Astrophysics student and Kamilaroi woman Krystal De Napoli initially didn’t see the correlation between her indigenous heritage and the mathematics and science subjects she loved so much.
But when her university lecturer explained the connection – how indigenous cultures use atmospheric observations and the stars to inform their traditions – it became an area of interest.
“I grew up always knowing quite a bit about my culture from my Mum, but I never knew anything about the sciences,” Ms De Napoli said.
“I started trying to find out all the information that I could ... and it was rather special to me, because a lot of the information I was finding was coming out from my country, the Kamilaroi mob.
“They would look at the sky as see a halo appear around the moon, and be able to know rain was coming in the next few days.”
She will present a lecture on the topic at the Ballarat Library on May 31 at 6.30pm, as part of National Reconciliation Week.
Ms De Napoli said it was important to recognise that Australia was “founded upon tens of thousands of years of really strong scientific knowledge”.
“We’ve been taught to assume that Aboriginal people were nomadic wanderers, they didn’t have any form of actual civilisation or structure, which isn’t true,” she said. “This [scientific] knowledge was strongly passed through the communities, as it was so important for everyone to be able to understand their food and environment.
“In modern society we tend to, I feel, not be as aware of the environment we’re in.
“We can easily Google things, so we don’t try to learn them for ourselves. That’s a pretty good lesson that can pulled from it.”
This year’s National Reconciliation Week runs from May 27 to June 3, with the tagline ‘Don’t Keep History A Mystery’.
The week will highlight some of the lesser known aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and achievements.
Another Ballarat event is ‘Girl Space for Young Women’, an indigenous arts workshop on June 1 at 4pm-6pm at the Ballarat Library.
In 2016, Reconciliation Australia’s barometer on Australian attitudes found almost one in three Australians do not accept the government’s stolen generation policies enabled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to be removed from their families without permission until the 1970s.