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Past and Future Align at CSIRO Summer Camp

Jaida Penny, Billy-Jacob Streets and Tiahni Adamson.JPG

There are 3 young Indigenous people facing the camera and smiling. They are standing shoulder to shoulder, outside on an overcast day, in front of flowering grasses and trees.
Science and technology students Jaida Penny, 16, and Billy Streets, 16, took part in the CSIRO Aboriginal Summer School for Excellence in Technology and Science at Adelaide. They are pictured with student mentor Tiahni Adamson, 23, who is a former graduate of the program.
18 Jan 2019

Students from all around Australia are connecting with their heritage and getting an insight to their possible futures at the Aboriginal Summer School for Excellence in Technology and Science (ASSETS).

The nine-day residential summer school occurs in December and January at Townsville, Newcastle and Adelaide and is managed by CSIRO and funded by the BHP Foundation. It gives students a taste of university life, combined with cultural studies and networking sessions.

Tiahni Adamson, a 23-year-old from Coffin Bay, completed the ASSETS program in 2010 and has returned for her third year in a row as a student mentor.

‘I’m doing a double degree in wildlife conservation biology and marine biology at the University of Adelaide,’’ she said.

‘I’m also working for CSIRO as an education officer. I don’t think I would have got here without the summer school, it really opened a lot of doors for me.’

Tiahni said the experience also gave her a push to meet her father for the first time.

‘I grew up with my Mum and after ASSETS I got in touch with my father. We’ve had a great relationship since I was 17. I wanted to get in touch with my Indigenous and cultural heritage and my culture is on my Dad’s side.’

Her involvement with the ASSETS program also gave Tiahni further ambition to pursue tertiary education.

‘I met other Indigenous people who were in higher education areas who were passionate about what they were doing,’ she said.

‘It showed me there was a support network for Indigenous people and lots of mentors out there. I realised that uni was not so big and scary and for the first time it all seemed achievable.’

Tiahni has been mentoring students at the Wiltja Anangu Aboriginal boarding school, where participants have been staying for the Adelaide summer school.

Participant Jaida Penny, a 16-year-old from Perth, said she would like to work in the health sector.

‘I love science - particularly human biology,’ she said.

‘I’m interested in nursing. I perform with my family in an Aboriginal dance group for a few different companies. There are 3 generations of us doing it.

‘I’ve also done Aboriginal painting with my nanna since I was little, but I could still be more connected to culture. I have enjoyed the cultural aspects of the camp and I’ve learned how different all the Aboriginal communities can be from one another and how culture differs depending on which area you are from.’

Young woman has a blood pressure band on her arm connected to a medical machine. A young man is looking at the read out on the machine. In the background is a bench and other equipment.
Jaida Penny, 16, has her blood pressure checked by Billy Streets, 16, during the Aboriginal Summer School for Excellence in Technology and Science.

Tasmanian 16-year-old Billy Streets, who is also attending the summer school, said it had given him an opportunity to try traditional weaving and dot painting.

‘Staying at Wiltja has been awesome,’ he said.

‘We’ve visited the University of South Australia, the University of Adelaide and the SAHMRI Health Institute.’

He said he had not decided on a career path but believed the camp was a valuable experience for his education.

Find out more

Find out more about the CSIRO Aboriginal Summer School for Excellence in Technology and Science (ASSETS) residential program.

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