News & Events

The Australian Aborigines - The World's First Astronomers

Professor Ray Norris in his presentation on Saturday August 29 at Parramatta Congregation Centre presented a picture of traditional Australian Aborigines, as people who did understand country from the point of both sky and earth and linked the two. From reading the sky, they knew what season it was and what food sources would be available on earth. Furthermore, they used the stars for purposes of navigation (songlines) and calendars.

Ray talked about the debt he owed to Aboriginal elders in Arnhem Land and South Eastern Australia. These elders taught him much about Aboriginal Astronomy. Most importantly that they found as much meaning in the dark patches in the sky as the Europeans found in the patterns of stars in the constellations.

From the Aboriginal stories he came to the conclusion that the traditional Aborigines had an extensive knowledge of the sky and its movements. Naturally, they explained what they observed according to their culture and myths. For example they used images such as the Emu in the Sky to explain a certain dark area and related the waning and waxing of the moon to the fate of the Moon Man who was attacked by his wives for his behavior, only to die and rise again and again. The early European astronomers, on the other hand, related what they observed using Greek mythology.

With wonderful images of rock paintings, sculptures and formations, Ray demonstrated how the Aborigines, used works of art to bring down to earth what they saw in the heavens. In this way, they depicted the eclipses of sun, moon and planets. To give an example, the People of North-West Arnhem land portrayed a solar eclipse, when the moon covers the sun, as a man covering a woman as he makes love to her. There is some evidence from rock formations at Wurdi Youang in Victoria, that early Aborigines measured the Equinox and Midwinter and Midsummer sunsets. Though the latter requires more research to be a proven fact.

From the point of view of land management, the Aborigines for thousand of years knew how to tend country. Using fire and the life cycle of native animals and plants, they were able to ensure plentiful wild life and plant food throughout the year and had successful healing remedies for many aliments. The early Europeans commented that the Australian landscape they encountered, looked like a park that evoked an English country estate, albeit it without fences, with the Aborigines walking around as landlords.

Throughout his presentation, Ray emphasised the intelligence, skill and inherited knowledge of Aboriginal Australians and highlighted the limited vision underlying myths of Aboriginal backwardness that obsessed the colonial mindset and the views of many academic anthropologists and ethnographers.

Being a scientist Ray hesitated to say beyond reasonable doubt that the Australian Aborigines were the World’s First Astronomers. He acknowledges it as a hypothesis, still in the process of being disproved or verified.

Participants at the gathering expressed appreciation of this scholarly and interesting presentation that opened us to the richness of Aboriginal astronomy and the depth of Aboriginal care for country. I think we all left with the sense that we still have much to learn from Aborigines about our country and have quite a distance to travel before we become truly Australian.

Professor Ray Norris is an astrophysicist at CSIRO Australia and an Adjunct Professor at Macquarie University Department of Indigenous Studies. Currently he is researching Australian Aboriginal Astronomy and the formation of the first galaxies in the universe.

Bees, Butterflies and Bugs for Balconies, Back Verandas and Window Sills

The Sisters of Mercy, Parramatta Earthkin group are encouraging care and assistance for pollinators. In so doing we want to promote actions to assist those insects that help maintain the beauty and food production that we depend upon for relaxation and nourishment.   

 Entitled BeesButterflies and Bugs for Balconies, Back Verandas and Window Sills, this activity involves growing pollinator friendly plants in pots or other containers and having them in the places mentioned.

For further information click every two months on Latest News - Sisters of Mercy Parramatta (

This initiative supports the B & B Highway (Bed, Breakfast and Biodiversity of birds, Bees and Butterflies) founded by Dr Judy Friedlander and implemented by Nicole Lewis and Francisco Garcia Bulle Bueno

 Check out the Planting Seeds website for more information about the B&B Highway.

To make a contribution, contact or

Mercy Works - Communicating Via Art

Sr Mary Lewis RSM is at the frontline helping refugees and asylum seeker students settle into the Australian education system. At the end of each month, all our Mercy Connect volunteers submit a report to their respective Coordinators giving them an update of how they are going. Recently, Sr Mary received one moving report where a volunteer’s words spoke about remembering those students in their class that they felt were left behind.

I am enjoying the work and hopefully, it is having some meaningful impact on my students. The students are a mixed bag, all having different needs. Learning to listen and be patient has been an invaluable experience. It is wonderful to able to deal with students on a one-to-one basis – I fear these were the ones left behind in my classes when I had another 26 students to deal with...

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Social Friendship: July 2021 Prayer Intention of Pope Francis

We pray that, in social, economic and political situations of conflict, we may be courageous and passionate architects of dialogue and friendship.

The Bible says that whoever finds a friend has found a treasure.

I would like to invite everyone to go beyond their groups of friends and build social friendship, which is so necessary for living together well.
We especially need to have a renewed encounter with the most impoverished and vulnerable, those on the peripheries. And we need to distance ourselves from populisms that exploit the anguish of the people without providing solutions, proposing a mystique that solves nothing.
We must flee from social enmity which only destroys, and leave “polarization” behind.
And this isn’t always easy, especially today when part of our politics, society and media are bent on creating enemies so as to defeat them in a game of power.
Dialogue is the path to seeing reality in a new way, so we can live with passion the challenges we face in constructing the common good.
Let us pray that, in social, economic, and political situations of conflict, we may be courageous and passionate architects of dialogue and friendship, men and women who always hold out a helping hand, and may no spaces of enmity and war remain.

We invite you to post a prayer or reflection in our prayer space

Celebrating NAIDOC Week 4-11 July 2021

'We will open our hearts to the cries of the poor using our energies, gifts and resources to address violence and discrimination especially for women and children, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples...' (Chapter Statement)

NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee.

This year's theme Heal Country! calls for stronger measures to recognise, protect, and maintain all aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage. NAIDOC Week 2021 acknowledges and celebrates that our nation’s story didn’t begin with documented European contact whether in 1770 or 1606 - with the arrival of the Dutch on the western coast of the Cape York Peninsula. The very first footprints on this continent were those belonging to First Nations peoples.

More about the theme and the invitation to all Australians 'to embrace the true history of this country' can be read here. Resources to celebrate the week, includin g this poster, can be found here. Ways to be involved can be found here

Sisters of Mercy Parramatta Congregation recognises the importance of NAIDOC Week in celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island culture, talent and resilience and the opportunity this week offers us all to grow in knowledge and build relationships.