WA STEM strategy highlights state’s science skills

Scientist of the year, Professor Phil Bland.

The Western Australian government’s Future Job, future skills – Driving STEM skills in Western Australia strategy, announced in May 2019, this week announced the brightest minds and support for the next generation of scientists.

In a ceremony held as part of National Science Week, the Premier’s Science Awards highlighted those at the pinnacle of science research and technology application in the state. Top honours went to Professor Phil Bland and Professor Robert Newton who shared the Scientist of the Year accolade.

Coming from two disparate areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research, Bland’s work in planetary science and Newtown’s work in exercise science demonstrated the breadth of scientific endeavour in WA. Awards also went to Dr Adam Cross, for early career scientist of the year, Jessica Kretzmann, student scientist of the year, Sharynne Hamilton, for Aboriginal STEM student of the year, and Astrofest and Perth Observatory were joint winners of the science engagement initiative of the year award.

Commenting on the awards, WA Science Minister, Dave Kelly highlighted how science is a key component of the state’s potential.

“STEM is critical to Western Australia’s future, and it’s fantastic to see the local talent and achievements showcased through these Awards,” he said.

To nurture the next generation of minds who may in future go on to be recognised at these awards, the WA government also announced $738,000 in community-based STEM education programs.

Delivered as part of the Digital and Technology Skills Program, the projects that won funding will give participants competency in coding, data analysis, geospatial mapping, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence.

These programs have been particularly targeted to communities that are under-represented in STEM fields, particularly women, girls, Aboriginal people, and people living in regional and remote locations.

Winning projects include a makerspace in Bunbury Library, Fire Tech Camp Australia, for the Wirrpanda STEM Indigenous Project, the Indigenous Mapping Workshop developed by Winyama Pty Ltd, and Women in Technology WA for the Techtrails [tech+] Future Skills Program.

“This Government believes that all Western Australians should have the opportunity to develop STEM skills regardless of age, gender, race or postcode,” said Kelly.