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ISSUE 9 - October 2010





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Australian Aboriginal Astronomy in the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (pages 05-09)
Ray P. Norris

Summary

Each of the 400 different Aboriginal cultures in Australia has a distinct mythology, and its own ceremonies and art forms, some of which have a strong astronomical component. Sadly, the Australian media tend to focus on negative aspects of contemporary Aboriginal culture, and very few non-Aboriginal people in the wider Australian community are aware of the intellectual depth of traditional Aboriginal cultures. The International Year of Astronomy 2009 seemed an excellent opportunity to tell the wider public about Aboriginal astronomy, so that they might understand something of the depth and complexity of traditional Aboriginal cultures. This article describes some of the challenges and successes of this programme, and the impact that this work has had on Australian perceptions of Aboriginal culture, helping to build a bridge across the cultures. It also describes the achievement of an unexpected and unplanned goal: the inclusion of Aboriginal astronomy opened up astronomy to a section of the population who had never before intentionally attended a talk on science.