Summer 2022 Bec’s blog

We’ve had an incredibly busy finish to 2022 here in the Site Entity team.

I hope you’re all having a wonderful end to the year yourselves and have some lovely plans for the holiday season. Both Chris and I are sorry we missed you at the Christmas Tree last Saturday, but we were ably represented by Balt Indermuehle from our extended CSIRO RFI team and a dual-hatted Andrew Whitmarsh. It was great to hear so many of our friends from the SKA-Low team made it out as well.

Hopefully the heat hasn’t been causing too many problems for you all and your plans for 2023 are ready to go.

Behind the scenes a lot has been going on to get ready for two major milestones that you will have likely already heard about, the finalisation of our new Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) and the announcement of SKA-Low telescope construction by the SKA Observatory (SKAO).

We’ve been in full preparation mode here at the Site Entity, from applications for permits to enable SKA-Low construction activity, working with the Wajarri community on cultural heritage protection plans, and helping with the celebration of said milestones.

An added name for an expanded site

You might have already come across our beautiful new dual name: Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, the CSIRO Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory.

On 5 November we were gifted a traditional name by the Wajarri community as part of the new ILUA finalisation that has expanded the observatory to cover Boolardy Station’s entire footprint and enables SKA-Low telescope construction on site.

The Wajarri words within our new dual name mean ‘Sharing sky and stars’, and we’re incredibly grateful for the opportunity to play a role in sharing more about Wajarri culture and Country on the world stage through this dual name and the new ILUA.

The new ILUA for the expanded site was finalised in early November and celebrated on Country at the Murchison Settlement on 5 November, with cake! The celebration saw great attendance from Wajarri community members, as well as the ILUA Commonwealth negotiating team and representatives from CSIRO, DISR and SKA-Low.

It has been a career highlight for me and an absolute privilege to work with the Wajarri community as part of the ILUA negotiation team. Representing CSIRO in the negotiations, and now taking on the role of implementation of the new ILUA is something I take very seriously. We must, and will, ensure cultural heritage is protected at the observatory.  

Two women laughing together. A brunette woman in a bright purple polo shirt (Bec Wheadon) leans her hand from behind on the shoulder of a seated women in a brightly patterned polo shirt who is leaning back with eyes closed in laughter (Julie Ryan).
Bec and Julie Ryan at the ILUA celebration event at the Murchison Settlement.

We’re partnering with the Wajarri Yamaji Aboriginal Corporation (WYAC) for implementation and management of the new ILUA, including the strong cultural heritage protections through construction and observatory management for the agreement’s more than 50 year lifetime.

Thanks to WYAC for a great ILUA celebration event and to the Shire for the perfect venue at the Settlement.

Learn more about our new dual name (including FAQs and a guide on how to use it) or hear from Wajarri leaders on the meaning behind the traditional name and Cultural heritage protection at the observatory.

Go for construction

Another key milestone for the site happened on 5 December with the SKA Observatory (SKAO) announcing the start of construction for the SKA-Low telescope.

The launch event, or commencement of construction ceremony as it was dubbed, started on site in the Murchison on Wajarri Country with a welcome to Country, traditional dancing and speeches.

Minister for Industry and Science the Hon Ed Husic, the Hon Sabine Winton MLA (since promoted to WA’s cabinet), as well as CSIRO and SKAO representatives all spoke, followed by a great showing by Rossco Foulkes-Taylor, as well as moving speeches by Dwayne Mallard and Colin Hamlett representing the Wajarri community.

ABC News Breakfast and Channel 7‘s Sunrise were on site from the early hours of the morning to cross live to the East Coast, and other major TV networks arrived on site in time for the ceremony and associated events, including channels 910 and SBS.

ABC News Breakfast’s Nate Byrne interviews Bec on site at sunrise – live!

Major print publications were also there, or covering from the co-event in South Africa, including BBC NewsSydney Morning HeraldABC OnlineGizmodoGeraldton GuardianNature News, and The Guardian Australia.

Construction will start in earnest around February 2023 with final site preparation activities taking place in the new year.

Congratulations to all involved in the events, which were well supported by the wider Site Entity and ASKAP operations teams.

A season of change

This edition we’re also welcoming new members to our team, Nic Svenson as our Governance Coordinator, and Rachel Rayner as our Senior Communications Advisor while Kirsten is on parental leave. We also welcome an extended member of the team to our RFI engineer Mohammed, with his new son Malik!

We’re also saying a very sad farewell to Jane Adam, our project manager, who finished with the Site Entity last week to move onto new adventures in industry.

Looking ahead

It’s a very busy year for the team next year as planned fibre projects for the community progress, ASKAP ramps up to full survey science and SKA-Low telescope construction starts in earnest on site. We’re looking forward to bringing you updates on all that and more next year.

Wishing you a wonderful end of year season and a Happy New Year!

See you in 2023,