Pioneering collaboration between Indigenous communities and Macquarie wins Eureka Prize for STEM inclusion

The NISEP program has helped almost 1000 Indigenous school children enter leadership roles.

National Indigenous Science Education Program Eureka Prizes 2019 © Salty Dingo 2019 CRG-7382

The National Indigenous Science Education Program (NISEP), based at the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Sydney’s Macquarie University, won the inaugural the Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion at the 2019 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.

The awards were held in Sydney on Wednesday, August 28.

NISEP began in 2005 after Elders from the NSW Yaegl and Bundjalung communities approached Macquarie University to discuss strategies for building interest in STEM among young people.

Under the guidance of Associate Professor Joanne Jamie, Dr Ian Jamie and Associate Professor Subramanyam Vemulpad, NISEP comprises a collective of Aboriginal Elders, academics and high school staff.

“The Eureka Prize is a fantastic testament to the power of those initial discussions and the determination of the communities,” says Professor Jamie.

“STEM is all about building an evidence base, and the fact that more than 1000 young people have achieved leadership through NISEP so far is strong evidence that this approach works.”

By fostering interest in STEM studies, the organisation aims to encourage Indigenous school students to consider moving through into tertiary education, and to use their knowledge to spark science-based discussions within Indigenous communities.

It currently operates in 13 high schools in low socio-economic rural, regional and metropolitan areas, and has a presence in three universities. In the past year it has placed around 200 students into leadership positions.

Across its history it has trained more than 1000 students as STEM leaders.

Recent surveys revealed that six in 10 secondary student leaders reported an increased desire to go on to Year 12 or higher education, seven in 10 had an increased interest in science, and nine in 10 found being a leader a good or inspiring experience.

The success of NISEP, adds Professor Jamie, rests on its collaborative nature, and the fact that it grew out of the aspirations of local Indigenous communities.

As well as ongoing school science shows, NISEP has staged successful events at Macquarie University and Charles Stuart University, National Science Week and the Australian Museum.

National Indigenous Science Education Program Dr Ian Jamie, Deborah Breckenridge, Associate Professor Joanne Jamie, Uncle Ronald Heron. Associate Professor Subramanyam Vemulpad, winners Department of Industry, Innovation ans Science Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion. 2019 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes © Salty Dingo 2019 CRG