House debates

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Constituency Statements

Science meets Parliament

10:06 am

Photo of David SmithDavid Smith (Bean, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Last Thursday, I had the privilege of meeting with some brilliant scientists and engineers through the Science meets Parliament program, hosted by Science & Technology Australia.

Science meets Parliament is Australia's premier event connecting emerging STEM leaders with decision-makers, improving communication and understanding of our world-leading work across science, technology, engineering and maths. Science & Technology Australia do extraordinary work. They're also responsible for the Superstars of STEM program, and it was a privilege to work closely with them when I worked for Professionals Australia.

This program is more important than ever. In recent decades, the STEM community, even whilst being undermined by some, has worked furiously to both communicate and address the consequence of climate change. It is through their expertise that we learnt of the threat, and, through science and engineering, we shall hopefully conquer it. More recently, the STEM community has been thrown the challenge of COVID-19 and has ably stepped up to the challenge despite all the difficulties of lockdowns and a disrupted global system.

Rohan Byrne was one individual who joined these efforts when he delayed his graduation in order to contribute to the pandemic response. A planetary scientist and cross-disciplinary engineer, Rohan contributes to the vital modelling of various scientific phenomena. From preventing death, we move to the creation of life with Ms Pia Astbury, an embryologist running an IVF lab. Ms Astbury was awarded a Dean's Commendation for Academic Excellence at UQ and has had her work published widely. All the while, she has struggled with dyslexia and dyscalculia. Pia is an inspiring young scientist and seeks to mentor and advocate for young women that wish to step into the pivotal world of STEM, as well as advocating for key changes to fertility education.

Looking skyward is Dr Natasha Hurley-Walker, a passionate radio astronomer. Holding her PhD from Cambridge, Dr Hurley-Walker is working towards the delivery of the world's biggest telescope, the SKA, in Australia and South Africa. She is a true superstar of STEM. Deep under the earth's crust lies Dr Teresa Ubide's research as a vulcanologist. Dr Ubide has researched the nature of volcanoes and their triggering mechanisms, bringing us closer to understanding how and when a volcano will erupt, research that will be vital for many countries in our region that are in the Ring of Fire.

Dr Sarah Atkinson and Dr Janna Fabris are both part of the third cohort of the Australian Science Policy Fellowship Program, a program that is injecting experienced science and engineering professionals back into the Australian Public Service agencies—a good program, championed by Australia's Chief Scientist. This is just a taste of the great work being done by our scientists in this country. We need to back this great work with a greater commitment to ongoing, certain careers across industry, academia and the public sector. Our future depends upon doing so.