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Indigenous STEM Awards winners passionate about innovation through culture

12 Mar 2019

A remote school in the Northern Territory, a virtual reality designer and a graduate systems engineer are the big winners of the third Indigenous STEM Awards, announced today at a ceremony in Areyonga in the Northern Territory.

A partnership between the BHP Foundation and CSIRO, the Indigenous STEM Awards recognise the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander STEM professionals and students as well as schools, teachers and mentors working in Indigenous STEM Education.

Associate Lecturer at Macquarie University and designer of Torres Strait Virtual Reality, Rhett Loban, received the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander STEM Professional Career Achievement Award.

Torres Strait Virtual Reality is a virtual reality game to highlight the unique traditions and history of the Torres Strait Islander people. The game illustrates environmental knowledge, astronomy, stories and cultural practices specific to the Torres Strait Islands.

Rhett, a Torres Strait Islander, is passionate about using new technology and ways of learning in schools and universities.

 “There isn't a lot of digital media out there in terms of Indigenous content, particularly for Torres Strait Islander content,” he said.

“Through participation and recognition of Indigenous peoples working in STEM, everyone can benefit and learn from each other to power innovation.”

“I really enjoy using new and digital media within education. At Macquarie University we are setting up a virtual reality lab and looking how we might use virtual reality in schools and universities.”

Taylah Griffin, winner of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Tertiary Student STEM Achievement Award is a proud Gangulu woman who grew up in Gordonvale in Far North Queensland. She recently graduated with a Bachelor of Electrical and Aerospace Engineering (Honours) at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and works for Boeing Defence Australia as a Graduate Systems Engineer.

“My love for both my culture, and for STEM, are my motivations. I’m the first Indigenous person to graduate with Honours in Electrical and Aerospace Engineering, and the first Indigenous female to graduate with any engineering degree at QUT,” she said.

“The future job market will be led by STEM and currently, less than one per cent of Indigenous students are studying STEM at university. If we don’t put a spotlight on Indigenous excellence and promote STEM to young Indigenous Australians, then the gap will continue to grow.”

Areyonga School won the School Award for their bilingual two-way science program. The school works closely with a community of Elders who share their incredibly valuable traditional ecological knowledge with staff and students.

Each of the winners will have a presentation in their home communities throughout March and April.

The Indigenous STEM Award program is part of the Indigenous STEM Education Project, managed by CSIRO and funded by BHP Foundation. The Indigenous STEM Education Project aims to increase participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Winner's List

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander STEM Professional Career Achievement Award

Rhett Loban, Macquarie University, New South Wales.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander STEM Professional Early Career Award

Tui Nolan, University of Technology Sydney, New South Wales.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Tertiary Student STEM Achievement Award

Taylah Griffin, Queensland University of Technology, Queensland.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Secondary Student STEM Achievement Award

Jordan Salmon, Clancy Catholic College, New South Wales

Jordan Griffiths, Seaton High School, South Australia.

School Award

Areyonga School, Northern Territory.

Teacher Award

Markus Honnef, Innisfail State College, Queensland.

STEM Champion Award

Marcus Lacey, Gumurr Marthakal Rangers, Northern Territory.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Science Award

Deklan, Paralowie R-12 School, South Australia

Sha-Kira Austin, Byron Bay High School, New South Wales.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Maths Award

Stacey and Renee Edwards, Mount St Bernard College, Queensland

Lara Riley, Newton Moore Senior High School, Western Australia

Find out more

For more information, go to 2018 Winners and Finalists.

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