• The Parkes radio telescope has been given the name Murriyang. (Supplied: CSIRO)Source: Supplied: CSIRO
A new name for the Parkes radio telescope has been revealed - Murriyang - a Wiradjuri word representing the 'skyworld' where the creator spirit Biyaami lives.
Keira Jenkins

9 Nov 2020 - 5:04 PM  UPDATED 9 Nov 2020 - 5:04 PM

For tens of thousands of years Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have had names for landmarks across the country.

Now a landmark built just 60-years ago has been given a name that local Traditional Owners say will connect it back to the Country it stands on.

The 64-metre CSIRO Parkes radio telescope - or 'The Dish' as it is more familiarly known – sits on Wiradjuri Country in western New South Wales.

To mark the beginning of NAIDOC Week 2020, it has now received the name Murriyang, which represents the ‘Skyworld’ where a creator spirit of the Wiradjuri Dreaming, Biyaami, lives.

CSIRO astronomer and Gija man Stacy Mader has been working with Wiradjuri Elders on naming the telescope for over two years.

He said Sunday's naming ceremony was the culmination of the work that's gone into finding an appropriate Wiradjuri name for the dish.

"It was a fantastic day full of dance and ceremony, not only of the Wiradjuri language but their knowledge of astronomy," he said.

"Incorporating that into the CSIRO and the Parkes telescope, which is an icon of Australian science is a key step to Reconciliation, which is a key message of NAIDOC."

Mr Mader said giving the telescope a Wiradjuri name is a nod to the knowledge Aboriginal people had of the sky.

"The Wiradjuri looked at the stars, had names for the stars, constellations," he said.

"Actually the name of the 64-metre telescope is based on a set of stars that is the same as the Greek constellation Orion.

"When we look at it that way we can say that the ancient Greeks looked at the stars and came up with names and things like that and so did Traditional Owners across Australia."

For Wiradjuri man David Towney, Sunday was not just a day to mark the renaming of the telescope, but it marked the beginning of the telescope's connection to Wiradjuri country.

“It wasn’t just a naming ceremony,” he said.

“Look beyond the name - something the old fellas used to tell me when I was a young fella was to take your time.

“Take your time to learn things. That name is how that place can connect back to us.

“Bit by bit we’re renaming things, or co-naming them, and they’re no longer lost. We belong to them again.”

Murriyang is not the only telescope to get a new name this NAIDOC Week. Two smaller telescopes at CSIRO’s Parkes Observatory also received Wiradjuri names.

The 12-metre radio telescope received the name Giyalung Miil, which means ‘Smart Eye’ and the 18-metre decommissioned antenna received the name Giyalung Guluman, which means ‘Smart Dish’.

Mr Towney said using Wiradjuri words as names for these telescopes will direct people to look at the significance and meaning of the words and hopefully connect to the land and the Traditional Owners of the area.

“Language is how we connect to each other, how we connect to place,” he said.

“Language connects you to who you are and what land you’re on. Giving the telescopes a Wiradjuri name will give people better knowledge of that place.

“They’ll be able to connect it to being on Wiradjuri country if they look into what the name means.

“It opens the door to understanding and connection.”

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