Indigenous Science Network Bulletin
December 2004
(Volume 7, Number 6)
ISSN  1449-2091

Editor: Michael Michie

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






Black and White Science: Encouraging Indigenous Australian students into university science and technology

This report by Claire McLisky and Diana Day was prepared for the College of Sciences and Technology and the Koori Centre at the University of Sydney recently. The following executive summary is reproduced with permission.

Executive Summary

In this scoping study the University of Sydney addresses the complex and very contemporary challenge of increasing the participation of Indigenous students in university Science and Technology. The study was undertaken with the support of the College of Sciences and Technology and the Koori Centre of the University of Sydney. It makes a preliminary assessment of what causes low Indigenous Science and Technology enrolments and graduations at the University of Sydney, and how to increase educational success and career path opportunities for Indigenous scientists.

Educational disadvantage and lack of participation of Indigenous students in undergraduate science and technology is well known but there is little research to inform effective policy or management intervention from pre-school to tertiary or at postgraduate level. Results are low graduations, the academic neglect of the importance of traditional Indigenous knowledge, and the persistence of social and economic disadvantage which accompanies educational under-representation.

This study found complex cultural, social, economic and institutional issues influencing under-representation especially the prime importance of Indigenous knowledge to communities and the apparent lack of relevance of Science and Technology to Indigenous people. This is especially the case where Indigenous students are exposed to Western Science and Technology curricula from primary to tertiary level, yet see no connection or relevance to their own lives. Students report no mentors, no role models, no idea of future careers, nor perceived positive outcomes for them or their communities in the study of Science and Technology. The need for increased targeted marketing of Indigenous access and support at the University was also observed.

This report suggests that further policy and research interventions and investments are needed in Indigenous education from the primary through to the tertiary sector and beyond, to teacher and academic research training and support for Indigenous staff. In addition, wider institutions and groups which contribute to Indigenous educational access – pre-schools, day care centres, peers and parents, community and the media – need to be targeted to ensure awareness and a continuity of attitude, understanding and action.

This study recommends a suite of policy and administrative options for the University of Sydney to enhance the participation of Indigenous students, especially in Science and Technology. Our goals are equity of access, equity of participation, equity of educational outcomes (completions and graduations), and equity of employment and career paths – and the quality, relevance and variety of career options, including post-graduate study as required.

‘If there are no [Indigenous] science students now, and no Indigenous teachers, how will we ever get more?’ Indigenous B.Sc. student

The issue of relevance - practical, intellectual and financial - has emerged as one of the biggest challenges to encouraging Indigenous students into science and technology, and it applies equally at primary, secondary and tertiary level, and across institutions, in the public and private sectors

Awareness of what is available at university and the options for entry is a big factor in the motivation and success of Indigenous students at high school

There were eighteen recommendations made as a result of the study. If you want a copy of the study, email Diana Day (

News from the ABC's Message Stick

The National Museum of Australia in Canberra has revealed it has returned the remains of 132 individuals to their Aboriginal communities in the past year.

An Alice Springs principal has welcomed a call for more Indigenous students to be sent to boarding schools but says early education attendance must be improved for such a measure to work.

One of Aboriginal Australia's best-known artists, Mandalpingu man David Gulpilil talks to fellow thespian Rhoda Roberts about how he manages the great cultural leap from the bush outside Maningrida to the red carpets of the world ... and back again.

Thancoupie is known internationally for her pottery. But it is her strength of her country, Weipa, that grounds her. As the first preschool teacher from that area in the late sixties, she has stepped back into education to teach the youth of her homelands.

The principal of a Western Australian school that has been nationally recognised for its success in Indigenous education believes other schools in the state can achieve the same results.

Bunjilaka, the Aboriginal Centre at Melbourne Museum, has gained one of the highest honours in the Australian tourism industry, in entering the Victorian Tourism Awards' Hall of Fame.


Culture Studies in Science Education

Masakata Ogawa asked me to include an announcement that the CSSE Research Network has been launched. You can visit the tentative web page of

UniServe Science

UniServe Science is a service of the University of Sydney College of Sciences and Technology, to help support the science curriculum in New South Wales schools. The following are links to indigenous science found in the Stage 4 and 5 areas of the curriculum. These resources were among some identified in the Black and White Science report.

Scholar Google

This is a new search engine that's being tested for academic research purposes. I've given it a short run and it came up with lots of references. It's located at



University of Melbourne, Victoria, Monday 4 July - Thursday 7 July 2005. 'Science Education Unplugged'. Visit

World Indigenous Peoples' Conference on Education (WIPCE) 2005

Kia ora koutou

The theme of the conference is Te Toi Roa. The Te Toi Roa calls for us to celebrate our stories and beliefs in our principles, our values and our histories, the quintessence of our uniqueness as indigenous people. It is these beliefs that enhance our experiences and knowledge to guide us to strive for excellence in education.

  • Leadership
  • Research & Development
  • Horizons of Knowledge

Leadership - Change in the pattern of development has begun when people 'an individual, a group ' has said, "we're not going to do this anymore." It may happen in the classroom, or boardroom. It may happen when people launch a
reform replacing ineffective institutions with effective ones. The critical element is people who envision a different future, recognise the need for foundational change, are willing to serve the people's interests instead of their own, and can communicate their vision to members. Such leadership can come from anywhere. This theme calls for presenters to share stories about leadership, where it has come from, where it is going, how it is being effected, and what leadership is needed by indigenous peoples for the 21st century.

Research & Development - As host nation to the WIPCE 2005, we have been informed from our international research and development that indigenous peoples share a deep mistrust of research. Along with other moves towards decolonising ourselves and gaining greater control over our own lives, has come a recognition that we have our own questions that need answering. Indigenous research has developed as an insider way of knowing and doing research for, with and by indigenous people, to change, to develop our indigenous world. This theme invites presenters to showcase approaches to and examples of  research and development that will lead to significant advances for the development of indigenous peoples. 

Horizons of Knowledge - There are tensions in higher education about how indigenous people choose to recognise and honour indigenous language, culture and knowledge. In striving for excellence, indigenous people face the challenge of reconciliation and resistance to other notions of excellence. The legacy of the previous century has been the creation of a new society, a knowledge society in which well educated people whether they be astrophysicists or sheep herders, can look forward to being fully equipped to take advantage of 'being indigenous'. This theme honours the role of indigenous thinkers and educators in perpetuating and innovating to produce knowledge and insights for future generations.

The website will be updated frequently if you have any queries please do not
hesitate to contact me.

Could you please forward this email to your networks.

Noho ora mai 

Ms Aroha Te Kanawa
Project Manager
World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education 2005
Hamilton, Aotearoa
+ 64 7 855 2723
027 276 4285 (cellphone)


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.

February 2005

23-26 February: DreamCatching 2005: Workshops in Math and Science for Teachers of Aboriginal Students, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec (Canada) (

April 2005

4-7 April: National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Dallas (

11-15 April: American Educational Research Association, Montreal (

May 2005

30 May - 1 June: Redesigning Pedagogy: Research, Policy, Practice, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

July 2005

4-7 July: CONASTA 54 - Australian Science Teachers Association, Melbourne, Vic. 'Science Education Unplugged'. Visit

6-9 July: Australasian Science Education Research Association (ASERA), 36th Annual Conference, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand (

August 2005

9 August: International Day of the World's Indigenous People

13- 21 August: Australian National Science Week 2005. School theme - Energy: Future Challenges

November 2005 

27 November - 1 December: World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education, Aotearoa New Zealand

April 2006

8-12 April: National Association for Research in Science Teaching annual meeting, San Francisco, (

8-12 April: American Educational Research Association Conference, San Francisco, (

July 2007

Combined ICASE, CONASTA and perhaps ASERA conference in Perth

Last updated: 1 December 2004

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