The Parkes Radio Telescope, known to pretty much everyone as The Dish, will now also be known by its new Wiradjuri name: Murriyang.

The new name comes at the start of NAIDOC Week, the theme of which for 2020 is ‘Always was, always will be’.

“I think this is a fantastic day for our people, I think it’s one of the biggest things to ever happen to our people actually,” Wiradjuri Elder Dr Stan Grant Sr told the ABC.

“To me the naming of this telescope is paying respect to our people, and to our culture, and to our language.”

The new name, Murriyang, is the Skyworld where the creator spirit Biyaami lives in Wiradjuri dreaming. In Western astronomy, the same stars are also known as the Orion constellation.

It also reminds visitors that Aboriginal people were the first astronomers on this continent, and that this knowledge continues to be important nowadays.

The Dish Has Been Given The Wiradjuri Name Murriyang To Acknowledge The First Astronomers
Dancers performed at the naming ceremony. (C. Watson / CSIRO)

The idea to give the telescope a Wiradjuri name in the first place came from observatory staff member Dr Stacy Mader, himself a Gidja man from what’s now Western Australia.

“The local Wajarri Yamatji people in Western Australia named all 36 of our Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) antennas, with a plaque placed on each antenna, and names built into the control software,” Stacy said.

“So when we got the same software for the 64-metre antenna at Parkes, the Aboriginal name was ‘not applicable’. I thought, we should probably fix that. And that’s how this process started.

“The Wiradjuri nation is a large part of New South Wales, so finding the local Elders was a little tricky.”

Eventually, he was put in touch with the traditional custodians of knowledge on Wiradjuri Country and thus the new name came to be.

For Grant, the new name is a far cry from his childhood when he was banned from speaking in language.

“Things are starting to happen… We are all one people and while we may not be there yet, I hope it does happen in my lifetime, we are all Australian people,” he told The Parkes Champion-Post.

Image: Getty Images / Lisa Maree Williams