Image: Smoking Ceremony at Powerhouse Museum by Syrenne Anu

This live events have been postponed.

Sovereignty in Science

Presented by Powerhouse
Event Details

From the early forms of engineering used to construct the Brewarrina Fish Traps, to the preparation for seasonal change indicated by the Great Emu in the Sky, and songlines that connect vast Nations, First Peoples have maintained and shared complex systems of knowledge and science since time immemorial.

Sovereignty in Science is the Powerhouse Museum’s inaugural symposium of First Nations science. The program will generate critical discussion about knowledge, leadership and futures in First Nations science – how it is defined, practiced and protected. It will provide a platform to reflect on national and international approaches to asserting First Nations leadership in science.

Hosted by renowned science and technology journalist Rae Johnston, the program will feature talks by Co-founder of Firesticks Alliance Indigenous Corporation Victor Steffensen, 2021 Sydney Science Festival ambassador and Founder of Deadly Science Corey Tutt, educator of D’harawal knowledge and scientist Aunty Frances Bodkin with son Professor Gawaian Bodkin-Andrews from the Centre for the Advancement of Indigenous Knowledges at UTS, Dr Valerie Ringland international Indigenous science researcher and cultural practitioner, and environmental and human rights lawyer Neva Collings.


Rae Johnston is a multi-award-winning STEM journalist. The first Science and Technology Editor for NITV at SBS, her work appears across television, radio, podcasts and online. Rae is the producer and host of top-rated podcasts Queens of the Drone Age, Hear+Beyond and Take It Blak.  Rae is a proud Wiradjuri woman.


Inspired by his mother and grandmother’s heritage, the Tagalaka people of Northern Queensland, Victor Steffensen has spent many years working with Elders to record and engage Traditional Knowledge and Practices. Victor is a renowned filmmaker, musician and Indigenous fire management expert. He co-founded the Firesticks Alliance and has co-convened the National Indigenous Fire Workshop for the past decade. He also founded the Living Knowledge Place and released a book in February 2020 titled ‘Fire Country: How Indigenous Fire Management Could Help Save Australia.’

Corey Tutt is a proud Kamilaroi man, and the CEO and founder of Deadly Science, which provides science resources, mentoring and training to over one hundred remote and regional schools across Australia, with a strong focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. In 2019 Corey was acknowledged as the CSIRO Indigenous STEM Champion, received the AMP Tomorrow Maker and ABC Trailblazer awards, and in 2020 was named NSW Young Australian of the Year. Corey is currently authoring a children’s book called ‘The First Scientists’ and is the 2021 Sydney Science Festival ambassador.

D’harawal Elder, educator, author and scientist Aunty Frances Bodkin has dedicated her life to practicing and sharing Indigenous Traditional Knowledge of the natural environment. After studying science at university, Aunty Frances went on to write a plant reference book titled ‘Encyclopedia Botanica: Native and Exotic Australian Plants’, and also authored ‘D’harawal: Dreaming Stories’ and ‘D’harawal: Climate and Natural Resources’. She is a Traditional Knowledge Holder for the D’harawal people and has passed the Knowledge and stories on to her son, Professor Gawaian Bodkin-Andrews, to hold. Gawaian is a professor at the University of Technology Sydney, based within the Centre for the Advancement of Indigenous Knowledges, where he has led award-winning research in fields such as Indigenous education, research methodologies and Traditional Knowledges.

Dr Valerie Schwan Cloud Clearer Ringland is an East Frisian and Ashkenazi Jewish-American Indigenous scientist, researcher, writer, medicine woman, and teacher. Valerie holds a PhD in Social Work, a JD in Law, and a BA in Maths. She integrates her formal training with First Nations science and Traditional Knowledge, and is the co-founder of Earth Ethos, a global Indigenous science network. Valerie has over a decade of experience working with First Peoples in Australia, the USA, India, South Africa and Peru.

Neva Collings is an environmental and human rights sole practitioner lawyer based in Sydney.  As an Aboriginal woman Neva advocates for the protection of First Nations science and environmental Knowledge through legal frameworks at local and international forums, including the United Nations. She has produced publications such as ‘Indigenous Cultural and Spiritual Values in Water Quality Planning’ for the Australian Government, ‘Community Protocols for Environmental Sustainability: A Guide for Policymakers’ for the United Nations Environment Program, as well as ‘Access and Benefit Sharing – Protecting Biodiversity and Indigenous Knowledge’ for the Indigenous Law Bulletin.