How a drone pilot is inspiring young Indigenous Australians about tech

National Centre of Indigenous Excellence
IDX Manager Grant Cameron and Delilah MacGillivray with students from Yirrkala Bilingual School during the drone workshop held on country. Image: IDX Initiative

Grant Cameron is using his skills as a drone pilot to inspire young Indigenous Australians about tech.

After 20 years as an upholsterer and antique furniture restorer, Grant Cameron’s career change took off – literally. Now he uses his new skills as a certified drone pilot to get Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids excited about tech.

Taking tech Australia-wide

Grant works at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) in Redfern,
NSW. “I always wanted to work within the Aboriginal community and try and help make a positive change,” he says.

As manager of the Indigenous Digital Excellence Program (IDX), a partnership between the NCIE and the Telstra Foundation, Grant now travels all over Australia introducing kids to a range of technologies including 3D printing, robotics, coding and virtual reality.

RELATED: Meet the winners of the 2019 Indigenous STEM Awards

Grant started flying drones as a hobby – to take photos and make videos. He added drones to the IDX program after running a workshop for the Gunbalanya community in the Northern Territory. While he was there, the remote community was waiting for helicopters to check whether it was safe to reopen the roads after heavy rains. “I said, ‘a great way to save money would be using a drone to check it yourself’,” Grant recalls.

Caring for country

To share his knowledge, Grant developed a ‘caring for country’ workshop for IDX to teach kids and communities the basic skills of operating a drone and using it safely
to manage land and map sites. He also honed his skills by enrolling for a remote pilot’s licence.

Grant is a Kamilaroi man and heads up an all-Indigenous team, which is a big plus when working with kids in Indigenous communities. Other important factors are including local culture in the workshops, as well as training community members as facilitators and providing resources and support to keep it going.

Grant says the IDX workshops have worked really well for kids who have “slipped between the gaps” of mainstream education. “We can have that one-on-one time in smaller groups with kids, where normal classrooms have over 25 kids at times,” he says.

Grant’s tech skills are mostly self-taught but working in the industry has made him want to learn more. He has started studying online for a Certificate IV in Digital Media Technologies and hopes to fit in more study around work and family in the future. – Nadine Cranenburgh

Grant’s study pathway

>> DX Operational Manager, National Centre of Indigenous Excellence

>> Remote Pilot’s Licence – Drone Operator (Civil Aviation Safety Authority)

>> IDX Manager, National Centre of Indigenous Excellence

>> Certificate IV Digital Media Technologies, TAFE Online

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Code 2019.

Nadine Cranenburgh

Author: Nadine Cranenburgh

Nadine is an electrical and environmental engineer who works as a freelance writer and editor. She loves creating articles and content about exciting and complex technology.

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