5 Indigenous engineering feats you should know about

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


For many millennia, Indigenous Australians have engineered the landscape using sophisticated technological and philosophical knowledge systems in a deliberate response to changing social and environmental circumstances.

These knowledge systems integrate profound understanding of Country, bringing together an understanding of the topography and geology of the landscape, its natural cycles and ecological systems, its hydrological systems and its natural resources, including fauna and flora. This has enabled people to manage resources sustainably and reliably.

Engineering is about process, and the process of engineering was very different in Australia before the English colonised the land. However, when our Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students take the step into engineering, or other STEM subjects, there is little material provided that relates to their experience or their peoples’ technical and management knowledge. This is a result of historic denial of the First Nations of Australia as enduring scientific and technical civilisations.

The versatility and minimalist nature of Aboriginal technology designs are inspiring. The flexibility and artistry in tool manufacture, which can differ in neighbouring communities, is a salient lesson for engineers now. Some key aspects of this approach can be seen through five examples of ingenious Indigenous engineering.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Specialist publicationThe Conversation
PublisherThe Conversation
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2023


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