Science has been integral to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. For tens of thousands of years, Indigenous Australians have used empirical research methodologies, collecting data through experiment and observation, and implementing strategies based on their findings.This has contributed to vast ecological and astronomical knowledge, and shaped essential practices such as bush food and fire management.
Despite this significant connection with science, Indigenous adults are profoundly underrepresented in this domain academically, with a recent Australian STEM workforce report highlighting that less than 1% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults have a qualification in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM).
The CSIRO is focusing on increasing the participation of Indigenous women in STEM through their Young Indigenous Women’s Academy program.
To enhance the future study success of students, recruitment into the program starts in year 8. Participants are supported from this early stage, through the completion of high school and university, and into pre-employment.
Coordinator of the program and Torres Strait Islander and Butchulla woman Ann-Maree Long, speaks to the importance of educating students on how their choice of high school subjects can affect their education options in the future. Additionally, she highlights how vital representation can be in creating and achieving goals which may otherwise feel unattainable.
From this view, the academy hopes to build aspirations in their participants by connecting them with mentors and current tertiary students who can offer guidance and assistance. Individualised support within the program aims to address barriers that may prevent First Nations women from the pursuit of STEM careers.
Kim Dyball, the CSIRO STEM academy manager and Kalkadoon woman, emphasises that First Nations women deserve representation in those sectors.
“We are Australia’s first scientists, mathematicians and engineers and have been in this space for a long time,” she said.
“The academy is recognising that and it is also accelerating their interest in STEM.” (Lismore City News)
There are currently more than 130 young First Nations women in the academy, who are being supported to pursue a diverse range of interests across STEM subjects.
Here at BW Tribal, we recognise the incredible value of Indigenous knowledge, customs and cultural practices. Head on over to our website to read similar stories https://bwtribal.com/
Words by Zara Hallett