Australia's first sociocultural astronomer

Yarrum Parpur TarneenYarrum Parpur Tarneen (image from Private Collection) is Australia's first social cultural astronomer. According to Dawson, she was the daughter of Weerat Kuyuut, the chief of the Moporr tribe in Victoria. She and her husband (Wombeet Tuulawarn) informed her people and visiting scholars, surveyors and government officials about the night sky over Victoria. They had names for the various celestial bodies and stories associated with them.

For example, according to Dawson, they informed him that the 'Sun is called tring and is of feminine gender, the Moon is called meeheaarong kuurtaruung and is masculine, and the coal sack (the dark patch near the Southern Cross) is called torong, a fabulous animal, said to live in waterholes and lakes, known by the name of bunyip'. The Aborigines used the stars for travelling at night. According to Dawson, 'Hydra is of great service to the Aborigines in their nightly journeys, enabling them to judge the time of the night and the course to be taken in travelling'. It is common knowledge that the Aborigines used songlines and the heavens on their journeys across the continent.

Source: Dawson, J. 1881. Australian Aborigines. George Robertson. Melbourne.