The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney and the Australian Museum have announced a free online science festival with programs featuring First Nations people who are specialists in their fields.

From August 15 to September 15, the Sydney Science Trail will feature a range of online exhibitions, livestreamed panels, science shows and tours from world-class scientists and researchers.

Kids can explore Indigenous culture in virtual exhibitions such as the Bush Food Experience, fronted by Bundjalung man Drew Roberts. Roberts runs Aboriginal education consultancy, Shared Knowledge, and works in partnership with the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.

In this program, kids will watch a video prepared by Roberts to learn about the plants and natural bush tucker within the Royal Botanic Garden, which sits on saltwater Country.

“Kids can learn all of the different plants and how they’re actually used, how to identify them, the connection between the plants, the water, the sky and the people,” said Roberts.

“They will learn respect, responsibility and reciprocity and how to walk on Country in a meaningful way.”

The bush food program will also educate participants on how Country can impact resources and how plants can be used in medicine, identity and culture.

“The Sheoaks and Tea Tree together tell me as a saltwater person that the Country will actually be in a certain way. When they are together, it means the water is above ground showing there’s another food source and another resource for us to be able to use,” said Roberts.

Drew Roberts is hosting the online Bush Food Experience Program. Photo by John Appleyard, The Daily Telegraph.

Kids will also be able to explore galaxies, planets and stars in Live from the Sydney Observatory, a program led by multiple award-winning Gammilaray astrophysicist, Karlie Noon. Noon is the first Indigenous woman in Australia to graduate with a double degree in maths and physics.

Livestreamed panel Australian Fires – Impacts and Opportunities will allow kids to gain an understanding of how bushfires can be both ‘friend and foe’, and how the Australian bush is responding and rehabilitating after the summer’s devastating bushfires.

Rachel Cavanagh, Director of the Indigenous Working Group at the Forest Stewardship Council of Australia, will speak on the panel and share First Nations approaches to bushfire management.

While Sydney Science Trail normally runs through National Science Week with programs held throughout multiple locations in Sydney, this year the event has adapted to become a virtual experience to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.

Other activities include a 360-degree virtual tour of the Royal Botanic Garden, tracking Australia’s cane toad population via smartphone and expert panels on climate change.

You can register for the Sydney Science Trail here.

By Grace Crivellaro