STEM people stepping up against racism

STEM stand against racism
Image from www.shutdownstem.com

“We must take a stand, STEM is for all. As First Nations people we are the First scientists of this Country. Our lives matter and our contributions to science matter. This is a time to come together and create change. Walk with us.”

This statement from Deadly Science founder and Science & Technology Australia member Corey Tutt was amongst a body of Australia’s top professionals in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) calling for people in STEM to stand against racism and calling for a global STEM community to back justice, equality and respect.

“Like any other industry, STEM professionals need to pause and reflect on the biases that exist in the sector,” Science & Technology Australia (STA) President Associate Professor Jeremy Brownlie told Careers with STEM.

Brownlie says while there’s been a “lot of work towards improving equity and participation rates for women” in STEM, more work needs to be done to improve participation in STEM for Indigenous people as well as recognition of the deep repository of knowledge in Aboriginal science and technology, he says.

“The many need to speak to the few and we need to recognise Indigenous knowledge in the scientific framework.”

The STA statement reads:

In recent weeks, we have drawn hope from seeing so many people globally support the goals of the #BlackLivesMatter and #AboriginalLivesMatter movements to end racism, injustice and inequality.

The science, technology, engineering and maths workforce in Australia joins our colleagues worldwide in the STEM community to express our support for these defining values.

This movement has called attention not only to Indigenous deaths in custody in our country and abroad, but also to racism, exclusion, disrespect and a lack of safety for people of colour.

This historic moment offers all Australians an opportunity to ask ourselves and our leaders what more can and should be done to end inequality and injustice.

Brownlie says the statement released to the media today was precipitated by a global push in STEM to stand against racism, #BlackLivesMatter internationally and #AboriginalLivesMatter after a weekend of protests around the country.

“We’ve seen a groundswell of recognition about those issues. As organisations in the STEM context globally support these initiatives, we wanted to recognise that we need to identify and reflect in ways we can create a positive impact and also reflect on what we need to do to change.”

RELATED: Indigenous innovators are transforming their communities with STEM

Brownlie also says the STA is focussing on ways to include Indigenous knowledge with Western science and that there was a clear benefit in this approach for all Australians.

“What we see as knowledge excludes a lot of other knowledge that sits out there and is as viable and useful in answering the grand challenges we have out there,” he says.

For example a project by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mathematics Alliance Chair Professor Chris Matthews had shown that kids struggling with calculus had benefitted from teaching that incorporates Indigenous maths. “Through an Indigenous approach we are improving outcomes not only for Indigenous people but all Australian students. We have a lot to learn as a western society about applying that principle,” he says.

Moggridge led Australia’s Aboriginal water unit, at the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Image: CSIRO
Hydrologist Bradley Moggridge’s research links western science with traditional knowledge to develop best-practice methodologies for water planning and management tailored to specific landscapes

The recent Australian bushfires had also shown land managers, State and Federal governments that Indigenous people were able to manage a fire prone landscape for many years, he says.

“We are hoping that today’s event is a start of that conversation and a deeper reflection. A lot of people are wanting to engage more and reflect on their own institution and behaviours and creating an inclusive community.”

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International STEM institutions mobilising against racism

Careers with STEM, founded in 2014, has always committed to showing diversity of race, knowledge practice, neurological type, culture, gender and ability. We’re committing to work harder to curate and create content that promotes diversity in STEM and to employ Indigenous suppliers in our content development.

Many international organisations called for a shutdown on their usual content on June 10 and for people in STEM to stand against racism using the hashtags #ShutdownStem #shutdownacademia #strike4blacklives, and promoted articles about diversity and on issues of racism.

Looking for inspiration? Check out these STEM role models.

Heather Catchpole

Author: Heather Catchpole

Heather co-founded Careers with STEM publisher Refraction Media. She loves storytelling, Asian food & dogs and has reported on science stories from live volcanoes and fossil digs

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