According to Dr Tyson Yunkaporta, we live in a ‘Dynamic Universe – because of the diversity within it.’ Tyson belongs to the Apalech Clan in far north Queensland and is a senior lecturer in Indigenous Knowledges at Deakin University. Indigenous knowledge is a dialogue – it’s the yarns, carvings, songs, and dances that change depending on the relationship of the people who are sharing it, where they are, and where they are from. With so many cultures, stories, and points of view, stories of the sky change according to where you stand. ‘Truth is not an empirical thing, but an aggregate of stories and diversity.’ What Westerners call a meteor represents the eye of an evil spirit or death to many Aboriginal groups across northern Australia. Cultural astronomer A/Prof Duane Hamacher has felt privileged to learn how meteors and meteorites are incorporated into Indigenous knowledge systems by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders around Australia.
Indigenous cultures have a deep emotional investment and attachment to the landscape that acts as both almanac and encyclopaedia. It’s amazing that different cultures separated by vast oceans and continents have independently perceived the patterns in constellations in strikingly similar ways, despite being geographically and temporally separated. Stories from the cosmos give both practical guidance and spiritual comfort, and this way of telling stories and reading the stars is a way of keeping knowledge constant across generations.
The latest edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria is now online, featuring a new species of calcareous sponge discovered in Geelong, a spectacular new H5 meteorite in Maryborough, an account of Indigenous meteorological knowledge using stellar scintillation, a reclassification of fossil graptolites from the early Bendigonian, a case for regulated investment in a resilient electricity network, an account of the Bureau of Meteorology’s new extreme heatwave event forecasting service, and a discussion on whether a similar service might be required for cold extremes.
Dr Duane W. Hamacher’s work seeks to understand how the first Australians developed and embedded scientific information into their knowledge systems. Working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders, students, and knowledge custodians across Australia, he listens to their stories, songs, and traditions to learn about Indigenous astronomical and geological knowledge, and understand the connections between sky, land, and sea.