The University of Newcastle, Australia

Closing the gap on Indigenous STEM education

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The University of Newcastle (UON) is encouraging others to embrace its equity agenda with the launch of its first crowdfunding campaign - an Indigenous Science Communication scholarship.

The Indigenous Science Communication scholarship will enable an Indigenous university student to work with its highly successful Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) outreach program – the Science and Engineering Challenge for one semester and undertake an online science communication course.

With a proud history in Indigenous education and enrolments of UON Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at almost double the sector average, the crowdfunding campaign aims to address lower Indigenous participation rates in science and engineering.

Professor John Lester, Dean of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education and Research at UON’s renowned Wollotuka Institute, said the scholarship would help advocate for STEM in the Indigenous community.

“It gives an Indigenous university student an opportunity to learn new skills which will help them in their future career. It also creates a role model within the Indigenous community - an ambassador who can inspire school students to look at STEM education options which will increase STEM enrolments, participation and completions.”

“It also provides a really important avenue for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university students to bring their traditional culture into STEM education activities and show the strong link between Indigenous culture and science.”

“Despite strong growth in Indigenous admissions in recent years, the share of enrolments in science and engineering are well below that of other degree areas, such as education and arts. With 75% of the fastest growing occupations worldwide requiring STEM skills and knowledge, it’s vital this gap is addressed,” said Professor Lester.

The successful student will have the opportunity to travel around Australia with the Challenge team, learning beneficial leadership, communication and practical skills. In 2016, the Science and Engineering Challenge will run new events throughout the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Dr Terry Burns, Director of the Science and Engineering Challenge said the new events supported widening of participation in STEM.

“Our vision is to encourage all students, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, to consider a future career in Science and Engineering”, Dr Terry Burns, said.

The Science and Engineering crowdfunding campaign aims to raise $9000 and will run until Thursday 14 April 2016. View the launch video and crowdfunding page at

Related news