This page belongs to: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science 2021

2021 Full event transcript

[Music plays and images move through various views of the medallions for the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science]

[Image changes to show a single medallion rotating to a facing position and the Commonwealth Coat of Arms and words ‘Australian Government’ can be seen in the top left corner and text appears: 2021 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science]

[Image appears of Rae Johnston talking to the camera and text appears: Ms Rae Johnston, STEM Journalist, Master of Ceremonies]

Rae Johnston: Good evening and welcome to the presentation of the 2021 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science. The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science are Australia’s most prestigious awards for outstanding achievements in scientific research, research-based innovation and excellence in science teaching.

[Camera zooms in on Rae talking to the camera]

Tonight, we will be awarding seven Prizes to those who have made a significant contribution to Australia’s world-class science community, and who have inspired the next generation of Australian scientists and innovators.

[Camera zooms out to show Rae talking to the camera and text appears on her left: INDUSTRY.GOV.AU/PMPRIZES, @SCIENCEGOVAU, @INDUSTRYGOVAU, #PMPRIZES]

I encourage you to follow tonight’s announcements on Twitter at @sciencegovau on Facebook @industrygovau and use the hashtag #pmprizes to share the news you’ll hear tonight. Now please welcome Aunty Violet Sheridan, Ngunnawal Elder, to welcome us to Country.

[Image changes to show a facing view of Aunty Violet Sheridan standing in bushland talking to the camera and text appears: Aunty Violet Sheridan, Ngunnawal Elder]

Aunty Violet Sheridan: Yuma. Hello everyone. And what a pleasure it is to be back here, to perform a Welcome to Country for the 2021 Prime Minister's Prizes for Science. And before I go into my welcome, welcome, I'd like to acknowledge our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison and our Science Minister, Minister Price. And I'd also like to acknowledge all the recipients award recipients here tonight that have been nominated and congratulate youse all.

[Image changes to show a side facing view of Aunty Violet standing in bushland talking]

I believe a Welcome to Country is a traditional Aboriginal blessing symbolising the Traditional Owners of the land giving consent to an event taking place on the land.

[Image changes to show a close facing view of Aunty Violet talking to the camera]

And it also shows respect for the First Peoples of the land you are meeting on. I suppose there's a little bit about not going to someone else's house, unless you are invited. I am a proud Ngunnawal woman as I walk into the future, teaching the next generations about the oldest culture in the world, the Aboriginal culture.

[Camera zooms out slightly on Aunty Violet talking to the camera]

I'd like to pay my respects to my Elders past, present, and emerging and extend that respect if there's any other Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people here present tonight. In keeping the general spirit of friendship and reconciliation, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you all here this evening on behalf of my people, the Ngunnawal people, who are the Traditional Owners of the land that we are meeting on here tonight.

[Image changes to show a close view of Aunty Violet talking to the camera]

Yarra, good night. God bless.

[Image shows Aunty Violet smiling at the camera and then the image changes to show Rae talking to the camera]

Rae Johnston: Thank you Aunty Violet, and thank you all for joining us for the 2021 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science. I’m Rae Johnston, a proud Wiradjuri woman, born and raised on Dharug and Gundungurra Country and I wish to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. I pay my respects to them and their cultures, and to Elders past and present. I’d like to extend this respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are watching.

[Image changes to show a close facing view of Rae talking to the camera]

It is an honour to be your emcee for tonight’s event to announce and celebrate Australians whose dedication to scientific research, research-based innovation, and science, mathematics or technology teaching has achieved such outstanding and extraordinary results. Tonight you’ll be able to watch their accomplishments and be inspired by their leadership and contribution to shaping the future of Australian science and innovation. For the second year running, the Prizes have moved from Parliament House to an online celebration due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

[Image continues to show Rae talking to the camera]

While the setting is different, the audience is greater, as so many more of us are able to see the Prize recipients as they’re announced.  More than ever, as the world experiences the pandemic, innovative solutions developed through science, technology, engineering and mathematics are at the forefront of helping us emerge from the past 18 months. From exploring the origins of viruses and discovering new vaccines, to contact tracing efforts and working and teaching remotely with technology. Science is providing the answers we need, at the time we need it the most.

Tonight, we will hear addresses from: the Prime Minister, the honourable Scott Morrison MP; the Minister for Science and Technology, the honourable Melissa Price MP; and Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley. I encourage all of you to share your congratulatory messages for this year’s Prize recipients on social media, using the hashtag #pmprizes. To the recipients, thank you for your contribution to science and innovation in Australia, and for inspiring the future generations of scientists and teachers to work hard and achieve goals which can truly change the future of our nation, for the better. I would now like to invite the Prime Minister of Australia, the Honourable Scott Morrison MP, to speak.

[Image changes to show Prime Minister Scott Morrison standing between two Australian flags and talking to the camera and text appears: The Hon Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister of Australia]

Prime Minister Scott Morrison: G’day everyone. Tonight we celebrate our science community and how you are advancing Australia. You’re all logging on from different locations, and wherever you are, whatever ancient land you’re on, our First Nations people were the first to unearth its wonders and its mysteries. So, I acknowledge them here this evening and I acknowledge their Elders past, present and emerging. They are the ones that collected its secrets to carry them across the ages. They knew, and they still know, the plants that heal, the ants that bite, the wildfires that germinate, and most importantly transmitting that knowledge to the next generation. That desire to learn from our past events in our own times and leave a legacy that is integral to science and humanity itself.

Science is a quest. It’s never about one moment in time, or one person. It happens across generations, cultures, continents, disciplines. Science is a quest. That doesn’t necessarily mean you succeed. Many push hard, strive valiantly, and in the words of one of my political heroes, Teddy Roosevelt, dares greatly, knowing their place will not be found with those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. The quest is not for nothing. They close one door so someone else can try and open another, armed with the knowledge. A great service is done. And so I want to acknowledge these efforts, the many talented, hardworking scientists, and science educators across our nation, whose work has guided, and in some cases redirected tonight’s prize winning efforts.

[Image continues to show Scott Morrison talking to the camera]

I want to thank you on behalf of all Australians. Science has been at the forefront of our minds, especially for these last 18 months. And it has moved like never before. Just look at the COVID-19 vaccines. Every single one of them, doses of hope, as I’ve called them. What normally would have taken many, many years to develop, if at all, happened in just one. No one had to pass a law for it. No one had to impose a tax on it, or create a regulation. Scientists got on and did the job and they are global heroes. No corners were cut. There was a laser like focus. The world applauded those who found the answer, and rightly so.

Yet there were thousands, and thousands of researchers deployed testing, and probing countless possibilities. Just as here in Australia up at the University of Queensland they were involved in that quest, working impossible hours. Brave people, courageous, passionate, dedicated. The future of our open interconnected world was relying on their work. So, I want to applaud all of those who participated in that quest for a vaccine, especially again the wonderful team at the University of Queensland, but also at CSL. Brilliant, talented, working against the clock. They weren’t afforded the luxury of time to re-engineer their very promising COVID-19 vaccine up there at UQ. That was of course disappointing. I’m sure it was, I know it was crushing, but I’m so proud of their efforts.

[Image continues to show Scott Morrison talking to the camera]

And Australia is proud of them too. And I applaud the Doherty Institute for taking up the COVID challenge too, for helping to map out a national plan that I’ve taken through all the states and territories to open up and get us back to normal life, and we are seeing that national plan realised in our country safely right here today, safely reopening so we can remain open safely. That plan was based 100% on the science.

Our scientists seek to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow and when this is broadcast, well I’ll be in the midst of COP26 in Glasgow. It’s an important time as the world seeks to address the global challenge of climate change. Every, every day I say that the answer to climate change is technology. And technology emerges from that scientific research. Reducing global emissions requires a scale of change only technology can bring. Technology is how Australia and our friends and neighbours can reduce emissions while lifting living standards. Practical, scalable, and commercially viable low emissions technology, that is the answer. Our government, our efforts are about reducing emissions and transitioning to a new energy economy. We will make the changes that our times demand and we will do this in a way that does not leave Australia in an uncompetitive position. I want you to know I’m optimistic about what can be done.

[Image continues to show Scott Morrison talking to the camera]

I have a little sign at my desk at home. It’s a replica of the sign President Reagan had on his desk. It says, “It can be done”, and I believe that. It doesn’t mean it’s easy as you’d know. But I’m in awe of what Australian scientists have achieved. Our scientists have led the way in earlier renewable technologies like solar, and will continue to do so with new and emerging technologies. This is particularly true for hydrogen, where Dr Finkel has, has enlightened us, and the government on just how much we can achieve there over many years. And that has driven so much of our investment offering our environment and our economies just so much potential.

I visited Christmas Creek in the Pilbara earlier this year in WA and I saw the incredible work that Andrew Forrest, Dr Forrest in fact, and Fortescue are doing as part of Australia’s energy transition, large scale, low cost, hydro power, geothermal, solar, and wind power resources. The project is breathtaking. Solar panels, wind turbines, green hydrogen powered haul trucks, and soon ammonia locomotives. It’s exciting. Innovation doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the result of many great people, the best scientific, technological, and entrepreneurial minds working together. Genuine partnerships across industries, across communities, that’s how you find solutions, just like we’re seeing in the Top End.

[Image continues to show Scott Morrison talking to the camera]

Scientists are partnering with Traditional Owners of Kakadu, the Bininj and Mungguy people, to protect precious fauna. And the way they’re doing that in a very 21st century way, Microsoft and COSEP Vision AI are involved along with CSIRO and several universities. Under direction of Indigenous rangers, drones are capturing video footage of the world heritage listed park. Information is being collected in a sensitive way, respectful of the land’s custodians, and interpreted using a combination of Indigenous knowledge, artificial intelligence, data visualisation, and scientific research. Responsible data, ethical AI, the merging of ancient knowledge with new technology.

So, tonight I honour the quest of science in our country. I am proud of the nominees and the winners and their contribution in our long chain of understanding, and all of those who have supported them along the way. So, to the scientists, the innovators, the educators, the research organisations being honoured today, congratulations on your contribution. Thank you for what you’re doing for our country. Well done. Keep taking up the challenge. Individually and collectively you are the solution to the major challenges of today and tomorrow. Well done to you all.

[Image shows Scott Morrison smiling at the camera and then the image changes to show a close view of Rae talking to the camera]

Rae Johnston: Prime Minister, thank you for those words.

[Image changes to show Rae talking to the camera]

I would now like to introduce the first Prize of the evening, the first category being the Science Teaching Prizes. These Prizes are awarded to teachers who have made an outstanding contribution to science, mathematics or technology education. Our first Prize is the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools. This year’s recipient is a STEM specialist and primary teacher at Mudgeeraba Creek State School in Queensland. Her philosophy is to build the connection between science and its application in the real world for her students. She inspires students to think critically, take risks and become ‘agents of change’ for the future.

She built and now leads a Professional Learning Team for Science at the school, which has positively impacted student learning outcomes. Eighty per cent of new students’ families cite the outstanding reputation of the science program as one of the key reasons for choosing the school. She is also recognised for her outstanding work in championing the importance of STEM education at a national level. She has built a strong science education community and became a true ambassador for STEM teachers around Australia. The recipient of the 2021 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools is Mrs Megan Hayes.

[Music plays and the image changes to show a slide showing the Australian Government Crest, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools medallion animated and turning, and the words 2021, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools, and the name, Mrs Megan Hayes]

[Images move through to show Megan Hayes standing in front of a white board demonstrating a paper helicopter to her students]

Megan Hayes: My name is Megan Hayes. I am the Science Coordinator and STEM Specialist Teacher at Mudgeeraba Creek State School on the beautiful Gold Coast in Queensland.

[Image changes to show Megan talking to the camera and then the image changes to show Megan talking to her students]

I have been teaching at Mudgeeraba Creek State School for just over 20 years and during that time, science has become one of our signature programs.

[Images move through of students writing at a desk, Megan watching a student write on the whiteboard, and the camera zooms in]

Approximately 80% of the new families that come to our school are attracted to Mudgeeraba Creek because of the success of the science program within our school.

[Images move through to show Megan talking to the camera, Megan talking to the students, and then a close view of a plant being held in the hand]

My philosophy for teaching is to find as many ways as possible to connect our students with real world experiences.

[Images move through of Megan talking to two students, a close view of Megan holding a flower with a caterpillar on it, a close view of Megan talking, and then a profile view of Megan talking]

By doing so we can prepare them to be agents of change in the future. We can equip them with the skills they need such as problem solving and collaboration.

[Image changes to show a facing view of Megan talking to the camera]

When my students enter the science classroom, the first thing they see is a huge sign that says “FAIL”

[Image changes to show the FAIL, First Attempt In Learning, sign on a wall]

That actually stands for First Attempt In Learning.

[Image changes to show a marble being rolled between rows of wooden blocks, and then the camera zooms out, and images move through to show Megan and the students looking at the experiment]

I think that's the beauty of science education, students can fail together, learn together, and then they can work to find solutions together.

[Image changes to show a close view of Megan and a student looking down and laughing, and then the image changes to show Megan talking to the camera]

Building relationships is a passion of mine.

[Images move through of Megan standing next to a screen showing Lisa Harvey Smith, Women in STEM Ambassador, students at the conference, a female presenter, and students at the conference]

And in 2021, I organised and led the Sisters in STEM mini conference, which brought together over 35 young female students to experience careers in science. They had the opportunity of interacting with experts in their field.

[Image changes to show profile view of Megan talking to the camera]

They left the conference very excited about the possibilities of studying science in their future years.

[Images move through to show a facing view of Megan talking, Megan standing next to a whiteboard labelled Chat Room with many notes around the label, and then Megan talking to the camera]

My ambition is that the Sisters in STEM Conference grows every year and becomes an annual event that young female students come to and find their passion for science education.

[Images move through of students in the classroom, Megan talking in front of a whiteboard, and a close view of a caterpillar on a leaf]

It is an honour to be recognized in the Prime Minister's Prizes for Science.

[Images move through to show Megan talking to the camera, Megan looking at bushes in the garden with students, Megan talking to the camera, and students in a classroom testing paper helicopters]

I hope this inspires fellow science educators to continue to do great work within the classroom and to help students find their passion in science.

[Image changes to show a new slide showing the Australian Government Crest, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools medallion animated and turning, and the words 2021, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools, and the name, Mrs Megan Hayes]

[Music plays and the image changes to show Megan talking to the camera and a Prize medallion and text appears: Mrs Megan Hayes]

I am honoured to receive the Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools. Thankyou Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and Minister Melissa Price, for this prize.

I would like to thank my principal Deirdre von Guilleaume for her nomination and for trusting me with the collective vision in seeking engaging ways to prepare our students to be agents of change in the future. I would also like to acknowledge my Deputy Principal, Nicole Page-Dhu, and fellow science educator, Paula Taylor, for their amazing support.

To my colleagues at Mudgeeraba Creek and across Australia, I am so grateful for your ongoing support and friendship. Without it I would never have succeeded in turning my passions into a reality.

To my husband, Alan and my sons, Sam and Amos, thank you for being my greatest and most tolerant supporters. Teaching is a career that encompasses so many different roles. At its core are our students. Thank you to all my students, you have challenged me, made me laugh, but most of all inspired me to be a better teacher. Never forget that science is everywhere. Take risks, make mistakes and never, ever stop being curious.

[Image changes to show a close view of Rae talking to the camera]

Rae Johnston: Congratulations on your recognition.

[Image changes to show Rae talking to camera]

The next Science Teaching Prize is the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools. This year’s recipient has changed the way that agricultural science is taught at secondary school. His aim is for students to know that studying agriculture can lead to diverse and unique careers across a range of both urban and rural industries. He has helped develop a range of unique programs to engage students and emphasise the positive difference agriculture makes to our society.

Under his leadership, as Head of Agriculture at Barker College in New South Wales, student enrolments in agriculture have tripled over the past seven years. The school has more than double the number of Higher School Certificate Agriculture students than any other school in Australia. Around 30% of those students have gone on to pursue an agriculture-related degree at a university level. It gives me great pleasure to announce the recipient of the 2021 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools, Mr Scott Graham.

[Music plays and the image changes to show a new slide showing the Australian Government Crest, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools medallion animated and turning, and the words 2021, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools, and the name, Mr Scott Graham]

[Image changes to show a classroom of students looking at Scott Graham presenting, and the camera gradually zooms in on Scott Graham]

My name is Scott Graham and I'm the Head of Agriculture here at Barker College in New South Wales.

[Image changes to show a close view of Scott talking to the camera]

Barker College was founded over 130 years ago and Agriculture has been a subject ever since the beginning.

[Images move through of an aerial view looking down on sheep being drafted in yards, cattle running across a paddock, a ute moving through red dirt terrain, and then two people next to a ute]

However, in the mid-2000s the subject was almost shut down due to low demand for agriculture.

[Image changes to show a group of students standing in a paddock and listening to a teacher, and then the image changes to show a school group walking through a large warehouse]

One of the reasons for these low enrolments is students didn't have a clear understanding of all of the opportunities in agriculture, both rural and urban.

[Image changes to show Scott talking to the camera, and then images move through of an aerial view looking down on students leaving a bus on a farm, and then Scott pointing to a map while talking]

One of our strategies has been implementing programs and methods of teaching to allow students to see the bigger picture of agriculture, whether it be in the area of food security or climate change and how agriculture deals with that.

[Image changes to show a view looking down on a group of students in the bushland]

We want students to be involved in changing the way things are done.

[Image changes to show a view of an orchard just beginning to bud, and then the image changes to show Scott talking to the camera]

We've really changed the focus from why would you study agriculture to why wouldn't you study agriculture?

[Image changes to show a group of students listening to a presenter while seated outside in an orchard, and then the image changes to show Scott presenting to students in the classroom]

Agriculture’s going to have something to do with students for every single day of their life.

[Image changes to show Scott opening up small shade houses on wheels and showing students the plants inside, and the camera zooms in on the plants]

So it's really important that they have something to do with agriculture.

[Image changes to show Scott talking to the students and looking at the shade houses again, and then the image changes to show Scott and the students looking at raised garden beds]

Over the past seven years at Barker College, we have tripled enrolments in agriculture, and we now have over 380 students studying agriculture voluntarily from Year 9 to 12.

[Image changes to show a close view of Scott talking to the camera, and then images move through of Scott presenting, and then Scott talking to the camera again]

One of our strategies has been to maintain the academic focus of agriculture so that we have more students following through from the younger years through to the senior years, Year 11 and 12, and then onto a career in agriculture for many students.

[Images move through of Scott presenting, and then the image changes to show a ute parked by a dam in a paddock, and the camera gradually zooms out to show a large dam]

I'm deeply passionate about how we teach agriculture. And so I'm undertaking a part-time PhD in looking at how we change the image of agriculture in secondary schools in Australia.

[Image changes to show students running across a paddock, and then the image changes to show an aerial view looking down on sheep being drafted into pens, and then the camera pans over the pens]

For every student that completes an agriculture degree at university there are around four to five jobs to fill. My passion is to see more students studying agriculture to fill these jobs.

[Image changes to show Scott presenting to a classroom, and then the image changes to show Scott talking to the camera, and then the image changes to show Scott talking to two students]

One of the things I love about teaching is when students understand things for the first time and also seeing them enjoy and have a passion for agriculture when they never would have thought they would have that.

[Image changes to show Scott talking to the camera, and then the image changes to show Scott presenting next to a large screen doing a presentation]

It's an honour being recognised in the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science. I think it reflects the importance of teaching and education, but also the integral role that agriculture plays in our nation.

[Image changes to show a group of students on top of a hill, and then the image changes to show Scott talking to the camera]

I hope this Prize inspires more students across Australia to take up agriculture and also more teachers to support the teaching of agriculture in this country.

[Image changes to show a new slide showing the Australian Government Crest, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools medallion animated and turning, and the words 2021, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools, and the name, Mr Scott Graham.]

[Image changes to show a facing view of Scott talking to the camera and a Prize medallion and text appears: Mr Scott Graham]

I'm incredibly humbled to receive the 2021 Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools. I'd like to thank the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister for Science and Technology, Melissa Price, as well as the Nomination Committee for this honour. These Prizes highlight the importance of science and in this case, agriculture to the future, health, well-being and prosperity of our nation. To Professor Jim Pratley for nominating me. Thank you so much. It's an absolute privilege to work with you as my PhD supervisor at CSU.

To Phillip Heath, Head of Barker College and Luciano Mesiti, CEO of PIEFA, thank you both for supporting the nomination and for your continual support of agriculture. To my family, thank you so much for your constant support and for always being there for me. To the Barker College agriculture staff, both past and present, Allie, Tim, Lara, Brianna, Ben, Alison, Lucy, and Tamara. This Prize is also a recognition of what each of you do every day in your classrooms to inspire our students to understand the importance of agriculture to our society, thank you. To my fellow science staff, we have an incredibly strong science culture at Barker College, which is a result of what each of you individually and collectively do. Thank you for all you've taught me over the years.

[Image continues to show Scott talking to the camera]

And finally, thank you to the many, many students at Barker College who have chosen to study agriculture and especially the hundreds who have decided to pursue agriculture degrees after school. It's a privilege to have taught each of you. And I cannot wait to see the incredible things that you'll do in the future.

[Image changes to show Rae talking to the camera]

Rae Johnston: Congratulations once again Scott Graham. I would now like to invite the Minister for Science and Technology, the Honourable Melissa Price MP to speak.

[Image changes to show the Hon Melissa Price MP talking to the camera and text appears: The Hon Melissa Price MP, Minister for Science and Technology]

The Hon Melissa Price MP: Good evening ladies and gentlemen. It’s an honour to be part of this event.

This is one of my first official speeches since becoming the Minister for Science and Technology. Can I say it’s an absolute privilege to be given responsibility for this portfolio. As a child of the gold mining town of Kalgoorlie, I learnt from a very early age that we had extraordinary minds in this country, capable of solving the most complex challenges in the mining sector. Through my adult life, and indeed my career in politics, I have come to appreciate just how far and wide those very bright minds extend beyond the super pit. Every day, our scientists and researchers are saving lives.

I’ve had a wonderful, enduring relationship with the Cancer Council of WA and the Bright Spark Foundation, an organisation that is dedicated to funding scientific research in child health. They have given me my own very personal window into the extraordinary abilities of our scientific community. And as the Member for Durack, I have come to understand just how far technology, and in particular autonomous technology, has come since I left Kalgoorlie at age 18.

[Image continues to show Melissa talking to the camera]

Every day in the Pilbara, in the heart of my electorate, there are giant, driverless trucks criss-crossing mine sites. And the Prime Minister and I were lucky enough to see this for ourselves earlier this year when we were guests at Andrew Forrest’s Christmas Creek mine. I know that it is the sort of Aussie ingenuity we saw that day that has compelled NASA to sign an agreement with the Australian Government to send an Australian-built rover, one that I like to call Red Dog, to the Moon. What an achievement that will be for our country.

Science and technology are the heart of so many of the key opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for Australia, and the globe. And I cannot think of a better stage for one of my first speeches in this role than these Prizes. Tonight, we are paying tribute to our scientists, innovators, and science teachers who are making outstanding contributions to our country. For more than 20 years these prestigious awards have recognised achievements in scientific research and excellence in science teaching.

[Image changes to show a close view of Melissa talking to the camera]

Looking back over two decades, it’s clear we have a proud history of scientific achievement across diverse disciplines. From how Australian astronomy made Wi-Fi fast and reliable, to how bees fly, to saving frogs, or changing the way the world thinks about epilepsy. As you will all agree, a diverse and inclusive STEM and innovation ecosystem benefits us all. Of course, we wouldn’t have the calibre of scientists in this country if it wasn’t for our incredible science teachers.

It's fair to say that all of us have had teachers, at one stage or another in our lives, who have helped to inspire us, point us on a particular path or encouraged us to take on a specific challenge. It’s worth pointing out that tonight’s finalists have been selected from yet another crop of incredible nominations from across the country. To be shortlisted is a tremendous achievement in itself. To receive an award is something to be truly proud of.

[Image continues to show a close view of Melissa talking to the camera]

The 2021 Science and Teaching Prize recipients will join this coveted alumni. They’ll be doing so in a period where the role of science is in the spotlight more than ever. COVID-19 has brought to the fore the importance of science in dealing with a global crisis. From the health advice that helped limit its spread, to the life-saving treatments being given to the COVID patients in hospital, to the vaccines that are the key to our freedom and our ongoing ability to live with the virus, science has been at the centre. In short, it is science that will get us through the pandemic. In fact, it’s fair to say science is the key to negotiating most of the big challenges we face now, and into the future, from climate change to space travel to curing diseases. It is also the key to successful businesses, more and better paying jobs and higher living standards.

I just want to say thank you to all tonight’s recipients for reminding us of the important role science plays in just about every aspect of our lives. Thank you for the outstanding work you do and for the passion you show for science. More broadly, thank you to all the extraordinary scientists, researchers and teachers in this country for your day-to-day efforts. You’re helping to inspire and encourage the next generation of Australian leaders in science, technology and mathematics. And I can’t think of a more noble pursuit. Congratulations, and enjoy this wonderful occasion. Thank you.

[Image changes to show a close view of Rae talking to the camera]

Rae Johnston: Thank you for those words, Minister.

[Camera zooms out on Rae talking to the camera]

We now move into the Science Prizes category. The next three Prizes recognise an exceptional achievement in science that benefits, or has the potential to benefit, human welfare or society. The first of these Prizes is the Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year.

Our recipient is renowned for translating scientific findings into innovative treatments that can improve the survival of breast cancer patients in Australia and around the world. Her research has led to the development and implementation of an immune biomarker for breast cancer, to help manage patients with the advanced disease. This biomarker is now part of routine pathology reporting for breast cancer in many countries, and is included in the World Health Organisation’s Blue Book on Breast Tumours.

[Image continues to show Rae talking to the camera]

Our recipient also made a significant contribution to the first worldwide approval of immunotherapy for patients with the most aggressive type of breast cancer. She helped prove that immunotherapy, a type of cancer treatment that helps your immune system fight cancer, can prolong survival in patients with this advanced disease.

Can you please join me in virtually celebrating the recipient of the 2021 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year, Medical Oncologist and Head of the Translational Breast Cancer Laboratory at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Professor Sherene Loi.

[Music plays and the image changes to show the Australian Government Crest, Frank Fenner Prize Life Scientist of the Year medallion animated and turning, and the words 2021 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year, and the name, Professor Sherene Loi]

[Image changes to show Professor Sherene Loi sitting at a table talking to the camera]

Dr Sherene Loi: My name is Dr Sherene Loi. I'm a Medical Oncologist and I work at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

[Image changes to show Sherene with a patient looking at a computer screen]

My focus is on breast cancer research and treatment.

[Image changes to show Sherene talking to the patient and pointing to the computer screen, and then the image changes back to show Sherene talking to the camera]

My research tries to understand the interaction between a patient's immune system and their breast cancer. In order to help us understand how the immune system is interacting with the patient's breast cancer, we've developed a method to count the number of immune cells in a breast cancer sample.

[Images move through to show Sherene watching a researcher at work in the laboratory]

After analysing thousands of samples. Now we understand that the more immune cells you have in your breast cancer sample, the better the chance you have of responding to chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

[Image changes to show a close view of cells and an area is circled and labelled: Lymphocytes/plasma cells = TILs]

Immunotherapy works to harness the patient's own immune system against their cancer.

[Image changes to show another area on the cells circled and labelled “Cancer cells”, and then the image changes to show Sherene looking in a microscope]

This is different from traditional cancer therapies, which focus directly on the tumour. This method has now been recognised by the World Health Organization and was included in their last Blue Book on Breast Tumours.

[Images move through of a close view of Sherene talking, and then Sherene and a colleague looking at a microscope slide]

In 2015, we conducted some of the first immunotherapy trials for breast cancer patients in the world at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

[Image changes to show a profile view of Sherene talking to the camera]

These trials resulted in the first worldwide approval of immunotherapy for the treatment of patients with triple negative breast cancer. That is the most aggressive breast cancer type.

[Images move through of Sherene looking at a microscope slide, and then the image changes to show Sherene working on a computer]

Immunotherapy is now being widely used for the treatment of patients with triple negative breast cancer in America and we hope that soon we'll be able to use it for Australian patients here.

[Images move through of Sherene and a colleague in conversation, and then the image changes to show Sherene talking to the camera]

We are now working with multiple biotech and pharmaceutical companies to try and improve our current immunotherapies to get closer to curing more patients from their breast cancer.

[Images move through of a close view of Sherene in a laboratory, Sherene walking towards the camera through a laboratory, and Sherene and a colleague walking towards the camera]

To receive the Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year is a great honour and a privilege.

[Image changes to show Sherene talking to the camera]

I'm accepting this award on behalf of my many collaborators, because it really takes a village to achieve what we've achieved.

[Images move through of various researchers working in labs]

It's really amazing now to see findings from the lab move to the clinic. For me, it's about responsibility and purpose.

[Image changes to show Sherene talking to the camera]

It's about ensuring that the next generation of women don't suffer from breast cancer, as much as this generation.

[Image changes to show a new slide showing the Australian Government Crest, Frank Fenner Prize Life Scientist of the Year medallion animated and turning, and the words 2021 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year, and the name, Professor Sherene Loi]

[Music plays and image changes to show a facing view of Sherene talking to the camera and a Prize medallion and text appears: Professor Sherene Loi]

I'm very honoured to have been awarded the Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year. I'd like to thank the Prime Minister, and Minister Price for this honour. In accepting this honour I would like to acknowledge all the hard work of my lab at Peter Mac, and thank my collaborators all around the world.

In particular, I’d like to acknowledge Roberto Salgado, who's my pathologist partner in crime, based in Belgium. I'd also like to acknowledge the National Breast Cancer Foundation of Australia for all their support over the years. Without them in this time of great uncertainty with the pandemic and with funding their support has been very reassuring. I'd also like to thank of course my family, and my kids, and my parents, and my in-laws. Without their support my achievements today would not have been possible. So thank you all.

[Image shows Sherene smiling at the camera, and then the image changes to show Rae talking to the camera again]

Rae Johnston: Thank you Professor Loi, and once again, congratulations on your recognition. The next Prize is the Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year. Our recipient is a world-leading astronomer and engineer who helped solve the mystery of Fast Radio Bursts, short, sharp pulses of radio waves lasting a few milliseconds which are extremely hard to detect. Using CSIRO’s Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder radio telescope, our recipient confirmed that Fast Radio Bursts come from very distant galaxies, and pinpointed the galaxy a burst came from. By studying the origins of Fast Radio Bursts, astronomers are now closer to determining what causes them, and are using them as tools to understand the content of the entire Universe.

[Camera zooms in on Rae talking to the camera]

These discoveries are solving several of the big astronomical mysteries of our generation. Our recipient’s work is an outstanding example of bringing together innovative researchers, great collaborative astronomy partnerships, and world-class Australian research infrastructure. From CSIRO, the recipient of the 2021 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year is Dr Keith Bannister.

[Music plays and the image changes to show a new slide showing the Australian Government Crest, Malcolm McIntosh Prize Physical Scientist of the Year medallion animated and turning, and the words 2021 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year, and the name, Dr Keith Bannister]

[Image changes to show Dr Keith Bannister walking towards the camera, entering a building, and then talking to the camera]

Dr Keith Bannister: My name is Keith Bannister. I'm an astronomer and engineer at the CSIRO, Australia's national science agency. My job is to build telescopes and use them to find out things about the universe that we didn't know before.

[Image changes to show a rear view of Keith working at a computer, and then the image changes to show data on a computer screen, and then the image changes to show Keith talking to the camera]

So in the last few years I've been working on a phenomenon called Fast Radio Bursts. Fast Radio Bursts are bursts of radio waves. They last about a millisecond; click your finger and they've gone.

[Image changes to show digital footage of a Fast Radio Burst, and then the image changes to show five different coloured streaks moving across a night sky screen]

When they were first discovered by astronomers in 2007, we had absolutely no idea what they were and that's exactly the sort of mystery that I just really wanted to be involved in.

[Images move through of a close view of a telescope, an aerial view of the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder site, a close view of a telescope, and then Keith talking to the camera]

The telescope I used the most is called the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder, built by the CSIRO in Western Australia. This telescope produces a huge amount of data and we have to sift through all of it just to find one burst.

[Image changes to show Fast Radio Bursts hitting the telescope, and then the image changes to show an aerial view of lines of data moving from a telescope to a building]

When Fast Radio Bursts were first discovered, we really didn't know which galaxies they came from.

[Image changes to show a digital view of the Fast Radio Bursts travelling down the the corridor in a supercomputer]

And so it was difficult to really understand what made them.

[Images move through to show a computer screen in the supercomputer, Keith talking to the camera, a Fast Radio Burst in the night sky, and a digital close view of the galaxy, and text appears: The outer regions of a massive galaxy]

What we did with our telescope was for the first time detect a single burst and zoom in exactly on the location of that burst inside a particular galaxy.

[Image shows the digital view changing into a graph showing the distance of the galaxy]

And that told us a huge amount of information that we just didn't have before.

[Images move through of Keith talking to the camera, a Fast Radio Burst in a galaxy, a side view of Keith looking at a computer screen, and a rear view of Keith working on a computer]

After we found that first burst, we actually went out and found a few more and we were able to use those bursts to measure the number of atoms in the universe. And that's a number that's very difficult to measure any other way

[Images move through of a Fast Radio Burst in a night sky, and the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder telescopes moving in unison]

Fast Radio Bursts are still a mystery, but they're helping us understand some of the biggest astronomical questions of our generation.

[Image changes to show an aerial view looking down on the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder site]

Astronomy is the gateway to science.

[Image changes to show a world globe in the night sky, and then the image changes to show a galaxy in the night sky, and then the image changes to show Keith talking to the camera]

There are some beautiful mysteries in the universe that remain to be uncovered. I really hope more young people in Australia will be inspired by this and pursue science as a career.

[Image changes to show a facing view of Keith talking to the camera, and then the image changes to show Keith climbing up a set of stairs inside a building]

To be recognized in the Prime Minister's Prizes for Science is a massive honour and very humbling.

[Image changes to show Keith’s shadow reflected in the glass of a framed photo of a radio telescope, and then the image changes to show a close view of a radio telescope and text appears: We acknowledge the Wajarri Yamatji people as the Traditional Owners of the Murchison Radio-Astronomy Observatory site, where ASKAP is located]

I'm very passionate about what I do, and I hope that inspires people to support science.

[Images move through of an aerial view of the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder site, the site with a changing background of night sky and day sky, and then Keith talking to the camera]

I honestly believe science can solve some of the biggest challenges that we have in the future. And I think we need to see what we're at capable of achieving.

[Image changes to show a new slide showing the Australian Government Crest, Malcolm McIntosh Prize Physical Scientist of the Year medallion animated and turning, and the words 2021 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year, and the name, Dr Keith Bannister]

[Music plays and the image changes to show Keith wearing a suit and tie and talking to the camera and a Prize medallion and text appears: Dr Keith Bannister]

Thank you Prime Minister, and Minister Price. It is a great honour to receive this award. It's been such a privilege to be part of astronomy when there's so many opportunities to make exciting discoveries. I've had a fantastic time and it's been a really wild ride. I truly believe that the STEM disciplines have the ability to, to solve so many of the problems that we face. Astronomy in particular, has the ability to inspire us, to help us understand our context in the universe. I really hope that my work and the Prizes in general will inspire a whole generation of young people to pursue a career in science. Astronomy is an international pursuit. It crosses boundaries between states and nations, and I'd like to thank all my collaborators from around Australia and the world for helping make these discoveries possible.

I'd really like to thank Ryan Shannon and the late Jean-Pierre Macquart for sharing their joy of discovery with me and for all their expertise and the fantastic leadership they've done. To my mentors, Bryan Gaensler, Tara Murphy, Tim Cornwell, Simon Johnston, Ron Ekers, and Elaine Sadler. I'd also like to thank the CSIRO, and all the fantastic engineers and astronomers who build the telescopes and look after them.

[Image continues to show Keith talking to the camera]

I'd like to thank my family. To my kids, Arianne, Soren, and Huon, I'm really sorry I woke you up that day when I ran screaming through the house when we found our first burst. I'd like to thank my wife, Michelle. You always inspired me to dream, and it's been fantastic that you do that. I'd like to thank my mum and dad, and my sister Corinne for always being there. Thank you.

[Image changes to show Rae talking to the camera]

Rae Johnston: Thank you, Dr Bannister, and once again congratulations on your recognition. The next Prize is the Prize for New Innovators. This year’s recipient’s research has been instrumental in driving scientific discoveries relating to serious brain disorders that lack effective treatments. His research has been critical in the discovery and development of KNX100, a novel molecule which has considerable potential to reduce drug abuse. KNX100 is being commercialised by Kinoxis Therapeutics, a company he co-founded in 2018. It is now being developed to treat opioid-use disorder, which kills more people in Australia each year than car accidents. His work is a demonstration of the innovation and all-round impact that can be achieved through research partnerships between universities, industry and government.

Kinoxis Therapeutics has attracted more than $10 million in funding from some of Australia’s most notable investors. Let’s all congratulate the recipient of the 2021 Prize for New Innovators, the co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer for Kinoxis Therapeutics, and from the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, Associate Professor Michael Bowen.

[Music plays and the image changes to show a new slide showing the Australian Government Crest, Prize for New Innovators medallion animated and turning, and the words 2021 Prize for New Innovators, and the name, Associate Professor Michael Bowen]

[Image changes to show Associate Professor Michael Bowen descending stairs inside a building]

Assoc Prof Michael Bowen: My name is Michael Bowen. I'm an Associate Professor at the University of Sydney and I'm the co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Kinoxis Therapeutics.

[Image changes to show Michael talking to the camera, and then the image changes to show Michael and colleagues in a lab]

Over the past decade, a major focus of my research has been on discovering and developing novel therapeutics for substance use disorders.

[Images move through of blue liquid in a sample bottle on a machine, Michael and colleagues at work, Michael talking to the camera, and Michael and colleagues in the lab]

In the past few years, my team have been particularly focused on opioid use disorder.

[Image changes to show a close view of a researcher brushing something in a machine]

Opioids are drugs that are widely used in the medical management of pain, but they can also be highly addictive and very dangerous.

[Image changes to show Michael talking to the camera]

In fact opioid overdoses kill more people in Australia each year than car accidents.

[Image changes to show Michael and a colleague looking at a sample in a petri dish]

We discovered a novel compound called KNX100 that has powerful anti-addictive properties.

[Images move through to show a close view of Michael talking, a profile view of Michael talking, Michael and colleagues looking at a computer screen together, and a close view of the screen]

To commercialize KNX100, Kinoxis Therapeutics was founded and in a major partnership between the company, the US National Institutes of Health and my team at the Brain and Mind Centre, we discovered that KNX100 has considerable potential to treat opioid use disorder.

[Images move through to show Michael and colleagues looking at a computer, Michael watching colleagues working in a lab, and Michael in conversation with a colleague in the lab]

We've been working on KNX100 for a number of years and it was becoming increasingly apparent the more studies we ran, that we were onto something pretty special.

[Image changes to show Michael talking to the camera]

We were able to attract Uniseed to come on board as our cornerstone investor, along with a consortium of some of Australia's most notable investors. Kinoxis Therapeutics was born and to date our investors have supported us to the tune of over $10 million.

[Image changes to show Michael looking through a microscope, and the camera zooms in on the microscope]

The next year is going to be huge for Kinoxis.

[Images move through to show Michael looking through the microscope, Michael talking to the camera, Michael and a colleague working in a lab, and Michael looking at blue liquid in a flask]

In the opioid use disorder space the countdown is on to the first clinical trial with KNX100, which will make it the only novel compound in clinical development for opioid use disorder anywhere in the world.

[Image changes to show a close view of Michael talking to the camera]

It's an honour to be the recipient of the 2021 Prize for New Innovators. It makes me really proud of everything that the team at the university, and Kinoxis Therapeutics has achieved over the years, but it's also really important recognition that this model of universities, industry and governments working closely together is a powerful way to find solutions to wicked problems like the opioid crisis.

[Image changes to show a new slide showing the Australian Government Crest, Prize for New Innovators medallion animated and turning, and the words 2021 Prize for New Innovators, and the name, Associate Professor Michael Bowen]

[Image changes to show Michael dressed in a suit and tie talking to the camera and a Prize medallion and text appears: Associate Professor Michael Bowen]

It's a tremendous honour to be the recipient of the 2021 Prize for New Innovators, and I thank the Prime Minister and the Minister for Science and Technology. I'd like to thank everyone who has worked on the KNX100 program over the years. There are far too many to thank here, but there are a few people and organisations that I would like to specifically thank. Firstly Professors, Ian McGregor and Michael Kassiou. Without your vision to establish a collaboration between your teams all of those years ago, there would be no KNX100. A huge thank you to the University of Sydney for supporting this program, 100% every step of the way.

To my team at the Brain and Mind Centre and School of Psychology, thank you for doing such an amazing job and always making me look good. To Uniseed, thank you for seeing the potential in this program and getting behind it. Your support has been transformational. And to all of our investors, thank you for making what we do possible. Thank you to the Kinoxis co-founder and CEO, Hugh Alsop, and the whole team at Kinoxis. Working with you over the past four years has been the most exciting time of my career.

[Image continues to show Michael talking to the camera]

Thank you to the Australian Government for supporting the program through the National Health and Medical Research Council, the R & D Tax Incentive Scheme, and the Early Stage Innovation Company

Scheme. Thank you to the US National Institutes of Health for support through the NIDA Medication Development Programme, and through the Helping to End Addiction Long Term Initiative. Finally, a huge thank you to all of my family, and close friends for supporting me every step of the way.

[Image changes to show a close view of Rae talking to the camera]

Rae Johnston: Thank you Associate Professor Bowen and once again congratulations on your recognition. We have now reached the final two Prizes in our Science Prizes category. The first is the Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation, which is awarded for the innovative translation of scientific knowledge into a commercially viable product, service, or process that has led to economic, social and, where relevant, environmental benefits.

[Camera zooms out on Rae talking to the camera]

Our recipient is considered the world’s leading authority on tropoelastin, the protein building-block that gives human tissue its elasticity. For the past two decades, he has pioneered global research into tropoelastin and elastin fibres, which are found in human tissues ranging from the skin, to the lungs and arteries. Elastin fibres play a significant role in the repair of the human body and this research lead our recipient to the creation of synthetic tropoelastin based biomaterials, to accelerate and improve the repair of human tissue.

[Image changes to show a close view of Rae talking to the camera]

In 2008, he founded the company Elastagen to commercialise his research and inventions. The company raised $35 million in venture capital and grant funding, completed clinical trials, and scaled up production. Our recipient’s inventions have generated an incredible 163 granted patents in 21 patent families around the world. Ten years later, Elastagen was sold to one of the world’s largest biopharmaceutical companies.

Our recipient is also regarded as an ambassador for Australian innovation and has given his time to mentor Australian researchers. He offers insight on every aspect of science commercialisation, inspiring both Australian investors and incubators to support the next generation of life science technologies. Congratulations to the University of Sydney’s McCaughey Chair in Biochemistry and Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biotechnology, and now the recipient of the 2021 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation, Professor Anthony Weiss.

[Music plays and the image changes to show a new slide showing the Australian Government Crest, Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation medallion animated and turning, and the words 2021, Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation, and the name, Professor Anthony Steven Weiss AM]

[Image changes to show a close view of Professor Anthony Weiss walking towards the camera, and the camera zooms out on Tony walking in the building]

Professor Tony Weiss: I'm Professor Tony Weiss. I'm the McCaughey Chair in Biochemistry and Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biotechnology at the University of Sydney.

[Image changes to show a side facing view of Tony talking, and then the image changes to show a facing view of Tony talking to the camera]

I've always wanted to be a scientist. And in fact, when I was a little tiny kid, my parents brought me a toy car. They left the room, came back and there I was dismantling this toy car.

[Image changes to show a side facing view of Tony talking, and then the image changes to show a facing view of Tony talking to the camera]

And it was at that moment. I think I became a scientist. And ever since that time, I've always loved the idea of watching and learning how things tick.

[Image changes to show a view looking down on Tony climbing stairs in a multistorey building]

And I'm still doing the same thing today. But this time around it's the biological world.

[Image changes to show a close view of a finger pointing at data on a computer screen, and then the image changes to show the sign “Professor Tony Weiss” on the wall]

It’s understanding how the human body works and therefore trying to repair the human body.

[Images move through of Tony talking and looking at a computer screen, and then the image changes to show Tony talking to the camera]

I'm best known for the ability to build elastic tissue. Our bodies have elastic tissue in a whole range of places. For example, elastic ligaments in our skin and so our skin flexes, in blood vessels, as they expand and contract, in literally multiple parts of the body that need to have this flexible elasticity, they always need the same building component.

[Images move through of a rear view of Tony and a colleague in conversation while looking at a computer screen, and a close view of Tony working in a laboratory]

We have developed ways to be able to build the precise components that are used to assemble features of the human body.

[Images move through of a close view of liquid being syringed up, Tony opening a machine in the lab, Tony working at a lab bench with a machine, and then a close view of the machine]

It was amazing to watch how we transformed basic science, being done in the lab to something that was much more applied, and now began to look like something that could really help a lot of people.

[Image changes to show Tony talking to the camera]

Our research and clinical trials are showing that we can halve the time taken for a wound to heal.

[Images move through of a side facing view of talking to the camera]

I founded a company, Elastagen, and that was designed to take this technology forward.

[Image changes to show Tony seated next to a window looking at an iPad and a Smartphone]

People said it couldn't be done. And I just ignored the naysayers and went straight on and succeeded.

[Image changes to show a side facing view of Tony talking to the camera, and then the camera zooms in on Tony talking to the camera]

Ten years later, the company was sold for more than $300 million in total in one of the largest healthcare transactions in Australia's history.

[Images move through of a close view of an iPad, Tony talking on a Smartphone while looking at an iPad, and then Tony and a colleague looking at a computer screen]

Elastagen has now transitioned to the global stage and it is a true Aussie success story. Elastagen didn't simply exist on its own.

[Images move through to show a close view of Tony and a colleague in conversation, researchers working in a laboratory]

I will be always eternally grateful to that collection of people, to that village of people to make Elastagen succeed.

[Image changes to show Tony talking to the camera, and then the image changes to show Tony walking past the glass windows on a laboratory]

To receive the Prime Minister's Prize for Innovation means so much to me. Innovation is a roller coaster ride. We go through ups, we go through downs and in our case it was a long journey.

[Image changes to show Tony talking to the camera]

And most important, it's a celebration of the importance of science and innovation in this country.

[Image changes to show a new slide showing the Australian Government Crest, Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation medallion animated and turning, and the words 2021 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation, and the name, Professor Anthony Steven Weiss AM]

[Image changes to show a facing view of Tony talking to the camera and a Prize medallion and text can be seen: Professor Anthony Steven Weiss AM]

I'm absolutely delighted to receive the Prime Minister's Prize for Innovation. I thank the Prime Minister, and appreciate the Minister's support. Specifically I also would like to really thank my nominator, Brigitte Smith, all my supporters, the selection committee. I want to recognize the University of Sydney, and all the university leadership, and our remarkable Charles Perkins Centre. I want to recognize my mentor, Professor Gerry Wake, who would have been thrilled to watch me receive this award. My lab, students and staff over the years, our teams and collaborators, particularly Dr Suzanne Mithieux. I want to thank also the countless colleagues and supporters on the commercialization journey, the Elastagen investors, its board, its staff, amazing CEO, Dr Rob Daniels.

I also want to thank the state government who’s been wonderfully supportive throughout. My wife, Jacky, my parents, children, my family for all their love and support. This award means so much to me. It's been wonderful to go down the path of commercialising the products of science and technology. And it's incredibly invigorating to put products on shelves in hospitals and elsewhere to make the world a better place. I thank you very much.

[Image changes to show Rae talking to the camera]

Rae Johnston: Thank you Professor Weiss, and once again congratulations on your Prize recognition. Now we come to the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, which is awarded for a significant advancement of knowledge through science. Past recipients of this Prize have been responsible for some of this country’s, and the world’s greatest discoveries and achievements. This year’s Prize goes to a person who is considered the global authority on the evolution of viral diseases.

For almost 30 years, he has pioneered the study of how viruses evolve and jump between species to spread and cause disease, including humans. Using genome sequence data, he has transformed our understanding of diseases which have affected major populations such as HIV, Ebola and SARS. Most recently, our recipient played a transformative role in the scientific response to COVID-19. In early 2020 he was the first person in the world to publicly release the virus’s genome sequence. The sharing of this data was critical in helping the global response to the pandemic.

It fast-tracked research efforts around the world and enabled the design of vaccines within days, saving countless lives. He is now at the forefront of research about the origins and ongoing evolution of COVID-19. Our recipient’s work will continue to help protect Australia from existing and undiscovered infections, leading our country and the rest of the world into a new age in biosecurity. Our Prime Minister’s Prize for Science for 2021 goes to the University of Sydney’s Professor Edward C. Holmes.

[Music plays and the image changes to show a new slide showing the Australian Government Crest, Prime Minister’s Prize for Science medallion animated and turning, and the words 2021 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, and the name, Professor Edward C. Holmes]

[Image changes to show the top of a university building, and the camera pans down to show Eddie walking through the archways in the building]

Prof Edward C. Holmes: My name’s Professor Eddie Holmes. I work at the University of Sydney and my work focuses on the evolution of viruses.

[Image changes to show a facing view of Eddie talking to the camera]

So ever since I was a, a child in high school, I, I've been fascinated by human evolution, particularly to understand how the human species got to where it is today.

[Image changes to show Eddie entering an office and sitting at a desk and opening a laptop, and the camera zooms in on Eddie’s face, and then on the laptop screen he is looking at]

Over the past 30 years, my work has focused on trying to understand how viruses evolve.

[Image changes to show Eddie talking to the camera]

In particular, I’ve been interested in trying to understand how viruses are able to jump from one animal species to another like humans, and then start to cause an epidemic.

[Images move through of a rear and then side view of Eddie at work, a close view of a microscope slide under a microscope, and then a view of the slide through the microscope lens]

My research has allowed me to understand viruses like HIV, the cause of AIDS, Ebola, Dengue and Zika.

[Image changes to show Eddie walking along on a footpath, and then images move through of a rear view of Eddie walking, Eddie seated in a chair reading a book, and then Eddie talking to the camera]

So my research on what became known as COVID-19, began in early January 2020, after my colleagues in China rapidly generated the complete genome sequence of the virus that causes that disease.

[Images move through to show a side view of Eddie working on a laptop, the screen he is working on, data on the screen, and then a side view of Eddie working on a laptop]

And I was then able to publish that genome sequence online and that allowed researchers globally to download that sequence and use it to generate COVID tests and COVID vaccines.

[Image changes to show a diagram of the spike protein, and then the image changes to show DNA symbols moving over the screen and researchers can be seen in the background]

Releasing the genome sequence of the virus online was, was a critical moment in the COVID-19 pandemic and it really marked the start of a scientific response to the virus.

[Image changes to show Eddie talking to the camera]

My goal now is to try and stop a pandemic like COVID-19 ever happening again.

[Images move through of an aerial view looking down on planes grounded at an airport, the waiting area of an airport with only three travellers seated, and a plane in the sky]

So what COVID-19 has told us is that viruses do not respect international borders.

[Image changes to show a robotic machine filling multiple test tubes automatically, and then the image changes to show a close view of a test tube being capped]

And because of that, it's critical that scientists internationally collaborate as much and as freely as possible.

[Image changes to show Eddie talking to the camera]

To receive the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science is amazing recognition, not just for me, but for all my collaborators and colleagues in Australia and other, other countries, who've helped build a network to understand how diseases, like COVID-19 appear and spread in the population.

[Images move through of a close view of Eddie moving down a verandah at the university]

The key thing about being a scientist is to be curious every day.

[Image changes to show Eddie looking through a book]

And it's that curiosity that's rewarded every day, because you discover new things.

[Image changes to show a COVID testing station, and then the image changes to show a close view of a COVID tester taking a swab from a patient]

Science is the best way we have as a species of countering some of the major problems that it faces.

[Images move through of a close view of a microscope, a diagram of the spike protein rotating, and then Eddie talking to the camera]

And that's been shown perfectly with COVID-19, because of scientists vaccines were developed within months of the virus first being discovered. If it wasn't for science, we would be in a far worse position now with COVID than we are.

[Image changes to show a new slide showing the Australian Government Crest, Prime Minister’s Prize for Science medallion animated and turning, and the words 2021 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, and the name, Professor Edward C. Holmes]

[Image changes to show Eddie dressed in a suit and tie talking to the camera and a Prize medallion and text appears: Professor Edward C. Holmes]

It's a truly humbling experience to be recognized in this way. Of course, I'm really just a cheerleader for a huge research effort that involves very many people and I'd just like to thank a few of them now. First and foremost, I'd like to thank my wife Rachel, and my son Scott, for their tireless support over many years.

I'd also like to thank the Prime Minister, and the Minister for Science and Technology for their recognition, and for the Australian Government, for their generous research funding over many years. I'd like to thank the University of Sydney for backing me in everything I've wanted to do. I'd like to thank, my research group, my collaborators globally, who've helped establish a really tremendous research network. The last 18 months have taught me two important things. First, scientists must share their data as openly and freely as possible. Second, society must trust in science because it's science that will help us solve some of the great challenges that we face like COVID.

[Image changes to show a close view of Rae talking to the camera]

Rae Johnston: Congratulations once again Professor Holmes. I would now like to invite Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley, to provide our closing address.

[Image changes to show Dr Cathy Foley talking to the camera and text appears: Dr Cath Foley AO, Australia’s Chief Scientist]

Dr Cathy Foley: Hello, I’m Cathy Foley, Australia’s Chief Scientist. I extend my warmest congratulations to the recipients tonight. As Chair of the Selection Committee for the Science Prizes, it has been an inspiring and exciting process for me to consider the nominations. It’s never an easy task. I was blown away by the quality. So many of the people nominated for the awards this year are doing excellent, impactful work and advancing knowledge for the benefit of our nation and the world.

The recipients are united by a common thread. They are doing great science and have gone a step further to look for new ways to build on their discoveries, or ask how their work can be applied for the benefit of the wider community. To the teachers among the recipients, you hold a special place in my heart. Each time you inspire that spark of curiosity, or critical thinking in a young person, you mark a win for the future of our nation, and I thank you for it.

[Image continues to show Dr Cathy Foley talking to the camera]

Professor Edward Holmes, recipient of the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, was already an eminent microbiologist, an international authority before the pandemic. His expertise in virology and his international linkages, along with his understanding of the seriousness of the pandemic in those early days, helped him to make a courageous decision to share the genetic code of the virus on Twitter in January last year. His decision saved countless lives. It was scientifically and ethically right-minded. It also aligns with my firm belief that our science and research findings should be widely available to ensure greatest impact. Congratulations to him and to the other Prize recipients. It is well deserved.

This night is bittersweet. Those of you who know me will know that I am not a big event person, but the gala night in Canberra for the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science has always been one of my favourite evenings of the year, where the science community comes together with such a wonderful sense of occasion and achievement. I hope that next year we can meet again in person. For tonight, I hope that you have enjoyed hearing about our recipients, and encourage you to find out more about their work so that you can truly appreciate the achievements of our great Australian scientists, research based innovators, and teachers.

[Image continues to show Cathy talking to the camera]

Before you leave, I want to encourage you to consider nominating someone you know for next year’s Prizes. Nominations open soon and I want to make sure that they reflect the full diversity of our science, innovation and teaching community. Thank you, and good night.

[Image changes to show a close view of Rae talking to the camera]

Rae Johnston: Dr Foley, thank you for the closing address.

[Camera zooms out on Rae talking to the camera]

It has been a pleasure to be your host this evening, and witness, with you, these remarkable stories of achievement. This year’s recipients are a testament to the incredible work undertaken by our nation’s scientists, innovators, researchers, and science teachers, and I’m sure they will all continue to be at the forefront as we map a path for the future and inspire the next generation.

[Text appears on the right of Rae: #PMPRIZES]

Please do continue celebrating and congratulating our recipients online using the hashtag #pmprizes. I’m about to jump on Twitter right now! Have a wonderful evening and thanks for joining us for this year’s Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.

[Music plays and the image shows Rae smiling at the camera]