Kim is a Kalkadoon woman with 30 years of experience in Indigenous education, training and employment, including 7 years as a primary school teacher.
She now manages the Young Indigenous Women's STEM Academy. A CSIRO initiative, the academy gives young Indigenous women in Years 8 through to university and into their early careers the tools and support they need to succeed in a STEM career. Kim works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to ensure that Indigenous knowledge, technologies and processes are a central part of the program.
What attracted you to your role with the Young Indigenous Women's STEM Academy?
I’ve worked as a teacher, including a specialist teacher for students from Indigenous communities. I’ve also worked in Australian Government departments responsible for Indigenous education for nearly 20 years. So it’s really exciting to join the CSIRO to deliver the Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy.
The academy has received 10 years of funding so that 600 young Indigenous women can get individualised support to pursue an exciting career in STEM. I firmly believe this program will support young Indigenous women to create generational change.
What changes have you seen for women and girls in STEM?
We have found that many young Indigenous women are really interested in designing, creating, experimenting, analysing, problem-solving, and exploring. It’s wonderful to see these young women realise that those skills directly correlate to STEM careers. That’s when they start seeing that STEM is all around them, and they suddenly become very focused, motivated and passionate about pursuing a career in STEM.
What are the barriers and opportunities for girls, women and First Nations people in STEM?
There are a number of challenges young Indigenous women face. They include:
- a lack of awareness of what STEM is
- not knowing any female Indigenous STEM professionals
- not knowing what support services are available
- being pigeon-holed into art, sport, non-science subjects or subjects that don’t count towards a university entrance ranking.
The Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy helps young women with all of these challenges.
More and more organisations are now partnering with the academy to build a pipeline of future STEM staff. They realise that Indigenous women have so much to contribute to the workforce, and that the diversity of thinking will help create solutions.
What can inspire more First Nations girls and women to choose STEM careers?
We have found that many young Indigenous women are really inspired by talking with and learning from Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander female STEM professionals.
By listening to Indigenous STEM professionals, hearing about their journeys and various career pathways, and being able to ask them questions, young women build their knowledge and the confidence they can do it too.
Members of the academy also have a support network of other young women they are learning from, growing with and being inspired by as they navigate high school, university and their early careers.
What advice would you give First Nations girls and women who want to be part of the sector?
For any young Indigenous women in high school or university who want an exciting career in STEM, please jump on the Young Indigenous Women's STEM Academy website and let us help you become the future leaders and game-changers of STEM.