Birrigubba Juru and South Sea Islander women Tessa and Celeste Carnegie work to promote the participation of women and Indigenous youth in STEM through non-profit Indigitek and Australia’s national science organisation, CSIRO. So how did they get their jobs and what’s a typical day look like?
Were you into STEM at school?
C: We were both very sporty at school – I was a netball player so that was always a career option. I didn’t think that technology was ever an option.
T: This is my first job working in STEM fields. I’m really excited to learn a lot more. At school I really like social sciences and my favourite subject was English.
C: My favourite subject was ancient history! But we went to a sports excellent school so sports was really a driver behind the curriculum.
What’s a typical day in your job?
C: My job today is mostly around community engagement – how we get our community engaged in technology and engage them with emerging and existing tech to help benefit their own communities.
T: I work for the Young Indigenous Women STEM Academy so a big part of my role is working with Indigenous women across all age groups. A big part of that is having those conversations around STEM and how that can look in our communities, specifically for First Nations women.
A typical day for me is having those yarns and being around different people like scientists and technologists so it’s always very interesting!
And I get to see my sister, too, because we’re working from home.
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So, tech jobs sound like they’re a lot more people oriented than you might think…?
C: Technology is just the tool, it’s not the outcome. Our skill set and our strengths are really engagement. And it is a skillset. It’s really important when you are working with community.
T: It’s a big part of STEM. In order to research and to make these inquiries you need to be able to work with people who are connected to land and country because a lot of science happens on land and country.
What jobs have you done before landing these roles?
C: I used to work in a job that saw me connecting traditional Indigenous land management systems with agricultural robotics and that was really fun. I’ve also worked to train communities in remote and rural areas to use digital technologies like drones, robotics, coding and 3D-printing and that was pretty cool, too.
T: I’ve mainly worked in government organisations starting at the ATO [Australian Tax Office] in various roles and then I moved out to Katherine in the Northern Territory and worked in local government. I moved into a mental health role and then I got this job at the CSIRO working as an Academic Coordinator which is different again, working around education and trying to encourage more young Indigenous women into STEM.
The great thing about STEM and the pathways into STEM is that it can look different from person to person and the roles are really varied across industry.
C: You don’t have to be a coder or a developer or an engineer to be part of this space. You could be a project manager, or work in the marketing team. There are so many roles across these spaces that allow you to work in STEM and to be a part of it.
I’m not a coder or developer but I talk with big tech companies everyday. It’s pretty cool.
Why should there be more young Indigenous people and more women in STEM?
T: I think the perspectives are different. A lot of the people we see in STEM are…
C: Male, pale and stale! We’re the complete opposite.
T: Being involved in the research allows for a different form of communication verbally and non-verbally. It’s also a matter of representation. If we see more people looking like us in these positions, then we’re more likely to want to be involved.
C: Also, many products, software and apps that we use weren’t built by us and with us in mind. If you look at artificial intelligence (AI) at the moment, it’s very important you have different perspectives built into the algorithms behind this. If it doesn’t include us, then it doesn’t include our perspectives, and that’s dangerous.
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How can STEM facilitate more opportunities for Indigenous youth?
C: Right now we don’t even know what the jobs are in science and engineering. STEM education is important because it builds narratives around those jobs.
T: It’s also an opportunity to create jobs for yourself and create your own pathways because it’s an industry of innovation. You can create what you want your job to look like.
Tessa and Celeste Carnegie’s STEM study and career paths
- Associate degree of Business Admin, Management and Operations, Australian Catholic University
- Client Engagement Officer, ATO
- Support Facilitator, Mission Australia
- Academic Coordinator, CSIRO
- Program facilitator, National Centre of Indigenous Excellence
- Indigenous STEAM program producer, Museum of Arts and Sciences
- Producer, Girl Geek Academy
- Program director, Indigitek
Author: STEM Contributor
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