Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, has welcomed a new Wajarri Yamaji traditional name for its radio astronomy observatory in Mid West Western Australia.
The name Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara means ‘sharing sky and stars’ in the Wajarri language.
The traditional name is part a new Indigenous Land Use Agreement, or ILUA, with the Wajarri Yamaji.
CSIRO, along with Australian and Western Australian Governments, has signed the new ILUA with the Wajarri Yamaji People, the Traditional Owners and native title holders of the land on which the observatory sits.
The agreement enables expansion of CSIRO’s radio astronomy observatory site to allow for construction of the international SKA-Low telescope, part of the global SKA Observatory, alongside existing instruments including CSIRO’s ASKAP radio telescope.
During an on-Country event held on 5 November 2022 to celebrate the ILUA, the Wajarri Yamaji announced the gift of a traditional name for the expanded observatory site.
The traditional name was suggested by Wajarri woman Shakira Whitehurst for a competition run by the Wajarri Yamaji Aboriginal Corporation (WYAC) and selected by members of the Wajarri Minangu Land Committee, the Traditional Owners of the observatory area on Wajarri Country.
The Wajarri name will be one part of a new dual, official name for the site: Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, the CSIRO Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory.
Jennylyn Hamlett, WYAC Chairperson and Minangu Land Committee member, said the meaning of the Wajarri name for the observatory site is ‘sharing the sky and stars’.
“We look at the sky every day, and we now have the opportunity to share our skies with the rest of the world. This Wajarri name connects our culture and language to what our Country is being used for,” Ms Hamlett said.
Dwayne Mallard, member of the Minangu Land Committee, said that the observatory has a light footprint on the land and is combining ancient culture with modern science to create mutual benefit.
“We are born into the responsibility and obligation to preserve, protect and maintain dignity of our land, culture and people,” Mr Mallard said.
“My good friend Shane Howard sings 'you look into the heart of the land, and you have to choose whether the wealth we gain is worth the wealth we lose', I don't think we've lost anything here, and that's very important.”
CSIRO Chief Executive Larry Marshall said he was humbled the Wajarri Yamaji had chosen a name connecting the rich heritage of the region’s first astronomers and their connection to Country with the modern scientific instruments on the site.
“Providing a means for the Wajarri Yamaji to share their culture and language with Australians and researchers around the world is a privilege,” Dr Marshall said.
“Protecting heritage and Country are critical elements of the ILUA, and CSIRO is proud to be partnering with the Wajarri Yamaji in the land management and cultural heritage protection of the observatory site, ensuring that we leave our footprints carefully in the sands of time as we walk side by side into a better future together.”
Through its Reconciliation Action Plan, CSIRO is committed to building genuine partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through education, science, innovation and research.
The new ILUA with the Wajarri Yamaji People demonstrates this commitment by fostering a culture that respects and honours the rich history of the nation.
Construction of the SKA-Low telescope at Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, the CSIRO Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, is expected to begin later this year.
The SKA-Low telescope, alongside its counterpart SKA-Mid in South Africa, will explore the Universe in more detail than ever before, transforming our understanding of the cosmos and benefitting society through global collaboration and innovation.
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