The overview of this learning area refers to the longstanding scientific knowledge traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and their “particular ways of knowing the world and continue to be innovative in providing significant contributions to development in science” and that “traditional knowledge and western scientific knowledge can be complementary” (ACARA, 2015). This learning area is an ideal space to invite Indigenous authorities to share their own knowledge with students, for example about bush food or medicine. Without access to an Indigenous authority, scientific concepts can be presented using resources in the Living Archive, for example, a large number of books describe the collection and use of bush medicine. These include Mirwuma & Garidjalalug (1981), which describes a range of different plants, how they are prepared and what ailments they treat, and Beasley (1998), which describes the use of a specific plant used for treating sores.

Other books describe the life cycle of particular animals, such as books by Marguerita Kerinaiua on the crocodile (1990) and the butterfly (1997). Some give illustrations and names of local species – often in both the Indigenous language and English, sometimes also in Latin – such as Nangan:golod (n.d.) on the birds of the Bamyili (Barunga) region, and Granites Nakamara (2008) on trees from the Yuendumu area. An example of a class activity would be a field trip to explore trees or birds in the local area, and identify any parallels with local trees presented in books in the Living Archive. In discussing the classification of plants and animals in western contexts, it is interesting to compare this to ways in which Indigenous people classify fauna, for example a pair of books from Maningrida called Minyjak an-gubay / Minyjak gala an-gubay (“Animals we eat” and “Animals we don’t eat”) (2005). Another useful class activity is to compare the seasons in different parts of Australia. A series from Arnhem Land (Ganambarr & Davis, 1982; Wunungmurra 2007) gives detailed information about their seasons, and CSIRO Darwin (n.d.) has produced a series of calendars which also include resources for teachers. A number of other sites also deal with Indigenous scientific knowledge in great detail, such as ANU’s Living Knowledge project (2008), NSW’s Aboriginal Perspectives in Science 7-12 (NSW Department of Education and Communities, n.d.) and Western Australia’s GECKOS program (Catholic Education Office of WA, 2012).


Taken from Bow, C. (2016). Using authentic language resources to incorporate Indigenous knowledges across the Australian Curriculum. Learning Communities: International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts, 20, 20–39. Available from