Aboriginal ways of knowing

Differences in the ways we think and learn are generally linked to our cultural perspectives.

Traditional Aboriginal knowledge is precise, empirical and purposeful. It asserts truths specific to the location in which it evolved and to the place where the knowledge intends to apply.

Aboriginal pedagogies are place-based.


Generally, western scientific presumptions are considered to be at odds with Aboriginal perspectives and purposes.

Specifically, there is little relevance to place and the narrative voice of continuous connection is completely missing.

Traditional astronomers understood the movements and identified the colours of many minor and less-conspicuous stars and star groupings. This included very detailed information about the positions and transits of the stars around sunrise and sunset.

Western astronomy has generally sought to measure distance and time.

Measurements of this kind did not interest Aboriginal astronomers. Traditional knowledge was wholly oriented towards making accurate predictions around available food and water.

Parallels between the activities of the skies and the rules of the tribe create a particular connectedness between the star and the astronomer that defies the western concept of the ‘impartial observer’.

The Southern Cross
The Southern Cross


The emu in the sky
The emu in the sky

The coalsack emu constellation of the G’uring’gai people of coastal NSW features the cloud shadows between the Southern Coss (Crux) and Scorpius.

This expansive device tracks the season and the life cycles of local bush tucker.

The G’uring’gai carved an emu with eggs into a rock site in what is now a part of K’uring’gai Chase National Park. When the coalsack emu is above the rock carving, it is time to collect emu eggs.

Emu is a core meat for Aboriginal people and the large emu eggs are usually laid in clutches of around a dozen in the season of Bana’Murra’yung (April–May).


Equity is personal: HSC graduation can add ten years to an Aboriginal life.

Equity is the efforts to make a difference when we recognise that children are not engaged in achieving success at school.

Alexandria Park Community School acknowledges Dharug country and the 
Cadigal people in this Eora place and recognises the knowledge and authority of Traditional Custodians past and present.

Story contributed by Kath Greenwood from Alexandria Park Community School. Published in 2016.