THE FIRST ASTRONOMERS: How Indigenous Elders read the stars - Book launch - published by Allen and Unwin, 2022

The First Astronomers book launch:

Description adapted from Run Sheet by Duane Hamacher &

18:30-18:35 Event welcome by Alan Duffy, acknowledgement of country, thanks to sponsors, and a few words about the book
18:35-18:45 Speech by N’arweet Carolyn Briggs
18:45-18:55 Speech by Professor Marcia Langton
18:55-19:00 Duane introducing elders and thanking Alan. Ghillar comes up on stage and the three of us sit for the panel discussion.
19:00-19:40 Panel discussion with Ghillar Michael Anderson and Duane Hamacher, moderated by Alan Duffy. One or two questions from Alan, with others from the audience.
19:40- 20:00 Book sales, and book signing by authors

Acknowledgement of Country
We are honoured to be here at the Science Gallery, which stands on the unceded lands of the Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung peoples of the Kulin Nation. We pay deep respect to Elders and custodians, past and present, of the lands, waters, and skies of this place and extend that to all Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, and First Nations people who are joining us here this evening.


N'arweet Carolyn Briggs AM is a senior Yaluk-ut Weelam and Boon Wurrung Elder, and founder and chair of the Boon Wurrung Foundation. She was recognised as National Aboriginal Elder of the Year in 2011 by the National NAIDOC Committee and earned a PhD in Media & Communication from RMIT University assisting Indigenous urban youth in connecting with Indigenous knowledge.

Professor Marcia Langton AO is a Yiman (Iman) woman, Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor, Associate Provost, and has served as Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne since 2000. She is a prominent public intellectual and advocate for Aboriginal rights, and wrote the Foreword for The First Astronomers.

Uncle Ghillar Michael Anderson is a Senior Law Man, Elder, and leader of the Euahlayi Nation from Goodooga, New South Wales. He was a co-founder of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy set up in 1972 and was taught Euahlayi customs and traditions through his people's sacred ceremonies. He has published several research papers on Aboriginal astronomy and is a co-authoring Elder of The First Astronomers.

Duane Hamacher is Associate Professor of Cultural Astronomy in the ASTRO-3D Centre of Excellence and the School of Physics at the University of Melbourne. He is the author of The First Astronomers.

Master of Ceremonies

Professor Alan Duffy is an astrophysicist, Director of the Space Technology and Institute at Swinburne University, Lead Scientist of the Royal Institution of Australia, and a leading public personality in astronomy and science communication. His research involves creating simulated universes on supercomputers to understand the formation of galaxies.


This event is generously sponsored by the Indigenous Studies Unit, the Indigenous Knowledges Institute, and the Laby Foundation at the University of Melbourne, the ASTRO-3D Centre of Excellence, the Royal Society of Victoria, and the Science Gallery. We also thank Allen & Unwin for their support and publishing this book. Ellie Gilbert has kindly agreed to film the event.


Our eyes have been drawn away from the heavens to our screens. We no longer look to the sky to forecast the weather, predict the seasons or plant our gardens. Most of us cannot even see the Milky Way. But First Nations Elders of the world still maintain this knowledge, and there is much we can learn from them.

These Elders are expert observers of the stars. They teach that everything on the land is reflected in the sky, and everything in the sky is reflected on the land. How does this work, and how can we better understand our place in the universe?

Guided by six Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, Duane Hamacher takes us on a journey across space and time to reveal the wisdom of the first astronomers. These living systems of knowledge challenge conventional ideas about the nature of science and the longevity of oral tradition. Indigenous science is dynamic, adapting to changes in the skies and on earth, pointing the way for a world facing the profound disruptions of climate change.

The First Astronomers shows us how respectful collaborations can drive exciting and innovative solutions to global challenges that impact us all.

FOREWARD by Professor Marcia Langton AO

"Between the covers of this extraordinary book is a detailed account of the science behind Indigenous star knowledge. Rarely is a book of such importance published. When profound ideas are introduced to the world for the first time, our world is fundamentally changed and the previous understandings consigned to history. There are those who continue to deny the intelligence and scientific traditions of Indigenous people. The idea that the only true science is that of Western thinking must be consigned to history. Those who read this book will understand why." (excerpt)