Wiradjuri Skywriters Pilot Project

A project hosted by the Wiradjuri Study Centre, as part of our Big Skies Collaboration, in the small inland town of Condobolin, to recover, record and share Wiradjuri skystories and other knowledge, and to celebrate 60,000 years or more of cultural continuity. This project is currently funded by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund, with in-kind support from other project partners.


August 2018: Several new projects have emerged from this initiative, including the Condo SkyFest to be held on 9-10 November 2018, and an exhibition of Skyweavings by Big Skies Collaborator and master weaver Bev Coe and other fibre artists at the Condo SistaShed. The Sistas are weaving their skystories instead of writing them! More on these projects soon.

10 October 2017: Some of Condobolin’s Wiradjuri elders and their supporters took a bus trip to Seven Sisters Ridge and enjoyed a picnic beside Gunningbland Creek. The excursion was organised by the Study Centre’s Event Manager, Kristi Hoskins, to introduce elders to our Wiradjuri Skywriters Pilot Project. Rebecca Shepherd, from the Callara Family History Group and the Murie Elders Project, also introduced her remarkable family history archive which includes photos of past elders who had worked on Burrawong and other pastoral stations surrounding the Seven Sisters.

Many on the bus trip, including Marlene Coe from Yawarra Aboriginal Corporation Aboriginal Disability Service, had never heard of the Seven Sisters Ridge before this excursion because the stories had not been passed on to them.

“For me, the trip was a big, eye-opening experience’,” Ms Coe said. “I am now beginning to understand how significant the Seven Sisters Ridge and its stories must have been to our ancestors, and I want to know more. After that trip, I feel it’s very important that we recover and record these old stories and pass them on to our younger generations.”

Some of Condobolin’s Wiradjiri elders, carers and Wiradjuri Study Centre staff standing before Seven Sisters Ridge near Yarrabandai. From left, Chris Johnson, Dorothy (Dolly ) Towney, Evelyn Coe, Maria Fitzgerald, Lindsay ( Dick ) Richards, Shirley Merritt, Beryl Powell, Daphne Richter, Robyn Tomkinson, Mervyn ( Joe ) Coe, Elona Barlow, Todd Coe, Bonnie Merritt, Eugene Coe and Marlene Coe. Each peak on the ridge is a ‘launching site’ for one of the Mulayndynang , or Seven Sisters who are now the stars of the Pleiades cluster. Photo by Merrill Findlay, , 10 October 2017.
Our press release made the front page of Condo’s Lachlander!

11 September 2017: Wiradjuri Study Centre staff and Board members met with Big Skies Collaboration’s Merrill Findlay and Rebecca Shepherd, from the Callara Family History Group and Murie Elders Project, to plan our Wiradjuri Skywriters Pilot Project’s first community ‘yarn-up’ with local elders. The ‘yarn-up’ will include a bus trip to Seven Sisters Ridge near Yarrabandai, a community picnic, and a lot of storytelling. We also discussed the proposed 2018 StarFest and confirmed details of the Centre’s contract with Merrill, who will be facilitating these projects in consultation with others. (The contract was signed the following day.)

September meeting: from left, project partner Rebecca Shepherd (Callara Family History Group and Murie Elders Project); Wiradjuri Condobolin Corporation’s Chairperson, Ally Coe; Board member and Elder Dawn Johnson; outdoor staff  Joe Coe and Eugene Coe (standing) who will be contributing their deep bush knowledge to the project;  Finance Manager Vicki Swadling; and Events Manager Kristy Hoskins. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 11 September 2017.
Seven Sisters Ridge near Yarrabandai, the site for the Wiradjuri Skywriters Pilot Project’s first community ‘yarn-up’. This ridge is believed to be the launching pad for the Mulayndynang, or Seven Sisters, who left Earth to become the stars of the cluster now known as the Pleiades. This ridge is one of many sites along Australia’s ancient Seven Sisters Songline.  Photo by Merrill Findlay from the North Condo Road, Mulguthrie Station, September 2017.


22 August 2017
Wiradjuri Condobolin Corporation’s Chairperson Ally Coe, Board member Dawn Johnson, and Study Centre staff members Vicki Swadling (Finance Manager) and Kristi Hoskins (Event Manager) met with Merrill Findlay to discuss the Wiradjuri Skywriters Pilot Project and the associated proposal for an indigenous StarFest to be held in 2018.

The Wiradjuri Condobolin Corporation (WCC) board formally approved both projects at their meeting on 24 August 2017.

The StarFest will be hosted by the Wiradjuri Study Centre with project partners and will draw on the work of cultural astronomer Trevor Leaman and his Wiradjuri Astronomy Project, and constellation art work by Wiradjuri artist Scott ‘Sauce’ Towney from Peak Hill. It will also involve Wiradjuri fibre artist Bev Coe and the Sista Shed artisans, the Murie Elders Project, and, we hope, many other organisations, government departments, astronomers, universities and individual supporters, as well Big Skies Collaborators, including David Clarkson and his Big Skies Theatre Project.

Our August meeting to discuss the StarFest proposal and the Wiradjuri Skywriters Pilot Project: from left WCC Board member Dawn Johnson, Skywriters Project’s Merrill Findlay,  and the Study Centre’s Events Manager Kristi Hoskins. Photo by Vicki Swadling, 22 August 2017.

Sista Shed meeting
Acclaimed fibre artist Bev Coe, who shares her knowledge and skills with other women at the Wiradjuri Study Centre’s Sista Shed, proposed some exciting ideas about weaving Wiradjuri skystories into three-dimensional forms when she met with Rebecca Shepherd and Merrill Findlay in August.

Fibre artist Bev Coe working outside the Condobolin Sista Shed in the grounds of the Wiradjuri Study Centre. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 22 August 2017.
Bev Coe demonstrates her skills for Rebecca Shepherd (Callara Family History Group) inside the Condobolin Sista Shed.  Both Bev and Rebecca are now involved with our Wiradjuri Skywriters Pilot Project. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 22 August 2017.

July 2017
FIRST SUCCESSFUL GRANT APPLICATION! The Wiradjuri Study Centre, Condobolin, received $14,000 from the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund for our Wiradjuri Skywriters Pilot Project.

This project will be undertaken in late 2017 and 2018 with Condo’s Wiradjuri community and partner organisations, including Arts Outwest and Red Room Poetry, the Sista Shed, and Callara Family History Group.

April 2017
First discussions about the Wiradjuri Skywriters Pilot Project and our first funding application.

Vicki Swadling, Wiradjuri Condobolin Corporation’s Finance Manager, and Mary Wighton (standing) check out our Big Skies Collaboration web site at the Study Centre during one of our early meetings to discuss the Wiradjuri Skywriters Pilot Project. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 26 April 2017.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund and the in-kind support of our project partners.

Page created 27 April 2017. Last updated 26 August 2018.

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