The University of Newcastle, Australia

Indigenous trailblazer honoured

Thursday, 2 March 2017

University of Newcastle (UON) graduate Karlie Noon, the first Indigenous student in NSW to obtain a double degree in science and mathematics, has been honoured in a speech delivered to the National Press Club by Chair of Universities Australia Professor Barney Glover.

Universities Australia Chair Professor Barney Glover and UON graduate Karlie Noon.

As the first in her family to attend university, the 26-year-old Kamilaroi woman is humble about her achievements to date and is proud to be a role model for her family and community.

Professor Glover’s speech, preceded the launch of Universities Australia’s Indigenous Strategy 2017-2020, which sets ambitious targets to lift the university enrolment and completion rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

In the first national strategy of its kind, universities will seek to grow the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in university by 50 per cent above the growth rate of non-Indigenous students. The Strategy also sets a target of equal success and completion rates for Indigenous students to non-Indigenous students in the same fields of study over the next decade.

“Spreading opportunity fairly is an imperative for Australian universities,” Professor Glover said.

Professor Glover’s address to the Press Club paid tribute to Ms Noon’s achievements to date and highlighted her current focus - trying to identify and understand more about the sophisticated scientific knowledge embedded in Indigenous astronomy. Ms Noon is currently studying for her masters degree in astronomy and astrophysics at the Australian National University.

“Karlie has sifted through early European settler accounts of Indigenous stories about moon haloes. For the first Australians, those rings around the moon were storm predictors. In her area of expertise – published for wider Australia to share – Karlie is teaching us more about the history of our own country. And, she has an important message for other young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

"You're a natural scientist," she tells them. "Don't ever doubt that. It's in you. It's in your culture. We are so special. And we are so unique. Be proud of that. Do whatever you want." What a powerful message of inspiration and cultural pride.”

Keen to continue breaking barriers and forging new firsts as an Indigenous female in the field of science and maths, Ms Noon now has her sights set firmly on obtaining her PhD.

Read the full transcript of Professor Glover’s speech.

Find out more about Karlie’s story.

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