Indigenous Science Network

October 1999

Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge

The following message was forwarded by Bill Palmer at the Northern Territory University.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Science for the Twenty-First Century: A New Commitment Budapest, 26 June - 1 July, 1999

Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge 1 July, 1999, Budapest, Hungary and the Science-Agenda Framework for Action

(These documents are available from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,

The document in general discusses the social partnership science has with society, and touches on a number of important policy issues like women in science, information sharing and intellectual property rights, and indigenous and traditional knowledge.

Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge

25. that there are barriers which have precluded the full participation of other groups, of both sexes, including disabled people, indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities hereafter referred to as disadvantaged groups,

26. that traditional and local knowledge systems as dynamic expressions of perceiving and understanding the world, can make and historically have made, a valuable contribution to science and technology, and that there is a need to preserve, protect, research and promote this cultural heritage and empirical knowledge,

38. Intellectual property rights need to be appropriately protected on a global basis, and access to data and information is essential for undertaking scientific work and for translating the results of scientific research into tangible benefits for society. Measures should be taken to enhance those relationships between the protection of intellectual property rights and the dissemination of scientific knowledge that are mutually supportive. There is a need to consider the scope, extent and application of intellectual property rights in relation to the equitable production, distribution and use of knowledge. There is also a need to further develop appropriate national legal frameworks to accommodate the specific requirements of developing countries and traditional knowledge, sources and products, to ensure their recognition and adequate protection on the basis of the informed consent of the customary or traditional owners of this knowledge.

Science-Agenda Framework for Action

2.2 Science, environment and sustainable development
32. Modern scientific knowledge and traditional knowledge should be brought closer together in interdisciplinary projects dealing with the links between culture, environment and development in such areas as the conservation of biological diversity, management of natural resources, understanding of natural hazards and mitigation of their impact. Local communities and other relevant players should be involved in these projects. Individual scientists and the scientific community have the responsibility to communicate in popular language the scientific explanations of these issues and the ways in which science can play a key role in addressing them.

33. Governments, in co-operation with universities and higher education institutions, and with the help of relevant United Nations organizations, should extend and improve education, training and facilities for human resources development in environment-related sciences, utilizing also traditional and local knowledge. Special efforts in this respect are required in developing countries with the co-operation of the international community.

3.4 Modern science and other systems of knowledge
83. Governments are called upon to formulate national policies that allow a wider use of the applications of traditional forms of learning and knowledge, while at the same time ensuring that its commercialization is properly rewarded.

84. Enhanced support for activities at the national and international levels on traditional and local knowledge systems should be considered.

85. Countries should promote better understanding and use of traditional knowledge systems, instead of focusing only on extracting elements for their perceived utility to the S&T system. Knowledge should flow simultaneously to and from rural communities

86. Governmental and non-governmental organizations should sustain traditional knowledge systems through active support to the societies that are keepers and developers of this knowledge, their ways of life, their languages, their social organization and the environments in which they live, and fully recognize the contribution of women as repositories of a large part of traditional knowledge.

87. Governments should support cooperation between holders of traditional knowledge and scientists to explore the relationships between different knowledge systems and to foster inter-linkages of mutual benefit.

93. UNESCO and ICSU should submit the Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge and Science Agenda - Framework for Action to their General Conference and General Assembly respectively, with a view to enabling both organizations to identify and envisage follow-up action in their respective programmes and provide to them enhanced support. The other partner organizations should do likewise vis-a-vis their governing bodies; the United Nations General Assembly should also be seized of the outcome of the World Conference on Science.

There is also a Statement of the international forum of young scientists.

Amongst the conference proceedings are the abstracts for a forum on Science and other systems of knowledge. They are at

Independent review of Indigenous education

. The Northern Territory Department of Education has been having a review of Indigenous education, conducted by former senator Bob Collins. The report was finally released on Thursday, 21 October 1999. It is rather large (280 pages) and has 150 recommendations regarding Aboriginal education in the NT. It is considered to be one of the most comprehensive surveys undertaken on Aboriginal education.

If you would like a copy, you can download it from the department's website as a pdf file. The website is at

Click on 'What's new' to download the file.

Earthquake legends

"Different cultures around the world have attempted to explain earthquakes in different ways. Here are some legends about what makes the ground shake!" This website comes courtesy of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (USA).

Waka Moana Symposium & Festival

In 1996, a new sort of gathering of Pacific waka people took place at Te Huiteananui-a-Tangaroa, the New Zealand National Maritime Museum in Auckland. The occasion brought together traditional navigators, voyagers, builders, sailors, academics and enthusiasts from Aotearoa New Zealand, the Island nations of the Pacific and further afield in a series of lectures, panel discussions and demonstrations on land and sea.

This was the 1996 Waka Moana Symposium & Festival, held under the auspices of the UNESCO Vaka Moana programme for the Pacific. Now there is an opportunity for those with an interest in Waka to purchase a publication from the Museum. 'The Proceedings' of this Symposium are a testimony to the speakers and mentors from the many seas of Pacific waka and navigation and voyaging, who gave so much of their dedication, knowledge and wisdom. Details of the publication and the secure order forms are at

"Sharing our Pathways"

The September/October issue of Sharing our Pathways, the newsletter of the Alaskan Rural Systemic Initiative, has been released. There's a number of articles on Traditional Yup'ik knowledge. You can download it (PDF version is better) from their website, at

Intercultural understandings in teaching science: A handbook for teachers

Mark Linkson has been working on a new draft of what we called "Intercultural understandings in teaching science: A handbook for teachers". This is an update of the NT Department of Education's "Aboriginal science teacher's handbook". We thought the original title was confusing, now we're worried that the new title is a mouthful.

Mark recently workshopped it at the NT science teachers conference in Alice Springs and we're looking for comment on it from you. If you would like a copy, e-mail Mark at

It's called 'intercultural' because besides Indigenous science, it also includes some material on Science in Asia, linking in with the Studies of Asia in Schools policy. However, this section is a bit light-on and if anybody can give us some direction here, we would appreciate it.

Theo Read, Linda Cooper and I were involved with a holiday school for Indigenous students on science, held at the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT) in Alice Springs. There were about 20 students, all junior secondary, from Weipa, Darwin, Broome and Karratha, as well as Alice Springs. It was a pretty good opportunity for the students to become involved in science, even from a western perspective. They did a number of activities based on problem solving, as well as being entertained by presenters from The Investigator in Adelaide. Robyn Williams (not the actor, the commentator from the ABC) was also there and talked with the students. Rio Tinto was also a sponsor.

There was also an opportunity to see some traditional technology, although there was a division on gender lines. It was interesting to watch a couple of Aboriginal men 'knock up' a boomerang in such a short time, but also to watch their technique. They discussed what they were doing constantly, and helped each other whenever. And they were quite old and experienced. The other thing they did was to compare it to another boomerang they'd already made, as if it was a template. They also used fire to help temper the wood and to bend it into the same shape.

The weekend before the school, CAT had also sponsored a meeting of Indigenous students who are at or have done science and technology courses at university. They belong to a network called the Australian Indigenous Science Engineering and Architecture Network (AISEAN). This is similar to the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) and the vice-chairman of AISES was at the meeting and addressed it. AISEAN is only 18 months old and CAT is its main support.

AISEAN website:

AISES website:

The Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT)

CAT undertakes research and evaluation of new and emerging technology and designs, develops and teaches technologies appropriate to remote communities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander resource and service deliveries. Its vision is to empower Indigenous people, who live in remote areas, to achieve self determination and enterprise leading to social and economic development.

CAT is located in Alice Springs, with an office in Cairns. It was set up in 1980 and Bruce Walker, the current director, was the original lecturer in appropriate technology. The Cairns office opened in 1993.

For more information:

The Investigator and Indigenous Science

Linda Cooper from The Investigator in Adelaide has been working on a display of Indigenous technologies (as well as having a baby in mid-year). Linda and Steve gave a workshop at CONASTA (see the August newsletter) and worked on some materials on mining for Indigenous students (funded by the Australian Mineral Industry Council). The display isn't ready yet but it's well advanced.

There's information about it on

Linda can be contacted at

Thank you to the people who e-mailed me about previous editions of this network letter. As you should know, I've been able to archive it and it's available at my website. I hope that this will be of use to more of you and that you will direct other people to the archives. Now that the network is web-based, there's an opportunity to make links to other useful websites. Last issue I identified two personal websites, and I suspect that some others of you probably have sites we could link to as well.

If you have some general websites that you think we should be linking to, please let me know and I will set up a links page.

Michael Michie

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