SPEECH - Women and Girls in STEM

  • Speech

Federation Chamber
International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Thank you to the member for McPherson for bringing this motion forward. I am always delighted when women in the Australian parliament stand on a unity ticket on gender equality.

As we approach the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, I am thrilled to be able to stand here today to recognise and, indeed, celebrate the Novocastrian women and girls studying, working and leading in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The Albanese Labor government is taking action to drive gender equality across the board, including STEM, where women are persistently underrepresented.

I want to congratulate the University of Newcastle for being a successful recipient in the federal government's Women in STEM Cadetships and Advanced Apprenticeships program. This initiative is creating an extra 267 places at universities across Australia for women and girls in STEM. In Newcastle, it's funding 19 cadetships in STEM for women to undertake a diploma through the College of Engineering, Science and Environment. It's an innovative program to support women to study part time while they're continuing their careers, and it comes at a vital time for Newcastle, as we are strengthening our position as a clean energy hub. The Albanese government understands that it is crucial to embed gender equality as we decarbonise the economy.

I want to highlight a few initiatives running at the University of Newcastle. The Women in STEM Mentoring Program is doing a terrific job connecting undergraduate students with industry professionals and alumni. We all know the value that comes from hearing from someone with lived experience, and this program helps students to create professional networks while they're studying, explore opportunities, and develop personal and professional skills. The Female Founders Program is another free 12-week program, a course that acts as a springboard for female founders in the startup community. It provides access to a supportive professional network, industry experts and peer-to-peer learning.

A big shout-out goes to HunterWiSE, who run a 10-week school outreach program for girls in year 8, as well as networking events for female STEM professionals across the Hunter. HunterWiSE was established in 2017 by seven extraordinary academics at the University of Newcastle, with the aim of increasing the number of women entering the STEM pipeline and retaining women pursuing careers in STEM industries and disciplines. One of its founders, Professor Anna Giacomini, was recently awarded a New South Wales Premier's Prize for Science and Engineering. Professor Giacomini has been working in rock mechanics and civil engineering for more than 20 years. She is particularly focused on improving safety of major transport and infrastructure networks along the coastline. Congratulations, Professor, we need you and many more extraordinary women like you working on those problems that persist for Australians—big, big projects.

And because it's never too early to actually get into science, I would like to acknowledge and congratulate the Little Scientists program, which runs in four preschools around Newcastle. I was thrilled to celebrate with KU Mayfield preschool when they became certified with Little Scientists in 2017. It's fantastic to see young children learn, through playing in mud and outdoor activities, about all the wonders and joys of our everyday world. They learn very quickly that science is just part of our everyday life, not some special category that only boys get to do and enjoy later in life. So I look forward to seeing a whole new generation of extraordinary women and girls coming up through the ranks to take on some of those big, big challenges for us as communities, for us as a global network.

So happy International Day of Women and Girls in Science this Saturday. I look forward to celebrating your astounding contributions to our nation.

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