Australian space history dates back to the Dreamtime and it now looks forward to the next stellar projects.

Story Jill Griffiths  Photo supplied by CSIRO

Aboriginal people have been telling stories about the stars for countless generations and in March 2020, to celebrate this culture, Perth Observatory opened Worl Wangkiny, an impressive mural painted onto the walls of a part-constructed telescope dome. It was created to document and share Aboriginal stories of the night sky. In the language of the Whadjuk Noongar people of south-western Western Australia, Worl Wangkiny means ‘sky stories’. 

Diana Rosman, coordinator of the Worl Wangkiny project, says Indigenous Australians are often credited with being the world’s first astronomers. “Observing and interpreting the cosmos is a significant part of most language groups and has been used for navigation, calendars, ceremony, cultural lore, songlines and art for thousands of years,” Diana says. “Indigenous astronomy is an important part of this country’s history and sharing these stories and understandings of the night sky enriches all Australian cultures.

“There are other murals and other events, places and people with stories like this. But this is the only one that is incorporated within a conventional astronomical observatory. The mural has been painted along the internal walls of the dome and will be used to show the long history of Aboriginal astronomy and bring Aboriginal storytelling into the mainstream.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #131

Outback Magazine: June/July 2020