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STEM program for Indigenous school children wins Eureka Prize

A project dedicated to using science to place Indigenous young people into leadership positions was awarded the Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion at the 2019 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.

The National Indigenous Science Education Program (NISEP), based at the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Sydney’s Macquarie University, won the award against a strong field of contenders from around Australia.

Under the guidance of Associate Professor Joanne Jamie, Dr Ian Jamie and Associate Professor Subramanyam Vemulpad, NISEP comprises a collective of Aboriginal Elders, academics and high school staff.

By fostering interest in STEM studies, NISEP aims to encourage Indigenous school students to consider moving through into tertiary education, and to use their knowledge to spark science-based discussions within Indigenous communities.

It currently operates in 16 high schools in low socio-economic rural, regional and metropolitan areas, and has a presence in three universities. In the past year it has placed 200 students into leadership positions. Across its history it has trained more than 1,000 students as leaders.

Recent surveys revealed that six in 10 secondary student leaders reported an increased desire to go on to Year 12 or higher education, seven in 10 had an increased interest in science, and nine in 10 found being a leader a good or inspiring experience.

NISEP began after Elders from the Yaegl and Bundjalung communities approached Macquarie University to discuss building interest in STEM among young people.

“The Eureka Prize is a fantastic testament to the power of those initial discussions and the determination of the communities,” says Professor Jamie.

“STEM is all about building an evidence base, and the fact that more than 1000 young people have achieved leadership through NISEP so far is strong evidence that this approach works.”

The success of NISEP, she added, rested on its collaborative nature, and the fact that it grew out of the aspirations of local Indigenous communities.

As well as ongoing school science shows, NISEP has staged successful events at National Science Week, Macquarie University, Charles Sturt University and the Australian Museum.

Source: Macquarie University

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