June 2008
(Volume 11, Number 3)
ISSN  1449-2091

Michael Michie

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

Indigenous Science Links






Research and teaching of Indigenous language and culture leads to prestigious $300,000 fellowship for CDU academic

Charles Darwin University’s Associate Professor Michael Christie has been awarded the 2008 prestigious Senior Australian Teaching and Learning Fellowship, valued at $300,000, to continue his work integrating Aboriginal culture and practices into tertiary teaching. 
The aim of the Fellowship Scheme, awarded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council – formerly the Carrick Institute – is to advance learning and teaching in higher education by supporting leading educators to undertake strategic, high-profile fellowship activities in areas that support the continued development of learning and teaching in Australian higher education. 
The program planned by Dr Christie, entitled “Increasing the participation of Indigenous knowledge holders in tertiary teaching through the use of emerging digital technologies”, is designed to further the collaboration between Yolngu educators and consultants in East Arnhem Land, the School of Australian Indigenous Knowledge Systems, the School of Education, and the School of Creative Arts and Humanities. 
Dr Christie said that in a reverse of the conventional distance learning set-up, the project planned to have the students on campus and the Aboriginal lecturers on country in their remote communities, teaching languages and culture, including Indigenous art. 
“The project will integrate and extend three ongoing collaborative research programs which have worked on the use of digital technology for traditional knowledge work, supporting homeland communities with internet connectivity, and professionalising Yolngu consultants and researchers,” he said. 
“A key part of the project is finding ways in which Yolngu knowledge authorities can be paid and acknowledged properly for their work, and that their intellectual property interests can be safeguarded within the academic context. 
“To achieve this, we need to continue our focus on the collaborative nature of the work.  The political, technical and social aspects of the work are inseparable.” 
Dr Christie will establish a collaborative team of internationally recognised scholars and lead an extended seminar as part of the fellowship. 
CDU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Helen Garnett congratulated Dr Christie on the achievement. 
“This is a great honour for Michael and his Indigenous co-workers and demonstrates CDU’s commitment to leading-edge education. The award supports Charles Darwin University’s stated commitment in its Futures Framework to be the best in Australia in Indigenous participation and relevance and to incorporate Indigenous perspectives and needs into mainstream University activities,” she said.

Congratulations, Michael.

Canadian Journal for Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education
Special Issue on:
Science Education from Place:  Best Practices on Turtle Island

Call for Manuscripts
Deadline for Submission:  October 31, 2008

This special issue of the Canadian Journal for Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education intends to create an interdisciplinary dialogue on Indigenous science education in the North American (Turtle Island) context. The guest editor for this special issue invites scholarly essays and research manuscripts that draw upon existing academic literature as well as showcase developments in Indigenous science education for the benefit of communities and schools that are involved in decolonizing science curricula around the world.

Topics of interest include (but not limited to):

q  Reports on research studies that investigate historical, philosophical, ontological, epistemological, methodological, and pedagogical issues relevant to Indigenous science education from a position of place;

q  Stories of best practices and successes in the integration of Indigenous content in school science; Teacher experiences, struggles and challenges in decolonizing school science;

q  Perspectives and issues on the delivery of Indigenous science education in a post-colonial context.

Submission guidelines:

The format for manuscripts will adhere to APA style (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 5th edition). All submissions will include an abstract of 100 words.

Manuscripts will be typewritten, double-spaced and not exceed 6000 words maximum including references (but excluding figures and tables).  Margins are one inch on all sides.  Manuscripts must be submitted electronically.  Manuscripts must include the author(s) name, address, telephone number, FAX number, and email address on a separate file.

Manuscripts are anonymously peer-reviewed by three national and international scholars appropriate to the topic and content.  The articles should be original and not under consideration for publication elsewhere.  If a manuscript is accepted for publication, the author will be required to submit a brief biographical statement outlining the author’s areas of study, teaching, and current research interests. MicroSoft Word 2003 or 2007 is preferred.

Please forward manuscripts and or any questions regarding the special issue to:

Dr. Herman Michell – Guest Editor

#1 First Nations Way

First Nations University of Canada

(306) 790-5950 ext. 3332


Bureaucracy 'hindering' Indigenous education

Targeted Federal Government funding designed to “close the gap” in Indigenous education has effectively been frozen for years, a new study concludes. 
Two researchers from Charles Darwin University’s School for Social and Policy Research (SSPR) have just released their findings of a study entitled “The funding of Indigenous education through Special Purpose Supplementation: an historical overview”. 
Co-authors of the report, Helen Walsh and Associate Professor Tess Lea, Director of the SSPR, have revealed that funding has not increased beyond the consumer price index since 2001, and possibly longer, despite most Indigenous students continuing to fail literacy and numeracy benchmarks across the country. 
Describing the findings of the report, which drew on research that was independently funded by the Ian Potter Foundation, Dr Lea said that government policy was exacerbating the problem. 
“Government programs are so confusing and difficult to access, they actually operate as a contributing factor to the outcomes in Indigenous education,” Dr Lea said. 
The supplementary funding examined by the report was distributed via various programs to all states and territories and eligible organisations as Special Purpose Payments (SPPs). While this funding has led to the development of much-needed programs and resources, the report lists a number of bureaucratic processes complicating the scheme. 
The report reveals that these problems are compounded in the Northern Territory by the NT Government’s inability to fully access the funding despite the jurisdiction’s extraordinary needs (only about 30-35% of Year 5 Indigenous students reached literacy and numeracy benchmarks in 2006). As an example, the report outlines that in 1999, of the $5 million made available to the Territory for strategic initiatives in Indigenous education, only $195,000 was accessed. 
While the report does not examine other jurisdictions, national figures indicate the Territory Government is probably not alone in this failing. The report states that “…with approximately $660 million allocated under the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act, section 14, for 2005-06, and only $365 million actually paid.” 
To alleviate the problems and improve the effectiveness of SPPs, Dr Lea said she believed that governments must shoulder much of the blame for Indigenous education outcomes and act on evidence, not historical practice. 
“Government red tape and the lack of fool-proof lines of funding distribution are a structural feature of SPPs despite frequent program restructures,” she said. 
“There needs to be greater government accountability on how the money is spent, simplification of current policy, and stringent research into what level of investment is actually required to bridge the gap in Indigenous education.” 
In 2005-06, SPPs made up just 1.5% or $418 million of the Federal Government’s education expenditure of $30 billion. Despite the research focusing on only a small portion of the overall education funding, Dr Lea is adamant about its relevance. 
“It should be remembered that the programs that are targeted for funding under SPPs are earmarked as supplementary or extraordinary funds – the money required for extra efforts to close the gaps. So attention to what that money has been doing and what has been happening to the special grant allocations over time is warranted,” Dr Lea said. 
Read the full report, The funding of Indigenous education through Special Purpose Supplementation: an historical overview

Education doesn't erode Indigenous culture: expert

The head of a Queensland Indigenous education group says Aboriginal children must get the same education as the rest of Australia's children.

Related Link: Transcript: The Way Forward

ICASE Newsletters - May and June 2008

I have electronic copies of the ICASE newsletters for May and June. If you would like a copy, please e-mail me.


Aboriginal Astronomy

A number of new papers on aspects of Aboriginal astronomy have been brought to my notice.

The first is an article which appeared in the June issue of the international refereed journal Astronomy & Geophysics

Bhathal, R.  (2008).  Astronomy for Aboriginal students.  Astronomy & Geophysics, 49 (3), 3.27-3.29.

ABSTRACT: Only 0.003% of the 9000 university science graduates in 2005 in Australia were of Aboriginal origin. This is a national disgrace in a country that prides itself on giving its inhabitants a “fair go”. This paper discusses an astronomy project that seeks to improve the scientific literacy of Aboriginal students so as to motivate them to take up careers in science and engineering. (For a copy of the paper you can contact Ragbir Bhathal at the University of Western Sydney.

Ray Norris (CSIRO Australia) has also had a number of articles published:

"Star Dreaming", by Ray Norris, Cosmos, May 2008

"Emu Dreaming", by Ray Norris, Australasian Science, May 2008.

"In Search of Aboriginal Astronomy", by Ray Norrris, Australian Sky & Telescope, April 2008.

Ray Norris. (2007)."Searching for the Astronomy of Aboriginal Australians", inAstronomy & Cosmology in Folk Traditions and Cultural Heritage, ed. Jonas Vaiskunas (Conference Proceedings from the VIIIth Oxford International Conference on Archaeoastronomy and Astronomy in Culture). 

ABSTRACT. It is widely accepted that the traditional culture of Aboriginal Australians has a signicant astronomical component, but it is unclear whether this component extended beyond ceremonial songs and stories. Here I summarise a growing body of evidence that there was a deep understanding of the motion of objects in the sky, that this knowledge was used for practical purposes such as constructing calendars, and there may even be evidence for careful records and measurements. (
A preprint is available on

There is a great free resource available to teachers at This contains lots of science activities for years 7-12 which can be integrated into lessons. It is divided into junior, intermediate and senior sections.

Do you have an innovative solution to these problems in natural resource management?

Land & Water Australia invests, through this Innovation Call, in research projects to achieve the more sustainable use and management of Australia's natural resources. We invite innovative research proposals that address any of the following;

  • Practical cost-effective techniques, suitable for emissions trading, for accounting for fluxes of greenhouse gases through agricultural and native terrestrial ecosystems, with a focus on soils.
  • Impacts of climate and atmospheric change on vegetation water-use and recharge for the principal native vegetation classes of Australia.
  • Improving the rigour and relevance of the metrics used in market-based instruments designed to allocate funds to natural resource outcomes.
  • Social impacts of irrigation adjustment in the Murray Darling Basin in emerging policy and water markets.

Full guidelines and short application forms are available from

Conversations about Science

This is a new resource soon to be freely available for all schools to access. They were originally designed to allow indigenous learners to engage with western science. We hope they achieve that and more. Our early support of these with teachers shows they have a more general use. When teachers use the graphics provided (copyright free), they can construct their own conversations about topics and ideas of interest to their location and context.

It is expected that this resource (in hard copy and digital from) will be available, at no cost, at CONASTA ‘08 and ASERA ’08.

Contact:Rosie Thrupp,Central Queensland University (Bundaberg campus)

T: 07 4150 7116


This material has been developed as part of the Australian School Innovation in Science, Technology and Mathematics Project, funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training as part of the Boosting Innovation in Science, technology and mathematics Teaching (BISMT) Programme.

Primary Connections Incorporating Indigenous Perspectives

The Primary Connections: linking science and literacy project is pleased to announce that the exemplary curriculum unit: Plants in action Incorporating Indigenous Perspectives will be available in mid-June. The Indigenous Perspective Framework and supporting resources are currently being developed for the website.

The Indigenous Perspective Framework, which is based on national research findings and collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups, cultural consultants, Indigenous education and linguistic experts aims to accelerate science and literacy learning outcomes for Indigenous students and increase non-Indigenous students’ and teachers’ awareness and understanding of Indigenous perspectives. (Primary Connections gratefully acknowledges the contributions of those involved with development of the Indigenous Perspective Framework.)

For more information about the release of the Plants in action Incorporating Indigenous Perspectives unit and the Indigenous Perspective Framework go to:

Cultural Studies of Science Education

We are pleased to announce Springer is currently running a special promotion to provide readers with free access to all issues of our journal Cultural Studies of Science Education. You have free access to the articles in Online First, the first two volumes of CSSE, and the first two issues of Volume 3. Almost 3,000 pages can be downloaded as PDF files during this trial period.

Many of the articles will be of great interest to science educators, including almost 300 pages of dialogue about conceptual change theory in relation to sociocultural theories for science education. These articles are presently in Online First and in the next day or so will become Volume 3, Issue 2. Also, a special issue focusing on Indigenous Knowledge is available in Online First and in the next three months will become Volume 3, Issue 3. Other articles available address science education and globalization and urban science education. By the way, if you missed getting a copy of the NARST History you can download a PDF version from Volume 3, Issue 1.

However, this offer is available for a limited time only. You can access articles from now until June 6, 2008 by clicking on this link

If you are interested in continuing to learn more about future CSSE issues, we invite you to sign up for a free service with Springer which automatically sends you a free alert when a new issue of the journal is made available. With this email alert, you will always abreast of the latest publications in CSSE. This service is easy to sign up for on the CSSE home page Conveniently, Springer provides a check box for you to decline any additional advertisements so you will only receive a single announcement, once per quarter, when the newest issue comes to press.

We also would like to remind readers to check out the CSSE BLOG where we highlight a different article from each issue and invite readers to engage in a scholarly dialogue with author(s) and others readers around sociocultural topics in science education. You can access the BLOG articles and post your responses at

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact the journal Co-Editors, Kenneth Tobin and Wolff-Michael Roth, or the BLOG Editor, Sonya Martin.


Environmental Education up the Track:

Hot Topics for our Community

9-12 July inDarwin, Northern Territory


Communities make the system In a time of rapid change, how can people who work in early childhood services, schools, tertiary institutions, and government and non-government organisations cooperate to make the system that we are part of more sustainable, and quickly? Participants will highlight successes, difficulties and lessons learned from dealing with hot topics such as global warming, water and waste management, energy options, fire ecology, ecological footprint management and biodiversity in all sectors.

Transcultural communication   For Australia ’s diverse population, it is important to integrate global, particularly Indigenous and Asian, perspectives on how environmental education is practiced in our region. This means promoting skills that develop eco-literacy and care for the environment across cultures and languages; land and seascapes. Indigenous led field studies, a conference art space and an environmental art exhibition will support active communication trans-culturally.

Beyond rhetoric- Improving our capacity AAEE is comprised of diverse communities, and each aims to improve current practice in environmental education. Much of the Association’s national effort is through (and supports) the National Action Plan, through the focus of this conference and through many other workshops and training conducted by State & Territory Chapters and the Special Interest Groups.

Virtual Communication Options give those who cannot attend an opportunity to engage with key-note and other presentations.

For more information visit

Nhulunbuy, NT, Australia

Key Forum Theme – Indigenous Knowledge: Caring for culture and country, 9-11 August

The 10th Garma Festival – Australia's leading cultural exchange event – will be held from 8-12 August 2008 at Gulkula, North East Arnhem Land NT.

Garma is an intimate, spectacular celebration of cultural traditions and practices – dance, song, music, and art (including presentations, collaborations, sales) – and the venue for a leading Key Forum on Indigenous issues – in 2008, Indigenous Knowledge. Sharing of knowledge and real cultural interaction occurs amidst a unique line-up of entertainment. It is indeed a privilege to experience Garma.


International Conference on Science and Mathematics Education
October 27 – 29, 2008, UP NISMED, Quezon City, The Philippines

The University of the Philippines National Institute for Science and Mathematics Education Development (UP NISMED), in cooperation with UNESCO International Bureau of Education (IBE – Geneva), International Council of Associations for Science Education (ICASE) – Asian Chapter, Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, and Department of Science and Technology – Science Education Institute will hold an international conference on science and mathematics education on October 27 – 29, 2008 at UP NISMED Complex, Diliman, Quezon City.

For further details,  contact the Conference Secretariat, UP NISMED, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines 1101 Email: Telefax: (632) 928- 3545

Australian and New Zealand Comparative and International Education Society (ANZCIES) conference
24-27 November 2008, Perth WA

ANZCIES 2008 will be hosted by Curtin University in Perth from 24 to 27 November 2008.  ANZCIES is one of over 40 scholarly societies that represent the World Congress of Comparative Education Societies (WCCES).  It is an independent organisation comprised of members who promote the scholarly study of comparative education in all its various forms.  As the convenors of this conference, we feel that your participation in this event would add to the lively and engaged debate on the development of comparative education as an interdisciplinary field of study.  ANZCIES will be hosting a number of WCCES Executive Council members and other overseas guests.  It is hoped that they will assist in critiquing research design and offering advice to those who present papers.

The theme for the conference, ‘Meeting of Comparative Minds:  Education in all its Forms’ is designed to promote dialogue on comparative and international education research throughout the Asia-Pacific region.  As the region is comprised of countries with a wide range of educational systems, cultures, political regimes and levels of economic development, the conference is an ideal venue for critical analysis and interpretation.

The format for the conference will be divided into three streams:

     Educational transfer and the globalisation of education

     Educational development and quality

     Inequalities in education

The conference aims to promote discussion of key issues facing educational systems in the Asia-Pacific region with emphasis placed on comparative education research models.  

For updated information about the conference, or to register and/or submit a proposal please visit our website at:

Second World Universities Forum
Mumbai, India, 15-17 January 2009

Following the extraordinary success of the inaugural World Universities Forum, held in Davos, Switzerland last month, we are pleased to announce that the Second World Universities Forum will be held in Mumbai, India, 15-17 January 2009.

The World Universities Forum was created in the belief that academe must better engage today's most crucial questions, and that higher education itself must be included as part of the wider discussion of global change.  The Forum encourages the participation of university executives, administrators, scholars and research students, as well as journalists, policy makers, business and political leaders, and others who understand that the importance of the university extends well beyond campus.

All presenters may choose to submit written papers for publication in the fully refereed Journal of the World Universities Forum. If you are unable to attend the Forum 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 08 May 2008. Proposals are reviewed within two weeks of submission. Full details of the Conference, including an online proposal submission form, are to be found at the Conference website -

We look forward to receiving your proposals and hope you will be able to join us in Mumbai in January 2009.

FISER’09 May 22-24 2009, Famagusta, Northern Cyprus

A forthcoming international conference on Science and Mathematics education research; Frontiers in Science Education Research 2009 (FISER’09) will be held May 22-24 2009. The official website of FISER’09 could be accessed via The conference is organised by the Eastern Mediterranean University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Further information can be obtained from Mehmet Garip, Ph.D. Chair, Organising Committee (


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.


June 2008

17-20 June: Eighth International Conference on Diversity in Organisations, Communities and  Nations, HEC (Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales), University of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, (Dec07)

July 2008

2-5 July: Australasian Science Education Research Association, Brisbane Qld  (Aug07)

6-11 July: Australian Science Teachers Association, CONASTA57, Griffith University Gold Coast, Qld

9-12 July: Australian Association for Environmental Education, "Environmental education up the Track: Hot topics for our community", Darwin NT. (Aug07)

15-18 July: Sixth International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities, Fatih University, Istanbul, Turkey, (Dec07)

22-25 July: Third International Conference on Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Monash University Centre, Prato, Tuscany, Italy, (April07)

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

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.


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

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

July 2009

ASERA, Deakin University, Victoria. Dates and venue to be decided.


July 2010

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

Thank you to all the people who contributed to this issue. I'm still having problems with the software so there are still some glitches.

Michael Michie

Last updated: 1 June 2008