Indigenous Science Network Bulletin
October 2004
(Volume 7, Number 5)
ISSN  1449-2091

Editor: Michael Michie

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






Successful Completion of Bachelor of Science

Stan Lui from Darnley Island in the Torres Straits was recently awarded his University degree after successfully completing his Bachelor of Science at James Cook University in the School of Marine Biology & Aquaculture.

Stan undertook his first year of the 3-year degree program in Cairns but then transferred to the Townville campus to complete his 2nd and 3rd year of study.   During this time he developed a strong interest in aquaculture and its management and built extensively on his prior first hand knowledge of reef environments, crayfish biology and fisheries.

The hardest thing according to Stan was time management, the financial aspects and being away from family and friends. The positives included meeting new and interesting people from other cultures, connecting with lecturers, and most of all understanding marine life from a scientific point of view.

His lecturer, in marine invertebrate biology, at JCU Dr Gilianne Brodie (who also works for the education program of the CRC Torres Straits) said that she thought the hardest thing for Stan was time management as he undertook a lot of extra-curricula activities during his full-time studies, such as volunteering as a mentor to two indigenous high school students through the ASPIRE program and being promoted to Captain and posted to the 31 Royal Queensland Regiment as the Regimental Signals Officer.

With his face in a permanent smile, Stan celebrated his success, with his proud family, at the JCU graduation ceremony held in Cairns.

Stan is now based on Thursday Island in a boating and fisheries regulation role but still hopes to one day pursue his dream to get involved in sponge aquaculture farming in the Torres Straits.

Gillian Brodie, James Cook University

BOORONG NIGHT SKY: Melbourne Planetarium 

An Australian first for the Melbourne Planetarium by courtesy of Victoria’s North-West Clans is the premiere of Australia’s only indigenous astronomy show. 

“So far any reference to Aboriginal astronomy in Australian planetariums has been fragmentary and tokenistic”, says Gary Murray, deputy Chair of North-West Clans; the body charged with community responsibility for native title and cultural heritage responsibilities.

“With the help of the Melbourne Planetarium we are now able to showcase some of our traditional knowledge of the stars and what they mean to our people”, he said.

“Our stories are up there, our kinship, our morality, our hunting and gathering, the seasons – everything is there in the night sky like it is on the earth”, he said.  “And we are very proud to present some of this ancient knowledge to the public in a way that will appeal to young and old alike”.

It has been a big-budget item for Melbourne’s Planetarium and is produced to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Museum of Victoria.  It is a Scienceworks contribution to this event.

The original research by cultural historian John Morieson is derived from the written account of William Stanbridge, and Englishman who took up a grazing licence at Lake Tyrrell in the 1840’s.  A Boorong family sat with him in the evenings around his campfire and told him about their constellations.

Gary Murray believes this kind of research is beneficial because it provides an opportunity for cultural creativity.  “Some of our best artists have been involved in the production”, he said, “and it also allows us to pay tribute to our great grandparents who were the last to know anything of the traditional knowledge.

Virtual imagery accompanies the southern night skyscape, and Aboriginal actor Jida Gulpilil powerfully presents traditional dance and custom in this medium.   Acclaimed singer-songwriter Kutcha Edwards has written a song, “Under the Boorong Night Sky”, that concludes the program and will resonate within the hearts of all those that experience this Planetarium Show.

Initiative for the show came from the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee for the Museum of Victoria.  Its Chairman, Terry Garwood, says, “ACHAC is very excited about the project and appreciates that local knowledge will be a unique addition to existing astronomy.  It will give the many visitors to the Planetarium a new perspective on the night sky and on Aboriginal culture”.

That the show came about at all is the result of a hunch by researcher John Morieson.  “The Boorong referred to a possum at the top of the Southern Cross which I couldn’t see”, he said, “but as luck would have it, I looked again through a pair of binoculars and there it was.  Aboriginal people have better than mainstream eyesight so using the glasses made my eyesight equivalent to theirs”. 

Professor Hugh Taylor of Melbourne University, a renowned opthamologist, made this finding while working with Fred Hollows on the Trachoma Project in Northern Australia in the 1980’s.

Morieson then used the binoculars to seek out the other constellations mentioned in the Stanbridge account and found nearly all of them.  “The remarkable thing is that so many of them resemble the actual creatures or people”, he said.  “The arrangement of the stars can suggest the outline and even the colour of some stars coincides with physical characteristics, as with Djuit, the red-rumped parrot based on Antares the red star in Scorpius”.

The show has been developed for the general public as well as for late primary and early secondary students.  Morieson says that the constellations that are featured are ones that are easily found in our night sky.  “The Southern Cross, the Pointers, Gemini, Orion and Lyra can be picked out without too much difficulty”, he said, “and with binoculars, naked eye viewers will then be able to find the possum, the fan-tailed cuckoo, the long-necked tortoise, the malleefowl and the two young men dancing”.

Gary Murray believes that this kind of astronomy is far more meaningful for the average person than customary astronomy.  “Western astronomy is technology based and lacks meaning”, he asserts.  “The only excitement people experience comes from the “wow factor” which is provided by more and more powerful telescopes”, he said.  “Our astronomy gives the stars back to the people who can then relate to them on a daily and seasonal basis and have their own stories which suit their own country”.

Aboriginal astronomy does in fact work this way.  Whilst the Boorong Clan’s stars reflect the animals and birds of semi-desert country, Boorong neighbours to the east who live along the Murray had stories for their stars relating to life within and along the river.

“Not that I’m anti-technology”, he added.  “The Digistar program at the Planetarium allows us to see stars on the dome just the way we see them outside, and the operator, Martin Bush, has done a great job bringing to life the creatures and people who used to inhabit Boorong country”.

“Bringing to life” has been the main object of researcher John Morieson’s work over the last ten years.  He had to read archival material to get the details of the birds, reptiles and animals that once inhabited this part of Victoria.  “Most tragically”, he said, “we have been unable to trace any of the Boorong descendants.  There is only one other artefact that is evidence of their existence”.

An important part of the language was recorded in the 1960’s and the customs and beliefs of their neighbours was written down soon after contact”, says Morieson, but it is what is written in the sky, recorded for us by William Stanbridge, that provides the best clue to their existence.

Gary Murray says that the Boorong are regarded by their neighbours as great astronomers and hopes that the Planetarium’s tribute to Boorong will provide a greater understanding of Aboriginal culture.  “It is not just about hunting with spears for the men and gathering bush tucker for the women”, he said.  “Life was far more complex in that kinship systems were the mainstay of the community, trade with neighbours was regular and our ceremonies were very involved.  There was always plenty to do and every individual had a valued place in their communities”.

“This Planetarium show reveals some of the complexity of their life and demonstrates how observant they must have been over the centuries and thousands of years to gain this knowledge and to use the stars in such an intelligent way” says Murray.

Recent carbon dates at Lake Tyrrell indicate human occupation at 28,000 and 35,000 years and there is another possible date that has been recently found of 45,000 years.  “If people can live satisfactorily for that length of time then they must have marriage laws that promote genetic hygiene, they must have a balanced relationship with the environment and that means their wisdom must be very profound”, says Gary Murray.  “We have great respect for our ancestors and their highly developed culture and way of life, who we were never privileged to know except through the initial intervention 150 years ago by William Stanbridge and subsequent intervention ten years ago by John Morieson”.

The Planetarium show at Scienceworks is titled “Boorong Night Sky” and will be available to the public in November 2004.

This media release was authorised by Gary Murray – Deputy Chair North West Clans Inc., and provided by John Morieson (

News from the ABC's Message Stick

MP questions Indigenous tutor funding (09:12:57AEST) The Northern Territory's Federal Member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, says new federal funding for Indigenous students could see tutors taken out of remote school classrooms.

$600,000 to kick start accelerated literacy in the NT says Dr Nelson Message Stick News (09/08/2004)  More than 10,000 Indigenous students across 100 schools in the Northern Territory (NT) will benefit from a literacy programme which will further accelerate and enhance their academic and personal development.

Kelp armour, possums and political activism exhibit opens at National Museum of Australia Message Stick News (09/08/2004) The stories of Aboriginal people from Victoria and Tasmania who are reclaiming lost cultural traditions go on show at the National Museum of Australia on Monday to mark the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples.

Direct Intervention Needed for Indigenous Young People Message Stick News (28/09/2004) The only Indigenous member of the Federal parliament, Senator Aden Ridgeway, has called for immediate action to involve young Indigenous people in the life of the nation before we risk losing a generation.


New books

Andrews, Munya. (2004). The seven sisters of the Pleiades: Stories from around the world. Melbourne: Spinifex Press.
 "Poets, priests, prophets, shamans, storytellers, artists, singers and historians throughout time have all gazed into the night skies and come under their spell. Inspiring and captivating diverse civilisations, this star cluster has left an indelible mark on the human psyche. ... Munya Andrews is a Bardi woman from the Kimberley region of Western Australia. She has cherished a lifelong passion for the Pleides and has been fascinated by this star cluster since a young age when her grandmother pointed to the sky and told of her own culture's legend of the Seven Sisters." (cover)

Harrison, Neil. (2004). Indigenous education and the adventure of insight: Learning and teaching in Indigenous classrooms. Flaxton, Qld.: Post Pressed.
Neil has just advised me that this book has been published and I don't have any more details. This is one of several books published by Post Pressed which readers may be interested in. You can visit their website at Neil's book isn't listed yet but you can purchase it - make contact by e-mail. You may also find Postcolonialism and Education edited by Anne Hickling-Hudson, Julie Matthews and Annette Woods (2004) and Rethinking Indigenous Education by Cathryn McConaghy (2001) of interest.

Hughes, Paul, More, Arthur J., & Williams, Mark . Aboriginal Ways of Learning. Adelaide: University of South Australia.
List members may be interested in a new publication by What Works team member Professor Paul Hughes, together with Arthur J. More and Mark Williams. It's called 'Aboriginal Ways of Learning'.

 The authors have deliberately avoided the use of the term 'learning styles', preferring 'ways of learning' and 'learning strengths'. They believe that all learners develop and use individual combinations of ways of learning and that all are capable of developing a full range of ways of learning. While not identifying 'an Aboriginal learning style', they do identify recurrent Aboriginal learning strengths.

The book shares with What Works the idea that respect for Indigenous cultures is fundamental and that this has implications for teaching and learning.

As well as illuminating the relevant issues, 'Aboriginal Ways of Learning' includes a substantial section describing the practice of a range of individual teachers. More details and an order form can be found under 'What's New' on the Australian Curriculum Studies website at: (After this item ceases to be 'new' on the website, it can still be found by using the search facility or following the path: Projects > Current Projects > What Works > Further Resources.)

Indigenous Online Network

Indigenous Online Network has been updated and is available on

From the journals

Carter, Lyn. (2004). Thinking differently about cultural diversity: Using postcolonial theory to (re)read science education. Science Education

Ezeife, Anthony N. (2003). The pervading influence of cultural border crossing and collateral learning on the learner of science and mathematics. Canadian Journal of Native Education, 27(2), 179-194.

Harrison, Neil. (2003). Grounded theory or grounded data?: The production of power and knowledge in ethnographic research. Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 32, 101-106.

Koul, Ravinder. (2003). Revivalist thinking and student conceptualisations of science/religion. Studies in Science Education, 39, 103-124.

Lemmer, M., Lemmer, T.N., & Smit, J.J.A. (2003). South African students’ views of the universe. International Journal of Science Education, 25(5), 563-582.

Ninnes, Peter. (2004). Discourse of cultural diversity in the science curriculum: Connections, contradictions, and colonialisms. Discourse, 25(2), 261-278.

O'Donoghue, Rob. (2003). Indigenous knowledge: Towards learning materials and methodologies that respond to social processes of marginalisation and appropriation in eastern South Africa. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 19, 57-68.

Riggs, Eric M. (2004). Field-based education and indigenous knowledge: Essential components of geoscience education for Native American communities. Science Education

Rogan, John M., & Grayson, Diane J. (2003). Towards a theory of curriculum implementation with particular reference to science education in developing countries. International Journal of Science Education, 25(10), 1171-1173.

Thomson, Norman. (2003). Science education researchers as orthographers: Documenting Keiyo (Kenyan) knowledge, learning and narratives about snakes. International Journal of Science Education, 25(1), 89-115.


Proposed new journal: International Journal of Cultural Studies of Science Education

Kluwer Academic Publishers sent this message out since the last bulletin.


            Kenneth Tobin and Wolff-Michael Roth have proposed the publication of The International Journal of Cultural Studies of Science Education. The journal would focus on the publication of scholarly articles that employ social and cultural perspectives as foundations for research and other scholarly activities in science education and studies of science. The approach is to solicit and publish fewer, longer articles, each of which is a seed for interactive dialogues among diverse participants that are played out in the issues that we publish. I am writing to you in the hope that you are able to spare the time to give me your opinion regarding the establishment of this new journal. Please click here for the aims & scope of the journal and a questionnaire.

Garma Festival 2005

The Garma Festival took place in Northeast Arnhemland early in August. If you would like to see what happened there, go to


National Association for Research in Science Teaching ( Annual Meetings
2005: Dallas, 4-7 April
2006: San Francisco, 8-12 April
2007: New Orleans, 14-17 April

American Educational Research Association ( Conferences
2005: Montreal, 11-15 April
2006: San Francisco, 8-12 April

6th Indigenous Research Forum
Theme:       "Centering Indigenous Voices in Research"
Date:            29/11/04 to 01/12/04
Location:     University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales
Contact:       Associate Professor Nerida Blair or Cheryl Newton
                    Umulliko Indigenous Higher Education Research Centre

Melbourne Town Hall, Victoria, Australia, 29-30 November 2004
Main Theme: Councils, Communities, Cultures

Hosted by the Cultural Development Network, in association with the Globalism Institute, RMIT University and Common Ground, the Fourth Pillar Conference is an event for anyone concerned with cultural development at a local level. Responding to the growing recognition of culture as a necessary addition to the triple bottom line planning model the conference will gather national and international perspectives on culture's place in the sustainability of communities.

The program includes presentations from cultural commentator and author, Donald Horne, Jon Hawkes, author of "The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability: Culture's Essential Role in Public Planning", Jennifer Bott, CEO of the Australia Council and Mandawuy and Yalmay Yunupingu of the Garma Festival, Yirrkala, Northern Territory.

There will also be a diverse range of workshops and panel presentations from academic, government and creative voices. These sessions will provide a forum to share ideas that contribute to community cultural sustainability.

This conference provides an opportunity for community and cultural development workers, artists and cultural policy makers to be inspired, enriched, engaged and energised. Full details about the event including the latest program, themes and the online registration process are now available on the conference website at

Redesigning Pedagogy: Research, Policy, Practice

30 May to 1 June 2005, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Organised by the Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice, National Institute of Education, Singapore

Strands :

  • Affective Education
  • Language & Literacy EducationMathematics Education
  • Multiliteracies & Multimodalities
  • Science Education
  • IT in Education
  • Humanities & Social Studies
  • School Change & Leadership
  • Innovation in Curriculum Development and Classroom Practice
  • Student Performance and Assessment

Conference Programme

  • Paper Presentations (3 presenters per session, half an hour for each presentation including Q & A)
  • Symposia (team of 3 to 4 presenters on a theme, each session lasting 1.5 hour including Q & A) 
  • Workshops (skill-based,hands-on sessions lasting 3 hours each)

Deadline for Submission of Abstracts: 31 December 2004. Abstracts can be submitted on line or through email to our Conference Secretariat at  Visit the conference website 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.

November 2004

16-18 November: 3rd National Australian Indigenous Education Conference. Conference Theme "Partnerships in Indigenous Education", University of Ballarat, Vic.

22-25 November: Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies: 2004 conference. Indigenous Studies: Sharing the Cultural and Theoretical Space. Manning Clark House, Canberra

29-30 November: Fourth Pillar Conference, Melbourne Town Hall, Victoria, Australia. Main Theme: Councils, Communities, Cultures,

29 November - 01 December: 6th Indigenous Research Forum, "Centering Indigenous Voices in Research". University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales,

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

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

July: CONASTA 54 - Australian Science Teachers Association, Melbourne, Vic.

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

Last updated: 1 October 2004

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