Advance Queensland launches Indigenous STEM program

Published Friday, 26 August, 2016 at 04:45 PM


Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy and Minister for Small Business
The Honourable Leeanne Enoch

Minister for Education and Minister for Tourism and Major Events
The Honourable Kate Jones

Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are set to benefit from an engaging new Advance Queensland program designed to grow future university participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy Leeanne Enoch said the STEM.I.AM program would help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students build the skills and confidence to become future leaders in their communities.

“This program will shine a spotlight on the achievements of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in STEM fields to inspire self-belief, foster inclusion and encourage students to go to school, stay in school, enjoy the fun of coding and robotics,” Ms Enoch said.

“Despite Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children being incredibly talented and creative, only 115 students enrolled in STEM courses at Queensland universities in 2016.

“This represents just 1.5 per cent of the total STEM enrolments this year. Advance Queensland and STEM.I.AM aims to change that for the better.”

Minister for Education Kate Jones said the STEM.I.AM program was an extension of the great work being done in Queensland state schools.

“The Palaszczuk Government is committed to expanding and improving on the teaching of STEM subjects throughout school,” she said.

“We’re investing in professional development opportunities for teachers, providing STEM innovation grants to schools and implementing the new Digital Technologies curriculum to provide the best quality STEM education for Queensland students.”

“The STEM.I.AM program will ensure that students have the same quality opportunities to achieve beyond high school and into university.”

Ms Enoch said the idea for STEM.I.AM was conceived by Birri Gubba man Wayne Denning, the managing director of award-winning Indigenous creative agency Carbon Media.

Mr Denning said he approached Ms Enoch after being inspired by the work of Aboriginal engineer, inventor, author, activist and Ngarrindjeri man David Unaipon.

“Most people know very little about David Unaipon, except that he appears on our $50 note,” Mr Denning said.

“He was a visionary, pioneer and innovator who predicted the helicopter based on the way boomerangs fly, and designed the modern shearing shears.

“I want our young people to look to inspirational people like David and say ‘I too, belong in the STEM space and can make my mark on the world.’

“I was the only one in my graduating class that went to university and while the numbers for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders entering higher education today are growing, there is a long way to go to achieve parity, especially in STEM related fields.

“It’s vital to get our young people coding and doing robotics now so as to anchor their future and that’s what STEM.I.AM is all about – inspiring and empowering future generations.”

Ms Enoch said Advance Queensland was proud to be the foundation sponsor of Carbon Media’s STEM.I.AM initiative for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

She said the Advance Queensland program would spark the interest of Indigenous students through their participation in coding and robotics workshops; community-led code clubs and state and national coding and robotics competitions. The program will also deliver capability development for teachers, librarians and volunteers; and scholarships in ICT at universities.

Acting State Librarian Sonia Cooper said coding and robotics activities delivered in libraries were an engaging way to learn about new technologies while having lots of fun.

“Kids (and big kids) can get hands-on with robots and learn what makes them tick. It’s a fun and interactive way for students to develop some of the skills that will inevitably be needed in the future,” Mrs Cooper said.

The Advance Queensland STEM.I.AM program is led by Carbon Media, with the support of the Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation in collaboration with State Library of Queensland, the Department of Education and Training, while also attracting strong corporate support from sponsors, including Google and FIRST Australia, already on board.

[ENDS] 26 August 2016

Media contact: Daniel Lato 0438 830 201