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Aboriginal Knowledge: Phases of the Moon and Tides

Year 7 Science

Acknowledgement of Country

Mount St Benedict College acknowledges and pays respect to the past and present Traditional Custodians and Elders of this Nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Ancestors have walked this Country and we acknowledge their special and unique place in our Nation’s historical, cultural and linguistic identity.

Visitors should be aware that this Research Guide may contain images or documentation relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are deceased.

Finding Resources in Accessit


Here are some books that you may find useful during your studies.  Search the Bennies catalogue Accessit for more, or browse the Non-fiction collection NFS.


University of Melbourne

Lunar phases link to the changing tides, a relationship that is well established in Islander knowledge systems.

NSW Schools Reconciliation Challenge

The Bardi people living at One Arm Point on the tip of the Dampier Peninsula north of Broome in the Kimberleys, Western Australia, use their extensive knowledge of the moon and tides to time activities such as the collection of valuable trochus shells and other fishing pursuits.


Scientists think they may have found the world's oldest astronomical map right here in Australia. The sacred Aboriginal site is believed to have been made to map the position of the sun, moon and stars in the sky. And studies suggest it might be old enough to predate some much more famous examples from overseas.

Tens of thousands of years ago, First Nations Australians looked up on pristine dark skies and formed a complex understanding of what the stars could tell humans about the land. This video explores the astronomical traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, whose observations may be the first forms of astronomy conducted worldwide. Informative and engaging, this is a great introduction to an important part of First Nations history and science.


Australia's First Nations people - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders - are the oldest astronomers and the oldest continuing cultures in the world. Australia's unique position in the Southern Hemisphere has provided unique opportunities for space research, allowing the country to recently launch several rockets into outer space. But have you ever been curious about how Indigenous Australians have been mapping the skies for thousands of years?


The Yolngu people of East Arnhem Land record the Moon’s connection to Earth and its effect on the tides. They teach that the Moon fills up and empties as it passes the horizon: the tides are high when the satellite is full or new and is setting or rising.

Australian Indigenous Astronomy

In most Aboriginal cultures, the Sun is a woman and the Moon is a man. Some Aboriginal communities describe the Sun woman pursuing the Moon man across the sky from day to day, occasionally meeting during an eclipse.