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The Big Mob, STEM it up!, project informs Pathway to Diversity in STEM Review

The Office of the Women in STEM Ambassador is supporting the Commonwealth Government’s Pathway to Diversity in STEM Review with research that will examine the effectiveness of initiatives supporting the retention and progression of women and other underrepresented groups in STEM careers. This research will provide crucial insights into what works and what doesn’t, informing the development of interventions to address existing inequities and improve diversity within the STEM workforce.  

The Pathway to Diversity Review will provide recommendations to the Australian Government on how to support access and inclusivity within STEM education, careers, and industries. These findings and recommendations will be presented to the government by an independent expert panel.

The key activities being undertaken to support the review include:

  • the research project led by Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador,
  • an evaluation of the department’s women in STEM programs,
  • and engagement with a diverse range of stakeholders and the Australian public.  

The Office of Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador has split the research project into two streams. One stream, led by Dr Jesse Bergman, focuses on women and other underrepresented groups, you can find more detail about this project here

“S.T.E.M in Community” Artwork by Wagiman Artist, Tara-Rose Gonebale

“This artwork depicts the importance of collaboration between Indigenous communities and Non-Indigenous communities within the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It speaks to the traditional ecological knowledge of Indigenous people, and how it can be integrated into modern practices of today.” More details about the artist can be found below.

Another stream called the Big Mob, STEM it up!, is being led by Associate Professor Marnee Shay from the University of Queensland. Shay’s project will examine the systemic and cultural barriers that hinder Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement in STEM jobs and the strengths and contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in STEM fields.

“We have a general understanding through research now on the barriers for our people in undertaking a STEM education and career pathway. We need different ways of looking at old problems. Big Mob, STEM It Up seeks to understand Indigenous participation in STEM through a strengths-based lens. We will listen to the stories of our people who have excelled in STEM despite the barriers. We will also get to hear from our people from diverse community backgrounds to gain a broader understanding through Indigenous voices on strengths, barriers, and aspirations.”

The announcement of the Pathway to Diversity in STEM review has highlighted the importance of Indigenous participation in STEM. A background paper from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Council reveals that while there has been recent growth in Indigenous student enrolment in STEM higher education courses, it still falls short of achieving parity with non-Indigenous students and other fields of study. This disparity in STEM enrolment directly affects the representation of Indigenous peoples in STEM careers.

The 2019-20 Youth in STEM survey provided some information about the challenges faced by students entering STEM, but there is still a significant gap in data specifically addressing Indigenous students. A lack of larger-scale studies that prioritise Indigenous voices in STEM means our understanding of the unique experiences and barriers faced by Indigenous youth in STEM are limited.

The Big Mob, STEM it up! project represents a commitment to dismantling barriers to Indigenous participation in STEM.

“Through looking at the persistent problem of low Indigenous participation in STEM in a different way, we are expecting to learn something new about addressing the issue that is Indigenous informed and addresses key policy challenges.”

Through its research, the Big Mob, STEM it up! project will delve into the experiences and perspectives of Indigenous peoples in STEM across industry, community, and education. 

Shay underscores the project’s significance: “Our team is using multiple methods to explore Indigenous strengths and aspirations in STEM. We will also create resources through the research process, such as a podcast series, that will be a valuable resource for not only our mob interested in STEM but for institutions seeking to increase Indigenous participation in STEM.”

The Big Mob, STEM it up! project aims to promote Indigenous participation in STEM and break down barriers that have historically hindered representation in the field. By addressing the unique challenges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples face, the project strives to create pathways for Indigenous individuals to excel and contribute their invaluable perspectives and knowledge to the STEM community.

Through rigorous research, meaningful engagement with Indigenous communities, and the development of evidence-based recommendations, the Big Mob, STEM it up! project will significantly contribute to the Pathway to Diversity in STEM review’s overarching mission of fostering an inclusive and diverse STEM landscape to ensure that Indigenous peoples are properly represented, valued, and actively engaged in the advancement of STEM disciplines.

The artwork for the Big Mob STEM it up! project was done by Naarm Artist, Tara Gonebale. Tara-Rose is a proud Wagiman Woman from the Western Suburbs of Naarm (Melbourne). She has been an exhibiting artist from as young as eight years of age and has worked in Aboriginal community services for the last ten years. Tara is currently working with mob in the correctional space as an Aboriginal Mental Health Worker.

You can see more work by Tara on her Instagram page or Facebook Page, or search for her using her username, MARLIMARLI.

Media contacts

For further information contact Becky Laurence,, 0466 942 077

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