The Eureka Prize — known as the Oscars of Australian science — has recognised the Indigenous STEM Education Project’s contribution towards increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students’ participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The Indigenous STEM Education Project is building a pipeline of future STEM professionals — from primary through to high school — with the help of funding from the BHP Foundation and program delivery by CSIRO Education and Outreach.
The project facilitates capability building through its complementary programs, such as: Science Pathways for Indigenous Communities, Inquiry for Indigenous Science Students, the Aboriginal Summer School for Excellence in Technology and Science and the Indigenous STEM Awards.
Kaniyang Noongar woman Brittney Andrews said completing the ASSETS program in Year 10 started her journey to get to university.
“(It) was amazing,” she said. “I’m very grateful for them and so after doing ASSETS I did a couple of other science camps at the University of Melbourne, which made me choose to study here.”
It was during the week-long ASSETS program that Ms Andrews said she became more confident to attend university as she was able to get a feel for the Indigenous support systems, connect with culture and meet Indigenous university students.
“We had an Indigenous astronomer come in and tell us about the story of the stars,” she said.
“It was great to see a professional academic Indigenous man doing his thing.”
After graduating from high school in 2017, Ms Andrews is now in her third year of a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne. She hopes to become a paediatrician.
“I’ve always been really good at science and maths and I love helping people,” she said.
“It’s still a long way off until I specialise but I’m aiming for paediatrics. I’m going to study my master of public health and my doctorate of medicine at the University of Melbourne.”
A CSIRO report from the ASSETS program has found 80 per cent of alumni after five years of participating in the program were still in STEM education or career pathways.
BHP Foundation Program director Australia, Jennifer Dawson, said the foundation focused on innovation and collaboration to deliver change.
“CSIRO have delivered a transformative project, that has had and will continue to have a profound effect on the personal and educational journey of Indigenous students and it’s being wholly supported by their educators, schools, families and communities.”
By Rachel Stringfellow