December 2006
(Volume 9, Number 6)
ISSN  1449-2091

Michael Michie

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






Customary law report will help build a bridge of knowledge between black and white people

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma has welcomed today’s release of the Western Australian Law Reform Commission Report on Aboriginal Customary Laws, saying it would help to build a bridge of knowledge between black and white people by explaining the interaction between Aboriginal customary law and the WA legal system.

Speaking at the launch, Commissioner Calma said: "This comprehensive report will help to educate key institutions of our society - the judiciary, the bureaucracy, the parliament and others - about customary law, and how it plays and exerts a powerful and positive influence in communities where it is practiced. The report demonstrates how customary law is relevant to almost every area of legal regulation - be it the civil, family or criminal justice system."

"It is only through the kind of in-depth and evidence-based research included in this report that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can advocate for recognition of our systems of law within the Australian law."

Mr Calma welcomed the report’s recommendation of the establishment of an independent Indigenous Commission that would monitor the implementation of the report, evaluate its progress and contribute Indigenous perspectives to policy in WA.

"The establishment of the Office of the Commissioner for Indigenous Affairs would provide a voice for Indigenous peoples in WA in policy making and implementation. It would mean that there will be prominence given to Indigenous views in decision making about Indigenous issues and that Indigenous voices are heard to correct the perception that family violence and abuse is somehow condoned through Aboriginal customary law," Commissioner Calma said.

"Traditional western approaches to law and order have not made inroads into addressing Indigenous over-involvement in the criminal justice system; indeed systemic discrimination occurring within western legal systems has exacerbated the problems. It is a misconception to believe that justice can be delivered without Indigenous engagement, participation and representation."

Commissioner Calma said a legal system must reflect the people it serves if it is to gain their confidence. 

"We need to be assured through transparent processes and structures, that in its day-to-day operation, the legal system understands and respects our cultures, our heritage, and our histories," Mr Calma said.

"Greater importance needs to be given to criminal justice reforms, particularly community justice procedures, sentencing options and alternative methods of dispute resolution. "The maintenance and integration of Aboriginal customary law is an essential part of taking charge of our own destinies. This report is a positive step to make this happen."

The Report on Aboriginal Customary Laws is available at (HREOC press release, 27 October 2006)

Mal Brough fears Indigenous non-attendance at school may be higher than estimated

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough told Charles Darwin University campus radio station Territory FM yesterday morning (November 8) that the proportion of Aboriginal children not attending school may be higher than previous estimates. 

Interviewed by Daryl Manzie on a range of Indigenous problems, Minster Brough said that the number of children who never get enrolled at school could be as high as 30 per cent. 

'Non-attendance of children enrolled at school is bad enough,' he said. 'But there is also a large number who never get enrolled, and we think that could be as high as 30 per cent in some remote communities. I’m undertaking to do research on that all of next year.' 

In his forthright style, Minister Brough said that Indigenous children had to be involved in schooling from the age of five, and that learning English and gaining numeracy were basic to an Indigenous child’s future. 

'We have to engage them in learning English, not at the expense of their own language, but if they do not come out of school learning English, they will be locked into where they live or being fringe dwellers,' he said. 

'People often argue that schooling did not suit all children. But 90 per cent of success at school is actually being there. If you’re not actually there you’ve got no chance.' 

Minister Brough said that his government was prepared to invest in new housing in Indigenous communities in a big way – provided there was fundamental change in behaviour. 

'We’re no longer prepared to gift houses to people, only to have them trashed,' he said. 

(Press release, Charles Darwin University, 9 November 2006,


Treading Lightly: The Hidden Wisdom of the World's Oldest People
published June 2006

This book presents a unique and different view on environmental sustainability. Thousands of years ago, the Aboriginal peoples of Australia had taught themselves how to build a sustainable society in an extremely fragile landscape. Today's increasingly industrialised societies are in danger of collapse because they are consuming far more than they can provide. Can Aboriginal culture inform us about a greater understanding of our environment as a whole? The book started back in 1999 when author Karl-Erik Sveiby asked co-author Tex Skuthorpe: 'What is the word for knowledge in your Aboriginal language?' 'We don't have a word for it,' Tex replied. He must have felt Karl-Erik's disbelieving look. Struggling to find the words he continued: 'Our land is our knowledge, we walk on the knowledge, we dwell in the knowledge, we live in our thesaurus, we walk in our Bible every day of our lives. Everything is knowledge. We don't need a word for knowledge, I guess. Maybe that's why.' There was in particular one issue that gradually took hold of Karl-Erik and which in the end became the topic of this book: Australian Aboriginal society's model for sustainability has the longest proven track record on earth. It is an extraordinary achievement, especially considering that this is something humanity is now struggling with: the way to build a truly sustainable society on this earth. How did the Aborigines do it? How did they organise for sustainability? What type of leadership did it require? They must have had a 'recipe for success'. What was it? Could we reconstruct it? How does one reconstruct something that was lost 200 years ago and where practically all sources and written reports are from a younger date? It would be impossible were it not for a unique source: the Nhunggabarra stories. This book is the first serious attempt to use Aboriginal traditional stories for their original purpose: to convey knowledge from one generation to another, about the world, the law, society and the life and death of people. It has much to tell us about the creation of shared long-term vision for a truly sustainable society. This book offers a powerful and original model of society for the future. 


Narrowing the Gap: Addressing Educational Disadvantage
A SiMERR National Conference 
26 - 28 April 2007

The Narrowing the Gap conference will bring together professionals whose core business is to address the student achievement gaps that exist in our current schooling systems.  Whether due to student diversity issues, learning difficulties or geographical factors, it is increasingly important to address educational disadvantage through effective intervention research and collaborative approaches to improving student performance.

Location:   University of New England, Armidale, NSW
Date:    26 - 28 April 2007
Keynote Speakers:  Prof. James M. Royer, Prof. John Hattie, Prof. John Pegg, Dr Lorraine Graham

Who Should Attend: Primary and junior secondary educators; literacy, numeracy and disability consultants; academics; parents; support staff and specialist teachers concerned with improving the learning performance of disadvantaged students

Papers/Presentations: Abstracts for presentations are called for.  Closing date is 15 December 2006
Accommodation:  Available on the campus of the University of New England, or
in Armidale

MORE INFORMATION: visit the conference Website

SiMERR: The National Centre of Science, ICT and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia

REDESIGNING PEDAGOGY: Culture, Knowledge and Understanding
28-30 May 2007, National Institute of Education, Singapore

The 2007 Redesigning Pedagogy conference will provide a platform for educational practitioners and researchers to productively discuss and share research, theories and best practices across languages, contexts and countries. It will enable the international research community to forge new innovative directions and educational research and practice that centre around notions of culture, forms of knowledge, and the complex processes of engaging learning and understanding.

The conference is intended to inspire and invite rather than restrict or exclude; proposals that examine central issues from an inter - and multi-disciplinary perspective as well as research from the Asia-Pacific region are particularly welcome. The strands that the conference aims to address are outlined on the facing page. Papers that fall outside those listed but still within the broad arena of educational research will also be welcomed.

The conference hopes to create opportunities for cultural exchanges that can build towards transformative educative experiences for all, and thus extend our appreciation of diversity - a necessary prerequisite for emancipatory teaching, learning and deep understanding.


University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, 26-29 June 2007

The conference will address a range of critically important themes in the field of education today. This is a conference for any person with an interest in, and concern for, education at any of its levels and in any of its forms, from early childhood, to schools, to higher education and lifelong learning - and in any of its sites, from home to school to university to the workplace.

Speakers will include some of the world's leading thinkers and in the field of education, as well as numerous paper, colloquium and workshop presentations by researchers and teachers. We would particularly like to invite you to respond to the conference call for papers and presentations. Presenters may choose to submit written papers for publication before or after the conference in the fully refereed International Journal of Learning. 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 the journal, as well as access to the online version of the journal.

The deadline for the next round in the call for papers (a title and short abstract) is 15 November 2006. Proposals are reviewed within one week of submission.

Full details of the conference, including an online call for papers form, are to be found at the conference website -

Australian science education conferences 2007

From 8-12 July 2007, an International Conference sponsored by ICASE (International Council of Associations of Science Education) will be held in Perth. As you will note on the website ( ) there will be many internationally celebrated speakers and opportunities for individual papers. This conference is being held with CONASTA, the Australian Science Teachers Conference.

The annual conference for ASERA ( ) will be held from 11-14 July in Fremantle.

Why not consider attending both conferences next year?

American University of Paris, France, 17-20 July 2007

The conference will continue in its endeavours to develop an interdisciplinary agenda for the humanities. It will include keynote presentations by internationally renowned speakers and numerous small-group workshop and paper presentation sessions.

We would particularly like to invite you to respond to the conference call for papers and presentations. Presenters may choose to submit written papers for publication before or after the conference in the refereed International Journal of the Humanities. If you are unable to attend the conference in person, virtual registrations are also available which allow you to submit a paper for review and possible publication in the journal, and provide access to the online edition of the journal.

The deadline for the next round in the call for papers (a title and short abstract) is 15 November 2006. Proposals are reviewed within one week of submission.

Full details of the conference, including an online call for papers form, are to be found at the conference website -


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.


December 2006

1-3 December 2006: ANZCIES 2006: Global Governance, Educational Change, and Cultural Ecology, Australia National University, Canberra. (April06)


January 2007

4-7 January: The Third International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, University of Madras, Chennai, India, (August06)

April 2007

14-17 April: National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) annual meeting, New Orleans, (

26-28 April 2007: Narrowing the Gap: Addressing Educational Disadvantage, University of New England, Armidale  Website (Dec06)

May 2007

28-30 May 2007: Redesigning Pedagogy: Culture, Knowledge and Understanding. National Institute of Education, Singapore. Website: (Dec06)

June 2007

26-29 June 2007: Fourteenth International Conference on Learning, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, (Dec06)

July 2007

2 - 6 July: World Environmental Education Congress 2007, International Conference Centre, Durban, South Africa (August06)

8-12 July: World Conference on Science and Technology Education (ICASE/CONASTA56), Perth WA. (August05)

10-13 July 2007: Second International Conference on Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, University of Granada, Spain, (October06)

11-14 July: 38th Annual Conference, Australasian Science Education Research Association (ASERA), Fremantle WA,  (Dec06)

17-20 July: 5th International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities, American University of Paris, France, (Dec06)

November 2007

15-19 November 2007:  IIId International Conference of The Social Capital Foundation, in Waikiki, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii. (Oct06)


March 2008

29 March - 3 April: National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) annual meeting, Baltimore, (

July 2008

6-11 July: CONASTA57, Darwin NT

ASERA, Brisbane Qld

Date not set

World Indigenous People's Conference on Education (WIPCE 2008), Victoria, Australia

As this is the last issue for 2006, I would like to wish everybody the best for the New Year, and thank people for their contributions this year. Hopefully you will continue to support the Indigenous Science Network Bulletin in 2007.

Michael Michie

Grevillia sp.

Last updated: 1 December 2006