April 2004,  Hong Kong SAR, China. "Civic Values and Social Responsibility in a Global Context"

The Pacific Circle Consortium (PCC) cordially invites you to its 28th conference to be held in Hong Kong SAR, China, 21 - 23 April 2004. Your participation will contribute to improving mutual understanding and creating a dialogue across diverse cultures in the Asia-Pacific region regarding the importance of civic values and social responsibility.

Paper proposals are welcome from both PCC members and others.  Participants interested in submitting an individual paper or forming a panel should submit an abstract of 150 words to the conference secretariat by 13 February 2004 via the conference website, fax or mail. Conference Website:

Science and IT Education Joint Conference 

25-28 June 2004, Rockhampton, QLD. 

Australasian Science Education Research Association 14-17 July 2004 

The website for ASERA 2004 is now available at


This is mostly a summary of upcoming conferences. More details may have been given above, in previous bulletins or circulated by e-mail. A web-based contact is usually included.

December 2003

8-9 December: Contemporary approaches to research in mathematics, science, health and environmental education. Centre for Studies in Mathematics, Science and Environmental Education, Deakin University, Melbourne Campus. Phone Anusha Weerasinghe on (03) 9244 6369 or email

January 2004

14-17 January: 2004 NZAEE Environmental Education Conference,  in Christchurch. Full programme and registration details can be found online at or by following the links on the NZAEE website

April 2004

1-4 April: National Association for Research in Science Teaching, 2004 Conference meets in Vancouver, Westin Bayshore Hotel,

11-14 April: Asia Education Foundation's Third Linking Latitudes: Ha Noi, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos international conference for Australian educators,

21 - 23 April: Pacific Circle Consortium 28th Annual Conference 2004Hong Kong SAR, China. Civic Values and Social Responsibility in a Global Context. Conference Website:

May 2004

27-29 May: Indigenous Knowledges: Transforming the academy, Pennsylvania State University. Information for submitting proposals is available on the conference Web site:

June 2004

25-28 June: Science and IT Education Joint Conference, Rockhampton, QLD. 

July 2004

14-17 July 2004: Australasian Science Education Research Association (ASERA), 35th Annual Conference, University of New England, Armidale NSW

September 2004

26-30 September 2004: CONASTA 53 - Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA) National Conference, Canberra ACT. Theme: Excellence in Teaching and Science

July 2005

Australasian Science Education Research Association (ASERA), 36th Annual Conference, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand

Sometime 2005 - World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education, Aotearoa New Zealand

A list of conferences is also maintained by the University of South Australia's Indigenous Online Network, at
ION Updates are released fortnightly and are forwarded to members of this Network. If you wish to receive these Updates directly or you know of other people who would like to receive them, please ask them to send a message to asking that they be included on the distribution lists. 
Anyone with information or resources they would like added to the site can email from the website or to the general ION email address.

Last updated: 3 December 2003

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