Celebrating the first scientists

painting with a black hand outline

National Science Week this year gives everyone an opportunity to find out more about the cultural practices of our First Nations people, and to hear directly from those leading the research behind a shift in our understanding of Indigenous knowledge.

Indigenous Science Experience in Redfern is a special community day celebrating Indigenous and Western science, and highlighting the relevance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to our everyday lives. (See more details here Indigenous Science returns to Redfern)

Communicating with Plants: Exploring how First Nations perspectives intersect with futuristic biotechnologies is a panel presented in collaboration with the ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology. It will include a lively and imaginative discussion about why we should listen to plants, how First Nations cultural practices encourage deep listening to Country, and whether futuristic biotechnologies can help humans ‘communicate’ with our leafy friends. The panel will feature choreographer and performer, Henrietta Baird, and a pioneer in molecular microbiology, biotechnology Professor Sakkie Pretorius.

Victor Steffensen is a co-founder of the National Indigenous Fire Workshops, providing on-ground training for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities on getting traditional fire regimes back on Country. One of leading voices on reinvigorating the use of cultural burning practices, Victor is the guest for one of the Powerhouse Museum’s 100 Climate Conversations during National Science Week Victor Steffensen: Cultural burning.

Also at the Powerhouse Ultimo, Indigenous astronomers Karlie Noon and Krystal de Napoli present at the Space Imaginaries Symposium with a session on Caring for Sky Country: a conversation around their newly launched book Astronomy: Sky Country. They will explore bringing together Indigenous astronomical expertise and practices of caring for Sky Country and dark skies, with current issues in astronomical sciences.

At Stars Over the Park at Centennial Park you can join Dr Luke Barnes from Western Sydney University for an introduction to stargazing, with Drew Roberts from Shared Knowledge who will share stories of the night sky from a First Nation’s perspective. Sydney City Skywatchers will come in and set up their amazing telescopes to guide you through the enchanting stars and planets in close range.

For a detailed understanding of cultural astronomy, join Robert Fuller for a presentation on Navigating the Stars with the First Astronomers at Hawkesbury Library Central.


National Science Week includes some great online workshops and discussions from other state and territories that share Indigenous knowledge. You can watch Kakadu National Park and DEMED Rangers from presenting on how and why they harvest crocodile eggs and monitor turtles. Indigenous Rangers in Esperance, WA also present their scientific, research, and culturally sensitive conservation activities.

Indigenous Practices Meet Sustainable Fishing is a video produced by the Marine Stewardship Council on the science behind what makes the Lakes and Coorong fishery in South Australia sustainable to a world-leading standard and how indigenous fishing practices continue today and are being safeguarded for the future.

Adam Shipp is a proud Wiradjuri man, passionate about traditional plant use. He showcases this passion in an online workshop Introduction to Aboriginal Plant Use sharing this knowledge about how Aboriginal people have been using plants for foods, fibres, and medicines for thousands of years.


Celebrating the first sciences of these lands is a National Science Week guide highlighting the important contributions Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander science and traditional knowledge make in understanding our world and our place in Australia. It contains examples of how science is everywhere, from the land to the skies and waterways.