Wanted: the next generation of Indigenous female STEM superstars

The world-first Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy is now actively recruiting for regional NSW students.

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

The world-first Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy is now actively recruiting regional NSW students.

It’s a program that aims to empower young Indigenous women with the tools and support to succeed in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The unique STEM Academy is co-managed by CSIRO – Australia’s national science agency.

“We’re pleased to be able to open up the Academy to students from new places in NSW, with a special focus on those regional or remote areas,” Kalkadoon woman and Academy manager Kym Dyball says.

Inviting students to build a better future

In November, Ms Dyball will hit the road to speak with teachers across the state, including Menindee, Lightening Ridge, Brewarrina, and up towards Lismore. NSW students in Years eight, 11, or 12 state-wide, as well as year 10 students in the central west of NSW, are encouraged to apply for what she describes as a “life-changing” experience.

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“The Academy is for young Indigenous women who have a STEM interest. Anything from marine biology, engineering, and economics, to robotics, AI, animal and people health, or building the technologies of the future,” Ms Dyball says.

“CSIRO offers tailored, one-to-one support to students as part of their regional cohort. These students are then transitioned to our delivery partner, CareerTrackers, who continue this support for the rest of their tertiary pathway and into meaningful careers.”

STEM offers a world of opportunity

By partnering with rural and regional schools across NSW to enrol and engage their young Indigenous women in STEM, the Academy creates multiple extension opportunities. These include STEM camps, placements, and workshops that may not be easily accessible within the students’ communities.

For NSW schooling communities keen to offer eligible students a chance to explore STEM in a culturally safe environment, NSW Academic Coordinator, Lizzie Brydon, says that, by diving into the world of STEM with the Academy and CSIRO, students are provided with a pathway to discover what interests them the most.

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“It’s okay to not know what you want to do with the rest of your working career. The working climate is changing and the amount of STEM related jobs in different sectors and industries is also increasing, meaning that young women have more choices than ever before,” Ms Brydon says.

The Academy is halfway through ten years of funding from the National Indigenous Australians Agency and has supported over 600 students from year eight through to university and into STEM careers.

“There are so many wonderful and inclusive options with STEM, it isn’t sitting in a laboratory, or at a computer all day,” she says. “Although lab-top science is still an amazing job, STEM careers can also include business ownership, fashion designers, paramedics, and wildlife rangers.”

Mentors, support and a range of pathways

The Academy operates with the support of STEM professionals and mentors and is designed to offer supplementary and complementary guidance of students’ educational pathways.

Academy graduates from previous years report feeling empowered in their purpose, with more clearer career aspirations. A sense of strengthened identity has also enabled them to make informed choices about how to direct their future potential.

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Parents and carers also see the difference, with many reporting improved confidence, happiness and academic grades.

“STEM Academy students are engaged in their schooling, trying their very best each and every day. They may not always be the top students, but they are the most curious, and prepared to explore new things,” Ms Brydon says.

“The Academy is also a great way to connect with other deadly women and students in your area.”

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live