Cultural Exchange to bring Deadly Science to WA

The Deadly Science Getaway program gives young Aboriginal women from remote communities experience at scientific endeavors amongst amazing environments and leaders in a variety of scientific fields. The goal is to inspire young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to pursue careers that motivate and inspire them, while experiencing some of Australia’s wildest places with ‘scientific eyes’.

With thanks to the Bendigo Bank, Aboriginal Program Coordinator Bianca McNeair was able to travel to Townsville, Queensland to attend the 2017 Goolboddi (Orpheus Island) Deadly Science Getaway. Bianca was able to share a cultural exchange with the Queensland James Cook University Deadly Science team and participants; and gain skills to support the creation of a Deadly Science experience for Western Australian young Aboriginal women.

Bianca McNeair at the Orpheus Island James Cook University Research Station
Bianca McNeair at the Orpheus Island James Cook University Research Station

The Orpheus Island Deadly Science Getaway currently involves young women from some of the remotest communities in north Queensland, including Wujal Wujal, Coen, Aurukun, Lockart River and New Mapoon in Cape York and Bwgcolman (Palm Island).

Spotting sting ray tracks, identifying coral and shells, and observing fish behaviors were a few of the activities the participants enjoyed while snorkeling at Orpheus Island. Career aspirations and education opportunities were also discussed throughout the trip.

While on the island everyone had the opportunity to learn from Ethnobotanist Gerry Turpin from the Tropical Indigenous Ethnobotany Centre (TIEC) at the Australian Tropical Herbarium in Cairns. Gerry talked about the different plants on the island and their uses while also connecting them with cultural and community knowledge, often learning different language names from the participants that had come from different areas of Queensland.

While sharing traditional basket weaving techniques in the most amazing setting, Bianca was able to spend time with young Aboriginal women  and share knowledge about culture, community and country.

“One of my favourite experiences on this trip was just talking to the girls about what they did with their families in their communities. What they harvested, when they harvested them and what they used them for. I think I learnt as much, if not more, from the participants than what they had learnt from me.” Said Bianca McNeair.

Deadly Science Director Blanche D’Anastasi said this year was very special. “Hearing the Deadly Science women talk about how inspired they were by the Indigenous Leaders, Bianca and Gerry, who shared their incredible stories, was very special for me,” she said.”But the most inspirational part of all was hearing our young women start planning the first ever Deadly Science Getaway to be led by Deadly Science Graduates, in their communities. These smart, strong women are already planning where we will stay and who they will work with. We are so excited to be part of this important step in 2018, and to support them as Indigenous leaders.”

Getting ready for a snorkeling adventure!
Getting ready for a snorkeling adventure!

While the snorkeling and fish watching was hard work, planning for the Western Australian Deadly Science trip also had to be done. With an equally diverse and unique environment, the WA Deadly Science trip looks to be an exciting extension program opportunity.

Bringing together two way learning opportunities for young Aboriginal women while also spending time caring for country creates spaces that are innovative and inclusive and provides many opportunities to walk together and share the responsibility and rewards of environmental stewardship.

Blanche and Bianca have big plans for young Aboriginal women in Western Australia and look forward to the contribution these young women are having to our future environment.

The WA events will be held in addition to the Deadly Science annual program at James Cook University’s Orpheus Island Research Station, in partnership with program delivery partners at Transition Support Services, Department of Education and Training, Queensland Government, and James Cook University.

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