A remote WA school, an entrepreneur and a cancer researcher are the big winners of the second Indigenous STEM Awards, announced today at a ceremony in Wiluna, Western Australia.
Funded by the BHP Billiton Foundation and delivered by CSIRO, the awards recognise the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, teachers and scientists, with a view to inspiring more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) studies and careers.
Cancer researcher and Gunditjmara woman Dr Misty Jenkins, took out the STEM Professional Career Achievement Award. As well as being the first Indigenous Australian to attend Oxford and Cambridge Universities as a postdoctoral fellow, Dr Jenkins has worked with Nobel Laureates and is a passionate advocate for building the STEM literacy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
“It is important to have role models because you can’t be what you can’t see. By being visible, you are showing students that STEM is a viable career and that you can discover things that have never been discovered before. I see a lack of Indigenous voices at the table across the industry and I want to see more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people involved.” She said.
“It is essential to have an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural lens applied to Western Science, just like it is important to have others with diverse backgrounds and genders in senior positions in our workplaces. This breadth and depth of diversity is what is going to drive innovation.”
Early Career Professional Award Winner Dean Foley is a Kamilaroi man and founder of Barayamal, a 100 per cent Indigenous owned and managed charity that assists Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander entrepreneurs through coding programs for young people, mentoring and workshops.
Dr Misty Jenkins and Dean Foley will both receive $20,000 to support their work as Indigenous STEM Education ambassadors in 2018.
Wiluna Remote Community School won the School Award for their work with engaging with the Martu rangers and the Wiluna community to use traditional knowledge to teach science to students. The school will receive $10,000 to contribute towards progressing inquiry-based learning within the school and incorporating local Indigenous knowledge that can be linked to the curriculum.
CSIRO Indigenous STEM Education Project Director, Therese Postma said it was important to celebrate the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in STEM as well as teachers and schools working in this space.
“All of our award winners inspire Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Wiluna Remote Community School is an outstanding example of an entire community coming together to teach students two-way science in an Indigenous contexts. Educators Fifi Harris (STEM Champion Award) and Camila Zuniga-Greve (Teacher Award) demonstrate on a daily basis how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students can be effectively engaged in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”
“We also have role models in our STEM Professional winners Dr Misty Jenkins and Dean Foley who have forged amazing STEM careers as well as peer role models in our student winners Shailyn Isaac, Kayla Pattel, Jessica Storrar, Boyden George, Willow Wells, Angela Barely and Russell Sands.”
BHP Billiton Foundation Chief Executive Officer James Ensor said celebrating the educational and career achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was critical to seeing more participation in STEM.
“The BHP Billiton Foundation is committed to improving educational opportunities and outcomes in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) for under-represented groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Studying STEM topics fosters innovative thinking and problem solving abilities that will help to address sustainable development challenges.”
Each of the winners will have a presentation in their home communities throughout April.
Here is a list of the Indigenous STEM winners:
STEM Professional Career Achievement Award – Dr Misty Jenkins (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Melbourne)
In recognition of Dr Jenkins research theme is killer lymphocytes, a subset of white blood cells that protect our bodies from viruses and cancer. She has won numerous awards and funding support including a prestigious University of Cambridge College Fellowship, L’Oreal for Women in Science Award and she was awarded the Westpac/Australian Financial Reviews Top 100 Women of Influence Award.
STEM Professional Early Career Award – Dean Foley (Barayamal, Brisbane)
Foley founder of Barayamal, a 100% Indigenous owned and managed charity, an Industry Mentor at Griffith University, founder of the Indigipreneur Podcast and Give Backathon, and ran Australia’s first ever Indigenous Start-up Weekend. He is passionate about inspiring and empowering Indigenous Youth with coding skills, confidence and opportunities to achieve their dreams and create a better world for all who live in it.
Tertiary/Undergraduate Student Award - Shailyn Isaac, University of Western Australia
Isaac is a student at the University of Western Australia studying a Bachelor of Science (Anatomy and Human Biology) and is also a member of the UWA Anatomy Club and WA Student Aboriginal Corporation. She is an ambassador for Shenton House, School of Indigenous Students at University of Western Australia, she also tutors and mentors high school students carrying out their secondary education whilst residing at Aboriginal hostels based around Perth. Shailyn is pursuing medicine to become a rural health doctor in order to improve health equality and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Secondary Student Award - Kayla Pattel (Tullawong State High School, Caboolture) and Jessica Storrar (Gungahlin College, Canberra)
Kayla Pattel is a Year 12 student at Tullawong State High School in Queensland. She is a school leader, part of the school’s STEM Academy and is in the Robotics club. In 2016, she was selected for and attended the Aboriginal Summer School for Excellence in Technology and Science (ASSETS).
Jessica Storrar is a student at Gungahlin College in the Australian Capital Territory. She is passionate about STEM and currently undertakes an extension course in biodiversity at the Australian National University to assist with the science honours program she is currently participating in at her school. Jessica also successfully completed a silver CREST project with CSIRO where she investigated the effects of hand sanitiser ingredients on different bacteria. Jessica hopes to pursue medicine after high school with a particular interest in surgery.
School Award – Wiluna Remote Community School (Western Australia)
Wiluna Remote Community School has been involved in the Science Pathways for Indigenous Communities Program since 2016.
Each term, there are weekly two-way science focused walks, bush trips and camps. The school has forged partnerships with a range of key stakeholders in the area including Traditional Owner Groups from Wiluna who manage Indigenous Protected Areas. The school has also taken over the old TAFE site and now offers Certificate I and II in Conservation and Land Management and Automotive for upper secondary students and Martu Rangers.
Teacher Award - Camila Zuniga-Greve (Heatley State School, Townsville)
Camila Zuniga-Greve is a classroom teacher at Heatley State School in Queensland. She has developed strong ties with elders and members of the local community and utilises their knowledge and experience when possible.
STEM Champion Award – Fifi Harris (Leonora District High School, Leonora)
Felicity (Fifi) Harris is a Wangkatja/Tjupan woman from Leonora Western Australia. Fifi runs the Department for Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions Bushranger Program at the school, engaging students in on-country environmental activities.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Science Award – Boyden George (Leonora District High School, Leonora) and Willow Wells (Thuringowa State High School, Townsville)
Boyden George is a primary school student from Leonora District High School in Western Australia, 840km north east of Perth and 240km north of the largest outback town, Kalgoorlie. He is passionate about On-Country learning and recently took part in an investigation into the ecology and behaviour of the Walawuru (Wedge Tailed Eagle), an iconic species in Leonora from a scientific and cultural perspective.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Maths Award – Angela Barely (Innisfail State College, Innisfail) and Russell Sands (Innisfail State College, Innisfail)
Angela Barley is a 14 year old student who attends Innisfail state college in Far North Queensland. In 2017 she attended the Inspire U STEM camp in Brisbane and has a developed clear career path with the help of this camp. She hopes to study forensic science at the University of Queensland.
For more information on the Indigenous STEM Awards visit CSIRO Indigenous Awards