Science is calling!

Image of Corey Tutt and Karlie Noon.

       L-R: Corey Tutt (Photo: University of Sydney) and Karlie Noon (Photo: ANU, Lannon Harley).

By Ivy Shih for ABC Science’s CosmicVertigo.

Homesick, Karlie was relieved to meet someone from her hometown. But things took a turn for the worse when the professor found out where she attended high school.

His enthusiasm quickly faded.

“He said in front of the whole class, ‘Oh… you went to that school … that’s in Vegemite village,’” Karlie recalls.

Karlie says “Vegemite village” is a racial slur used to describe the Aboriginal community in Tamworth. It was a crushing moment for Karlie, who was working five jobs to support herself through university and already struggling to fit into a system built for others.

Karlie Alinta Noon went on to become the first Indigenous student to obtain a Masters of Astronomy and Advanced Astrophysics in Australia. The Gomeroi yinarr astrophysicist is currently doing a PhD in astronomy at the Australian National University.

Like Karlie, Gamilaraay man Corey Tutt is a keen science communicator.

His love of science and reading began with a book about Australian reptiles and amphibians that was given to him as a kid by his “pop”. The book was also an inspiration behind his charity Deadly Science, which provides science books to over 110 remote schools across Australia.

While Karlie and Corey have made science their calling, things could have been so different. They’re worried the same barriers they had to overcome are preventing the next generation from breaking into, and thriving in, a career in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or medicine (STEMM).

‘Box’ of restrictions makes it hard for some people

Karlie and Corey say there’s a “box” of restrictions that makes it difficult for people who don’t have the social or economic capital to pursue a career in science. This includes people from marginalised communities, low socioeconomic and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, and people who are culturally and linguistically diverse.

In 2016, just 0.5 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had a university STEMM qualification, compared with 5 per cent of the non-Indigenous population. Karlie and Corey’s experiences give a glimpse into a system they say hasn’t always been welcoming to people who don’t fit the narrow definition of what a scientist should be.

The above is an excerpt from Reconciliation News – May 2022.

Read the full article online in the latest edition of Reconciliation News. 

This edition of Reconciliation News is all about the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ cultural empowerment, protection and rights. Download the full PDF or read the full edition online.

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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