February 2009
(Volume 12, Number 1)
ISSN  1449-2091

Michael Michie

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

Indigenous Science Links






Caring for culture and country

A report on the 2008 Garma Festival in East Arnhemland, from Charles Darwin University's magazine, Origins.

Connecting with Country

Alexandra Hugman

University of Sydney

In September 2008 I had the opportunity to spend the day with an Indigenous elder to learn more about the Indigenous notion of land. I met Darnginjung elder, teacher and trainer Oomera Edwards who took a staff group from the Faculty of Education and Social Work to visit Darnginjung country near Ourimbah, NSW.


'Cyclical time': Photo by Deborah Young, reproduced with permission

Searching for scientific connections that were not superficial, I was amazed by the relevance of the concept of a ‘spiral timeline’.

Historical development of scientific ideas is an underpinning theme in NSW science syllabus. We conventionally draw a straight line, horizontal or vertical, divided accurately into years and marking off events/discoveries/scientists births in an orderly fashion.

The Aboriginal timeline is linear but in a spiral formation. Oomera explained how there are significant occasions when one can move between the lines – for example, move across and say ‘Sorry’.

In the scientific development of ideas, discoveries and inventions we emphasise that progression is built on the thoughts and experiments of past scientists – how beautifully the spiral timeline illustrates this.

For example, in understanding the physics of light:

1021 Ibn al-Haytham wrote about his particle theory of light (adopted by Newton in 1675).

1690 Huygens published his wave theory, supported in 1880 by Young.

1905 the photoelectric effect was discovered leading to -

1918 Planck won the Nobel prize for quantum theory - that light had a particle form!!

1921 Einstein received the Nobel Prize for his work with the wave–particle duality on photons explaining the photo electric effect.

A fascinating extension to a standard task with a natural link to Indigenous culture.

I learned a great deal that day with Oomera. Thank you, Jane, for making it possible.

Primary Connections (Australia)

Robyn Bull
Australian Academy of Science

The Primary Connections Incorporating Indigenous Perspectives Pilot Study Report: Small Study – Big Success Story has found that linking science with literacy is a powerful way to engage students – Indigenous and non-Indigenous. The pilot study which focused on implementation of the Primary Connections Plants in action incorporating Indigenous perspectives curriculum unit, was conducted in a range of primary school settings in Western Australia . The report is now available at

Following the success of the pilot, a DVD: Connecting Minds was produced. The DVD demonstrates the linking of science with literacy and Indigenous perspectives in classrooms. Email if you would like a copy.



Local science vs global science: Approaches to indigenous science in international development
Paul Sillitoe (Ed.). (2007). New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books.

"This book goes beyond demonstrating the soundness of local scienceand arguing for the incorporation of others' knowledge in development, to maintain that we need to look quizzically at the foundations of science itself and further challenge its hegemony, not only over local communities in Africa, Asia, the Pacific and elsewhere but also the global community. The issues are large and the challenges are exciting. They are addressed in this book, in a range of ethnographic and institutional contexts." (Back cover)

Indigenous Knowledges, Development and Education
Jonathan Langdon,
McGill University (Ed.). (2009). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Indigenous knowledges are the subject of much discussion and debate in many contemporary academic fields. This is no less true in the fields of education and development studies – two fields with long histories of interaction with indigenous knowledges and peoples. Yet, despite this similar level of interest and interaction, there has yet to emerge a book that draws together the two fields as they interact with and learn from indigenous epistemologies. This then is the starting point of this book. Drawing together a selection of authors whose work speaks to the interconnection of the three areas of knowledge, the chapters examine how these knowledges co-exist in a number of specific sites. The collection includes: a decolonizing critique of the fields and practice of development and education; a discussion of indigenous knowledge as a source of learning for the teaching of development studies; an examination of the use of local/traditional/indigenous knowledges in sustainable livelihoods projects; a reflection on building collaboration towards the emergence of an indigenous research methodology; a thinking-through of the linkages between language, development and education in an indigenous Canadian community; a personalized account of the impact of indigenous knowledges on the formation of a young medical student; and, a reflection on dialogue between western health practitioners and traditional bonesetters in northern Ghana….

You can find a free preview at:

Indigenous knowledgesPaperback

Articles and papers

Aldous, Carol, Barnes, Alan, & Clark, Julie. (2008). Engaging excellent Aboriginal students in science: An innovation in culturally-inclusive scholing. Teaching Science, 54(4), 35-39.
"A summer school in Science and Technology was held in January 2008 for nineteen Indigenous students commencing year 11 who were identified as having high academic potential in science and matematics. ... This paper reports on the nature of learning and teaching of science to Indigenous students at this school and seeks to answer the question 'What was so innovative about the program that its impact was not merely successful but also profound?'" (Abstract)

Yunupingu, Galarrwuy. (2008). Tradition, truth & tomorrow. The Monthly, 41 (Dec08-Jan09), 32-40.

Publications - Diana Day

Associate Professor Diana Day, who has special research interests in indigenous education and careers, and science and indigenous water justice issues and freshwater futures,  is leaving the Koori Centre at the University of Sydney , following 5 years of contributing to indigenous education and research mentoring for indigenous students and staff. Diana can be contacted at  or 02 9589 2040 regarding collaborative research or speaking in these fields.

Diana is now Adjunct Professor, School of Environmental Science and Management at Southern Cross University and a Director of the  federal government Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation  who is initiating research on indigenous rural business innovation.

Diana has 3  publications available from the Koori Centre Website at the University of Sydney

  • Black and White Science: Encouraging Indigenous Students into University Science, University of Sydney 2004
  • Science neglects indigenous knowledge and students.  Australasian Science  2007
  • Enhancing success for indigenous postgraduate students. Synergy  2007

 And in journals in 2009- in press

 Arresting the decline in Australian indigenous representation at university: Student experience as a guide. Equal Opportunities International  2009 ( in press,)

Papers in journal submission stage 2009

‘Australian Aboriginal students at university: Reviewing access, retention and success’

‘Indigenous Aboriginal student underrepresentation in science: Questionable social justice in Australia


Sixteenth International Conference on Learning     

University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain     

1-4 July 2009     

The International Conference on Learning is 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 workplace.

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 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 this fully refereed academic Journal.

Whether you are a virtual or in-person presenter at this Conference, we also encourage you to present on the Conference YouTube Channel. Please select the Online Sessions link on the Conference website for further details.

The deadline for the next round in the call for papers (a title and short abstract) is 29 January 2009. Future deadlines will be announced on the Conference website after this date.  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 -

Third International Conference on Science and Mathematics Education (CoSMEd) 
RECSAM, Penang
10 - 12 November 2009
One of the issues that confronts educators today is the concern of educating young minds to meet the challenges in a globalizing world. Many countries are faced with the challenge of preparing citizens who will be able to address global, national and local problems. In this regard, science and mathematics knowledge has become essential as they empower people to usefully apply their knowledge more effectively to solve problems. There is however a need to educate the young so that they can fully utilise the power of science and mathematics. On the one hand, it is our hope to see more children being scientifically and mathematically literate, yet on the contrary we often see children become disinterested in science and mathematics through the way it is taught in schools. This Conference thus aims to bring educators and researchers together to discuss and address issues in improving science and mathematics literacy, developing children’s ability to think scientifically and apply science and mathematical knowledge for personal as well as for the benefit of the community.


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.


March 2009

22-27 March: Geography and Indigenous Peoples, Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Las Vegas, Nevada (Oct08)

April 2009

17-21 April: National Association for Research in Science Teaching annual conference, Hyatt Regency Orange County, Garden Grove, CA 92840, USA

21 April: Kingitangi Day, University of Waikato, New Zealand (

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)

30 May - 1 June: Second Global Studies Conference, Zayed University, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Oct09)

June 2009

2-5 June: Seventh International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities. Beijing, China (Dec08)

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.

1-4 July: Sixteenth International Conference on Learning, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain, (Feb09)

4-7 July: CONASTA58, "Science Education - a Bridge to the Future", Launceston, Tasmania ( (Dec08)

5-12 July: NAIDOC Week (Australia)

8-11 July: Fourth International Conference on Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, University of Athens, Athens, Greece (Dec08)

28-31 July: Fourth International Conference on the Arts in Society, Venice, Italy  (Dec08)

August 2009

31 August - 4 September: European Science Education Research Association Conference, Istanbul, Turkey (Oct08)

October 2009

21-23 October: 1st East Asian Association for Science Education, "Science Education for Tomorrow: Voices of East Asia", Taiwan. (Dec09)

November 2009

10-12 November: Third International Conference on Science and Mathematics Education (CoSMEd) 2009. RECSAM, Penang


March 2010

20-24 March: National Association for Research in Science Teaching annual conference, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA

June 2010

28 June – 2 July: ICASE World Conference 2010, Tartu, Estonia (Oct08)

July 2010

Australasian Science Education Research Association (ASERA), University of Newcastle (NSW). Dates and venue to be decided.

Last updated: 1 February 2009