SUBJECTS: Science, Technology, Maths and Engineering; National Youth Science Forum; Office for Youth.
MINISTER ANNE ALY: Good morning. I’ll stand because I’m short. That’s science! Thank you so much, Dr Bagg, for that very, very warm welcome and thank you, Liam, for that excellent Acknowledgement of Country. I want to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the lands on which we meet, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, and I want to pay my respects to their elders past, present and future, extend that respect to any First Nations people joining us here this morning.
You may all know that yesterday the legislation to enable a constitutional referendum on constitutional change passed the Senate and I am proud to be part of a Government that is committed to the full implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and I look forward to voice, treaty and truth.
I also want to take a moment just to acknowledge the work of my very dear friend, who I often refer to as my brother from another mother, the Minister for Industry and Science, Minister Ed Husic, and the work that he’s doing in the STEM space as well. I understand that you heard from Minister Husic last night and I hope he was entertaining, and I will ask you to rate him later on in the day.
Also, a huge thank you to the National Youth Science Forum for hosting this breakfast and for their broader work and dedication to the National Youth STEM Summit. It’s great to see so many people here today to have the opportunity to meet so many of them, and I just want to also give a shout‑out to Ewa and Frank. I didn’t get to see them earlier, so if they’re around, do you want to wave? There you are. Hi! Ewa and Frank, who are members of our Government’s Promotion of the STEM Advisory Youth Group, one of the five advisory groups that we have. And, Melanie, you mentioned about, you know, prioritising STEM. It was actually young people in our steering committee who chose what were the five issues that they wanted us to develop advisory groups on, and so they nominated STEM as an issue that was very important to them, which speaks to, I think, the fact that science, technology, engineering and mathematics are front of mind for a lot of young people and something that young people are curious about and that want to know about.
So that also speaks to the fact that the National Youth STEM Summit fills a much‑needed gap. And speaking with some of the delightful young women and men who are part of this, I asked them, I said, you know, “What have you learnt? What has this done?” And what I got out of their responses was that the things that they didn’t learn at school; the analytical, problem‑solving approaches to their work that they didn’t learn at school they are learning through this program. So, certainly a very important program that fills a much‑needed gap.
I am absolutely delighted to speak to you on the final day of this summit. I feel like a real underachiever in this room because talking to the young people, they’re studying degrees I can’t even pronounce. Micro bioceutical, radiological, biological, radio frequency, aerospace—and music! I am in absolute awe of all of you and what you have achieved in your lives thus far and I am absolutely inspired by where you are going to go next and where you’re going to take this. And I’m also inspired to actually learn how to pronounce many of your university degrees. I hope that you also feel inspired and that the summit has helped you to have a vision for your full potential and how you can realise your full potential in your chosen STEM field, to follow your dream career path and the jobs of the future.
It is a rare thing. It is a rare thing that people, an individual, can do a job that they love. And there’s that saying that, you know, if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. There are so many people who are working in areas that they have very little interest or passion in. To have a fire in your belly and a passion for something is such a precious, precious thing and to have it at such a young age, I say to you, “Feed that fire. Nurture that fire. Help that fire in your belly grow and follow your passion, because that fire in your belly will be the guiding light for your path to realising your dreams.”
Myself, I am a passionate advocate of education, because in my own life, my own life is testimony to the power of education, to its ability to lift. For me, it was lifting myself and my children out of poverty as a young single mother dealing with the trauma of fleeing family and domestic violence with a three‑year‑old and a one‑year‑old. And I have seen and witnessed the power of education to transform lives. Not just my own, but as a professor I also started up a not-for-profit charity with young people, working specifically with young people vulnerable to violence, and saw the power of education there.
So, it’s wonderful to know that over the period of the summit, you’ve had the opportunity to share your experiences, to exchange your ideas and to build on the skills that you already have and to be heard directly on the issues that matter most to you. Listening to the ideas of young people, learning from your experiences is something that I am very dedicated to doing in this term as the Minister for Youth in our Government: ensuring that your lived experience, your knowledge, your skills, your wisdom, is accounted for, acknowledged and listened to. Too often, we push young people aside because we think that the older you get, the wiser you get. Let me tell you: that’s not true. There’s some people that as they get older, they get more stupid!
So, one of the things that this Government is really dedicated to is bringing in young people to be part of the conversation, especially in the areas that you’re passionate about. And what I have heard very loudly and very clearly is that young people haven’t felt that your ideas, your experiences, your lived experiences, have been listened to in the past. So, we’re working to turn this around. We’re working to rebuild that connection between Government and young people.
One of the first things that I did as the Minister for Youth was to re‑establish the Office for Youth within the Department of Education. The office had existed in the past but was abolished by the previous Government in 2013. So, it hadn’t existed – sorry, not 2013, 2016. So, it hadn’t existed for six years, or seven years this year. Maths! So, we re‑established the Office for Youth and the role of the Office for Youth is really about harmonising policies that impact young Australians across all of Government. Earlier this month, we launched our national youth consultations and they’re an opportunity to directly engage with you, with your friends and with other young Australians.
The Office for Youth is currently moving around the country speaking with young people such as yourselves but in a different way than you would expect from Government. So we’re about to head to a local dirt-bike race near Mildura in Victoria to speak to young competitors. We have just been in Sydney to speak to those of you who attended the Supanova Expo and in July we’ll be up near Darwin speaking to young Territorians at the Palmerston Youth Festival. So, don’t be surprised if you see us at your local community, at your local sporting or cultural events, where we are going to where young people are in order to reach the diversity and listen to the diversity of views of young people, about what they need and what they want from this Government. Now you can find out about upcoming consultations or do a quick survey by going to youth.gov.au and by following the Office for Youth on social media to keep up to date on the work we are doing to support you and the work of our youth steering committee and our youth advisory groups, or you can talk to Ewa and Frank today. You can have a chat to them.
The Youth Advisory Group on the Promotion of STEM brings together eight young Australians aged between 16 and 22 to work directly with the Government on a range of issues in STEM that affect young people. The group provides advice directly to Minister Ed Husic, the Minister for Industry and Science and Resources. And they’re working on a wide range of issues, including the best way to foster stronger engagement and representation for young people in STEM and addressing barriers to participation, which I’m sure all of you have some knowledge about and can provide some input into, and particularly for young women and, particularly for diverse young people. I’m glad to see the advisory groups focus on this topic, because it’s very clearly something that the National Youth Summit fills the gap in and very clearly something that young people want.
The work of the advisory group complements events such as this and brings even more young people to the table on the important issue of STEM promotion. It’s crucial that we acknowledge the importance of representation in supporting the next generation of leaders. I also want to stress the importance of greater diversity in the STEM workforce because diversity helps you to build a stronger science system. And it was wonderful to meet many of the young women participating in the National Youth Summit today, and I do want to acknowledge the different forms of diversity among your student cohort and the young people present here today.
The Albanese Government is working to achieve greater diversity in Australia’s science and technology sectors and to build our STEM workforce capabilities, so we’re supporting more people to enter STEM‑related fields in a variety of ways. From early learning, right through schooling, we fund a range of programs aimed at teachers, supporting engagement of students in STEM. And we also fund programs such as Curious Minds, which is a very apt description of children, isn’t it? Why? Why? Everything is why? Why is the sky blue? Why is it that it’s sunny, but there’s still ice on the road? That’s something I asked my driver this morning! Another question was: why do humans think they can live in such cold weather? It killed the dinosaurs!
So, Curious Minds supports a pipeline of girls and young women to go into further studies or employment in STEM‑related fields. In addition, we’ve also committed 1.2 million tech‑related jobs by 2030 and I think we’re well on our way to achieving that. As an outcome of the Jobs and Skills Summit held last year, we are partnering with the Tech Council of Australia to deliver virtual work experience programs for high school students and recent school leavers, and I think you’ll all agree that, you know, to really meet the demands and the challenges of STEM jobs in the future, we do need to change the way that schooling approaches science. These siloed biology, physics, chemistry – I think we need a different approach. I mean, I remember studying science at school and I loved biology but lacked interest in the other forms of science. And perhaps if I was taught science in a different way, my life might have taken a different path. So, work on this exciting program looking at how we deliver better science teaching to schools is well underway, and that online program that I mentioned earlier will be coming online next year and I look forward to seeing that.
I just want to finish by thanking you all again, and I thank you for – you know, one of the great things about being a Minister for Youth is I get to meet so many young people who are doing such amazing and exciting things. And there’s so much in this world and especially being in Parliament where it’s such an adversarial nature to politics – you know, you look on the front page of the newspaper, and there’s a lot to be discouraged about. I was saying to the young people I was speaking to earlier, when I was a child, which was a very long time ago, the vision of the future portrayed in movies and in cartoons like The Jetsons was a positive one. You know, we’re all going to be in flying cars and have robot waiters with cute little bowties – cute bowties! And it was picture-perfect. And at some point the vision of the future and indeed of science in the future turned bleak. And it went from utopia to dystopia. And instead of serving us our tea and coffee and breakfast in the morning, the robots wanted to kill us and eat us. And I was thinking about this yesterday and I was thinking about: When did this happen? When did we lose our hope for the future? One of the great things about this job and one of the things I thank you for from the bottom of my heart this morning is for giving me hope and inspiration for the future. And that’s what you’re doing. That’s what you’re doing, Melanie, through this program.
So, congratulations on the program. Thank you so much for allowing me to meet you this morning and to speak with you this morning. And congratulations now for all the amazing things you’re going to do in the future. Thank you.
Media contact: Hannah Porter – 0499 976 340