Indigenous astronomers help next generation First Nations scientists aim for the stars

Two First Nations astronomers are working to show Indigenous children that they can pursue their dreams of astronomy through a program at the Australian National University.

Last week, the ANU held a week-long program with Indigenous high school students from remote New South Wales and Tasmania to give them first-hand experience of Indigenous astronomy.

Hosted at the Mount Stromlo Observatory in Canberra, the program allowed Year 10 and Year 11 students to work with ANU Masters students Gamilaraay-Yuwaalaraay man Peter Swanton and astronomer and science communicator by Gamilaroi Karlie Moon.

Mentored by professional astronomers, the students built smart phones to measure the chemical composition of light and undertook remote observation at the Siding Spring Observatory.

ANU Masters student and Gamilaraay/Yuwaalaraay man Peter Swanton with students from the Indigenous Work Experience Program at Mount Stromlo Observatory. (Tracey Nearmy/UNA)

The program included an exploration of Indigenous interpretations of the night sky to inform navigation, calendars and weather forecasting.

ASTRO 3D’s Education and Outreach Manager, Delese Brewster, was designed to inspire the next generation of First Nations astronomers, researchers and scientists.

“This group is underrepresented in astronomy and we need to provide a pipeline that will encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to pursue higher education,” she said.

Mr. Swanton said the program improves the visibility of Aboriginal children interested in the field.

“I never had that when I was in school,” he said.

“It was quite demotivating when I went to high school because I didn’t have a role model.

“I never had someone in front of me, who looked like me, who spoke like me”

Mr Swanton said he enjoyed seeing children take part in the programme.

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