60,000 Years of Sky Stories Coming Alive at Perth Observatory

Published on Monday, 23 September 2019 at 10:03:06 AM

Award-winning Perth Observatory will soon launch an important initiative to celebrate 60,000 years of Noongar sky watching.

The centrepiece is a major storytelling public art installation funded by Lotterywest, named Worl Wangkiny, the Noongar words for Sky Stories.

Perth Observatory Volunteer Group (POVG) has teamed with the Koya Aboriginal Corporation to design and lead tours of the site and develop a long-term training program for local high school leavers to become tour guides or bush rangers.

Diana Rosman, Chairperson of POVG, explained: “Our aim is to stimulate public interest in astronomy and its history.  Aboriginal sky stories are an important part of this history and we are proud to be partnering with Noongar elders, artists and the Koya Aboriginal Corporation in this initiative.”

Worl Wangkiny’s setting is a partially-completed telescope dome in the Observatory’s grounds.  Project artwork was created by renowned Perth artists Sharyn Egan, Kylie Graham, Peter Farmer Jnr, and James Egan in a project led by Peter Farmer and Miranda Farmer. The artists worked with Follow the Dream students from Governor Stirling Senior High School to paint the artwork and share traditional knowledge.

During the painting works the Advisory Panel shared traditional stories behind the artwork with the students. Special guests invited to attend the painting works included Artist Roma Winmar and Walter and Meg McGuire of Go Cultural, who shared sky stories, displayed cultural artefacts, and painted students in traditional ochre.

A paved pathway leading to Worl Wangkiny, designed by Peter Farmer, symbolises a track leading to the moon and stars. The pathway and the accompanying dark-sky approved lighting for safe access at night were funded by local community group Rotary Kalamunda. Their young professionals’ organisation, Kalamunda Rotaract, also volunteered their time to provide other supporting works including cleaning and priming the dome in preparation for painting.

The display’s artwork, flooring and lighting is almost complete.  Stunning time-lapse footage captured by astrophotographer John Goldsmith provides another dimension to the project and a short film produced by local filmmakers Edwin Sitt and Zal Kanga-Parabia will document the project and share the sky stories with the world.

Once the Centre is open, visitors will be able to take a guided tour offered through the pioneering Aboriginal Nature TrekZ (ANTZ) program. ANTZ will offer an authentic and high-quality tourism experience set in a magnificent bush location, with changing products throughout the six Noongar seasons to ensure tours are dynamic and ever-changing.  

ANTZ managing director, Quinton Tucker, described the program as not only the first Aboriginal-led tourism product in Kalamunda, but also unique in its overarching principles.

Mr Tucker said: “ANTZ will provide a long-term training program for local high-school leavers who want to pursue a career as a tour guide or bush ranger, providing lasting sustainable employment opportunities for young Aboriginal people.”

ANTZ will also work to document research on Aboriginal heritage and astronomical knowledge in the Perth Hills, with information catalogued by Professor Cheryl Kickett-Tucker through the Pindi Pindi Research Centre of Excellence.  The research, supported by funding from Rotary Kalamunda, will be made available for generations of Australians who visit the Observatory.

The new webpage for the project is https://www.perthobservatory.com.au/worl-wangkiny-aboriginal-astronomy

The EMRC, in partnership with the region’s business enterprise centre and business associations, are delivering the Business Exemplar Project to promote award-winning businesses in Perth’s Eastern Region by sharing best practice and bringing their stories to a wider regional population.


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