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Dark Sparklers

Dark Sparklers is perhaps the first integrated indigenous Astronomy published anywhere in the world. Uniquely it presents the intellectual world of the Wardaman People.

The story is told in different ways.


  1. Indented and direct Bill Harney’s own words tell the Aboriginal oral traditions he saw and learned
    as a child from his mother and step father who was the Senior Law Man.

  2. Visually you can view the photographs and sketches with commentary.

  3. You can read the text as Hugh Cairns reflects on what he was hearing and seeing when Bill and he were together, talking and observing the sky.

  4. Cosmic Presences are 'seen' in their 'shadows' in ancient rock art, and symbolised in the modern nNaïve paintings of Samantha Wortelhock. The night sky song lines relating to earthy and practical realities are introduced and the Spiritual Presences.

  5. Detailed Sky Maps summarize this indigenous night sky.



Statements by the Senior Elder and the Writer.           

Note from the associated Painter.

Acknowledgements, Copyrights and Thanks.            



Background Reasons for Writing this Book.

Sequence of Chapters and Brief Contents.           

Glossary: Special Words & Terms used in Text.            


Part One            Cultural background and Complexities.           

Chapter 1            

Family and Country of Bill Yidumduma Harney.           


Chapter 2:           

Ancestral Dreamings: the Totemic World.


Chapter 3:           

The Wardaman Creation Story Law.            


Chapter 4:           

Bill Harney Yidumduma: Young Mind Learning.


Chapter 5:           

Visible Totemic Night Sky Practical World.           


Part Two            Yidumduma’s Wardaman Astronomy.

Chapter 6:           

The Wardaman Calendar and Two Night Songlines.           


Chapter 7:           

First Songline: Law Paths with the Leo Mordborronggo.


Chapter 8:           

Mysteries, Arts, Law Guardians over to Scorpius-Crux.


Chapter 9:           

Second Songline: Pleiades, Orion and the Initiates.           


Chapter 10:           

Ceremony and Crux, the Central Focus of Both Songlines.           


Chapter 11:           

Conclusion and Coda.



Appendix A           

Detailed Sky Maps as Night Sky Summary.


Appendix B           

Writer’s Story and Research.



Selection and Note on Suggestions for Reading.           



Book no.1
Book no.2

Four Circles

In 2004 just after the Launch of Dark Sparklers at Government House, Darwin in the Northern Territory by the Former Administrator Ted Egan, Bill turned to Hugh and said “Now we must write about our Law” Hugh said to Bill “Bill, I am not a lawyer” Bill answered “We work good together you and I. You and I will write this book.” And so the book began! This is about the Wardaman People’s Customary Law. Bill is the Senior Law Man of the Wardaman people like his stepfather, Joe, before him. This is how the Wardman People lived: their way of life, customs, ceremonies, education, marriage laws, discipline and punishment of wrong doers which is educational, determined to bring them fully back to be a useful member of society. It is all strongly tied to their Creation Story and Spirituality, the whole Tradition sung to the embryo before birth, and carefully taught and experienced within the regular education schedule, until the Eldership is entered after very special teaching and examination. This is a male-and-female equality society, and scientific observation and understanding work within a musical, artistic and story-telling culture, to form a rounded person and a carefully thought-out way of life full of freedom and intellectual joy.


One big question for today is: how can it be linked with the laws in Australia?


There is not much linking of laws within the two cultures. The European laws come through the post -1788 military laws based in historic English Law that is urban, state building and imperially coercive. Aboriginal Law is still to do with human person, family-community and empathy-using truth-search. Aborigines were refused many normal benefits of the time, such as Habeas Corpus and the Jury, and Bill Harney’s family down the years is only one of the victims of unjust Australian laws and wrong law-enforcement practices. To this Senior Elder, the Aboriginal Law is in spirit and in practice far superior for person and community, and he demands this ancient Imulun be brought back for his people.




The Voice of Bill Harney:
complexity, integrity and balance


Chapter 1:

10 years of Adult Learning: the Initiated Stockman in Two Worlds in his country

– the storyteller, lecturer, researcher, writer, musician and family man in a whole life.


Chapter 2:

The Childhood of Today’s Idumduma Bill Harney:
Laws in the Customs of the Spiritual


Chapter 3:

Education in Two Worlds:
The People, the Law Man on the Cattle Station


Chapter 4:

Signs, Signals and Symbols:
Imulun Law in Wardaman Creation Story Country


Chapter 5:

Cosmos, Cosmospace and Cosmoscape:
the Spiritual in Imulun Law within the experienced Wardaman World


Chapter 6:

The Spiritualities of Aboriginal Law in the Wardaman Imulun Tradition:
Bill Harney’s Imulun painting


Select Bibliography



Reflections and thoughts on the Imulun Painting and Imulun Spiritual Law






The Authors




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