Yarning and star gazing at Sydney Science Festival

Kirstin Banks. Credit: Justin Banks/Grigori Films

Sydneysiders can discover how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples navigate the skies, learn about the uses of native plants and gaze at the sun through a solar telescope at 2017’s Sydney Science Festival.

The City of Sydney is running a series of workshops and events across the inner city throughout August 2017 where locals and visitors can learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander science and technology.

“These workshops are a fantastic opportunity to come together on Gadigal country and learn more about Aboriginal astronomy, Dreamtime stories and the knowledge passed down from generation to generation,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

“We have so much to learn from the world’s oldest living continuous cultures and their understanding of science and technology.”

As part of the festival line-up, Wiradjuri woman Kirsten Banks will introduce children to the signs, landmarks and engravings used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to navigate the skies.

“Aboriginal peoples have explored the skies and used signs for tens of thousands years,” Ms Banks said.

“Dreamtime stories about the sun, stars and creation are not just enjoyable to listen to, they are our history and culture and hold many important lessons.”

An Aboriginal astronomy guide at Sydney Observatory, Ms Banks is also studying physics and astronomy at UNSW. Her fascination for science and astronomy began at a young age while in primary school.

“It’s so important that we share Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and learn from the stories of the Dreamtime,” Ms Banks said.

“I love to share my passion for astronomy with other people and see them just as excited as I am to experience this part my culture.”

The City’s workshops have been curated in partnership with Monica Stevens, an Mbabaram woman and founding member of Bangarra Dance Theatre.

“During 2017’s Sydney Science Festival, people of all ages can experience the Aboriginal Yarning Circle,” Ms Stevens said.

“This ancient custom is a respectful way to listen and learn. Our culture, knowledge and science is best expressed and shared through the yarning circle. Our presenters are knowledge holders of today and they are passionate about sharing our culture.”

Yarning circle: what are the signs?
When: 4pm–5.30pm, Tuesday 15 August 2017
Where: Waterloo Library, 770 Elizabeth Street, Waterloo
What: Join our after-school yarning circles and discover how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples navigate the skies and land through special stories and signs. Participants can hear Dreamtime stories about the sun, use a solar telescope to view the sun, identify navigational signs and learn how to use the landmarks and engravings as a map.
Cost: Free. Bookings essential.

Culture and science: Indigenous perspectives
When: 6pm–7.30pm, Thursday 17 August 2017
Where: Customs House Library, 31 Alfred Street, Sydney
What: Join us for a panel discussion exploring the role of the world’s oldest living cultures in the development of new technology. The panel includes Vanessa Lee, Chair of the National Public Health Indigenous Leadership Network; Luke Briscoe, Co-founder of Indigilabs; Michael Rome, software engineer from the Torres Strait; Warren Roberts, Founder of Y.A.R.N Australia; and Monica Stevens, founding member of Bangarra Dance Theatre.
Cost: Free. Bookings essential.

Yarning circle: family day
When: 10.30am–12.30pm, Saturday 19 August 2017
Where: Glebe Library, 186 Glebe Point Road, Glebe
What: Join us as we create yarning circles and explore the relationship between natural sciences and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural practices. Learn about digeridoo-making, uses of plants from the bush and stories of the sun and stars.
Cost: Free. Bookings essential.

Indigenous science experience
When: 10am–3pm, Sunday 20 August 2017
Where: Redfern Community Centre, 29–53 Hugo Street, Redfern
What: Get hands-on with interactive science at Redfern Community Centre. Learn from Elders about bush foods and medicines, explore Aboriginal astronomy and learn about the science of ochre. There will also be 3D printing workshops, math puzzles, neural knitting, physics activities, Aboriginal arts, craft and food stalls. The event is organised by Macquarie University’s National Indigenous Science Education Program, with support from the City.
Cost: Free.

The Sydney Science Festival runs from 8–20 August 2017.

Source: City of Sydney

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