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Cancer researcher and entrepreneur win indigenous STEM awards

As well as being the first Indigenous Australian to attend Oxford and Cambridge Universities as a postdoctoral fellow, Dr Misty Jenkins has worked with Nobel Laureates and is a passionate advocate for building the STEM literacy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

A cancer researcher and Gunditjmara woman, Dr Jenkins took out the STEM Professional Career Achievement Award at the second Indigenous STEM Awards, announced 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.

 

Winners of Indigenous STEM Awards. L-R Back row: Jessica Storrar, Camila Zuniga-Greve, Misty Jenkins. Front row: Kayla Pattel, Dean Foley, Shailyn Isaac.

“It is important to have role models because you can’t be what you can’t see,” Dr Jenkins said.

“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.

“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, an Indigenous owned and managed charity that assists Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander entrepreneurs through coding programs for young people, mentoring and workshops.

Dr Jenkins and Mr 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,” Ms Postma said.

“Wiluna Remote Community School is an outstanding example of an entire community coming together to teach students two-way science in 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 Jenkins and Mr 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.”

Winners List

STEM Professional Career Achievement Award – Dr Misty Jenkins (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Melbourne)

STEM Professional Early Career Award – Dean Foley (Barayamal, Brisbane)

Tertiary/Undergraduate Student Award - Shailyn Isaac, University of Western Australia

Secondary Student Award - Kayla Pattel (Tullawong State High School, Caboolture) and Jessica Storrar (Gungahlin College, Canberra)

School Award – Wiluna Remote Community School (Western Australia)

Teacher Award - Camila Zuniga-Greve (Heatley State School, Townsville)

STEM Champion Award – Fifi Harris (Leonora District High School, Leonora)

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Science Award – Boyden George (Leonora District High School, Leonora) and Willow Wells (Thuringowa State High School, Townsville)

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Maths Award – Angela Barely (Innisfail State College, Innisfail) and Russell Sands (Innisfail State College, Innisfail)


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