Indigenous Astronomy and Sky Knowledge

Mawalan Marika, The Milky Way
Image: Mawalan Marika

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ rich and ancient traditions relating to the stars inform social practices, sacred law, and ceremony, and are used for navigation, calendars, hunting, fishing, and gathering. The stars are also significant to Indigenous identity and spirituality.

We are dedicated to working closely with Aboriginal and Islander elders and communities to better understand the intricate and complex ways in which Indigenous astronomical knowledge is developed and encoded in oral traditions and material culture.

MIC now leads the nation in research on Australian Indigenous astronomical knowledge. Although a focus is placed on Indigenous Australia, our research involves research on Indigenous peoples around the world, from the Pacific to Africa, the Americas to Asia, and even northern Europe.


Research at MIC covers a range of projects on Indigenous astronomy. We work closely with Aboriginal and Islander communities, educators, and industry partners. We also collaborate with Indigenous astronomy researchers at other universities. Here are some of our current projects. 

Astronomical Knowledge and Traditions in the Torres Strait

Dr Duane Hamacher (Monash)

Torres Strait Gedge Togia
Image: Duane Hamacher

Dr Duane Hamacher was awarded a grant from the Australian Research Council to study Torres Strait Islander astronomy. He will chart  Islander customs and traditions with a deep connection to the sun, moon, and stars. This will help Islanders continue longstanding traditions in developing knowledge about their place in the world.

Wiradjuri Astronomical Traditions of Central New South Wales

Trevor Leaman (UNSW) and Dr Duane Hamacher (Monash)

Mark Saddler: “Dinawan Mulaa Wir” (emu night sky).
Image: Mark Saddler

Trevor Leaman is conducting his PhD research at UNSW on the astronomical knowledge and traditions of the Wiradjuri people of NSW, under the supervision of Dr Hamacher and Prof Stephen Muecke. Working with communities across the Central West of NSW, this project is expanding our knowledge of Wiradjuri astronomy and providing educational materials for the community. 

Astronomy and Songlines of the Saltwater People of Southeastern Australia

Bob Fuller (UNSW) and Dr Duane Hamacher (Monash)

Image: Ray Norris.
Image: Ray Norris.

Bob Fuller is conducting his PhD research at UNSW on the astronomical knowledge and songlines of the saltwater people of coastal southeast Australia, under the supervision of Dr Hamacher and Prof Muecke. He is working with Aboriginal communities from southern Queensland to the Victorian border to learn about the relationship between astronomy, songlines, and Dreaming tracks down the coast. 

Aboriginal Astronomical Knowledge in Tasmania and Victoria

Michelle Gantevoort (UNSW) and Dr Duane Hamacher (Monash)

by John Morieson
Image: John Morieson

Michelle Gantavoort completed her BA(Honours) thesis on the Aboriginal astronomical knowledge of Aboriginal Tasmanians at UNSW under the supervision of Dr Hamacher, for which she received a High Distinction. She will be joining MIC in 2017 to pursue a PhD studying the Aboriginal astronomical traditions of Aboriginal communities across Victoria.

The Lunar Traditions of Aboriginal Australians

Carla Guedes (UNSW) and Dr Duane Hamacher (Monash)

Maddie Davies
Image: Maddie Davies

Carla Guedes is starting a Master of Arts by research at UNSW in July 2016,  under the supervision of Dr Hamacher and Prof Muecke. She will study oral traditions from across Australia related to the moon. The plans to explore social and cultural impacts of these traditions and how they relate to ceremony, kinship, totems, and calendars.

Keywords: Aboriginal Astronomy, Indigenous Astronomy, Cultural Astronomy, Ethnoastronomy, Islander Astronomy.