Parkes radio telescopes given Wiradjuri names in fitting way to begin NAIDOC Week

"We've always had a connection to the sky, now we've got a connection to the Parkes Radio Telescope," said David Towney Jnr from the Aboriginal Education Consulting Group (AECG).

In a unique and very fitting way to begin NAIDOC Week that runs until Sunday, CSIRO's iconic Parkes Radio Telescope and two smaller telescopes located at the observatory have each received a Wiradjuri name.

It's a project Mr Towney said they've been working on for a while, done in collaboration with the AECG and the North West Wiradjuri Language and Culture NEST, and it became a reality on Sunday morning.

The event began with a smoke ceremony and performance by the River Spirit from Forbes, Wiradjuri Wagal Dhaany and those who accompanied Elder Ralph Naden, originally from Peak Hill and now living near Gilgandra, who just so happened to be celebrating his 75th birthday on Sunday.

Parkes Shire Elder Rhonda Towney also spoke, with Elder Dr Stan Grant Snr revealing the Wiradjuri names.

Murriyang is the name given to the 64-metre 'Dish'.

In the Wiradjuri Dreaming, Biyaami (Baiame) is a prominent creator spirit and is represented in the sky by the stars which also portray the Orion constellation. Murriyang represents the 'skyworld' where Biyaami lives.

The 18-metre decommissioned antenna located near the Dish has been named Giyalung Guluman.

Meaning 'Smart Dish', this antenna is the elder of the family at the observatory and had the ability to move along a railway track while observing.

When linked to the main 64-metre antenna it became pivotal in early work that determined the size and brightness of radio sources in the sky.

The antenna was originally assembled at the CSIRO Fleurs Radio Telescope site in Penrith in 1960, was transported to Parkes in 1963 and became operational in 1965. It was the prototype for the telescope at Narromine.

The 12m ASKAP testing antenna, located about 120 metres away from the Dish, has been named Giyalung Miil, meaning 'Smart Eye'.

This telescope was commissioned in 2008 as a testbed for a special new type of receiver technology called phased array feed (PAF) used on CSIRO's Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) antennas in Western Australia. The PAF is able to see different parts of the sky simultaneously making it a 'smart eye'.

Head of CSIRO operations and former officer in charge of the Parkes Observatory John Reynolds welcomed all those present at the ceremony on behalf of CSIRO CEO Larry Marshall, who was unable to attend.

He said CSIRO's Reconciliation Action Plan affirmed their commitment to reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

"We continue to work closely with the traditional owners and thanks to Dr Stacy Mader (from Gidja Country) who was behind the naming of all 36 telescopes in Western Australia when they opened," Mr Reynolds said on Sunday.

"He brought naming the telescopes from Western Australia to NSW and that's why we're here today."

"Giving the telescopes their traditional names acknowledges and respects the astronomical knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and provides a unique opportunity to celebrate and promote the inclusion of Wiradjuri language in the wider community.

"It's important recognition from the oldest science that's astronomy to the oldest continuing civilisation in the world."

Aunty Rhonda thanked CSIRO for the recognition "for our people", with Dr Grant adding it was a very proud day.

"Things are starting to happen... We are all one people and while we may not be there yet, I hope it does happen in my lifetime, we are all Australian people," Dr Grant said.

Deputy Mayor Barbara Newton was honoured to attend the ceremony.

"We cherish culture in Parkes, we know know how important it is," she said.

So much so, Cr Newton said Wiradjuri language is taught in a number of our schools.

The 2020 NAIDOC Week theme is Always Was, Always Will Be and finishes on Sunday, November 15.

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