National Science Week 2021

National Science Week 2021

‘I rise to speak in relation to National Science Week: 14 to 22 August was National Science Week. Established in 1997, it is a week that aims to encourage an interest in scientific pursuits among the general public, and to encourage younger people to be fascinated by the world we live in.

National Science Week is a program of Inspiring Australia, a national strategy for getting Australians engaged with the sciences. Each state and territory has an Inspiring Australia manager to help build local networks and provide year-round science engagement opportunities. Nearly 1.2 million people each year take part in the events and activities, which is an outstanding record of the program.

Nationally, Science Week is proudly supported by the Australian government in a variety of ways, including the provision of up to $500,000 for the National Science Week grants program. Other partners include the CSIRO, the ABC and the Australian Science Teachers Association.

In South Australia, Inspiring SA works in partnership with the South Australian government, the South Australian Museum, the University of South Australia, the University of Adelaide and Flinders University. Its activities are guided by principles such as personal engagement with the process of science, building capacity through collaboration by optimising our state’s strengths and resources, and undertaking approaches and activities that are innovative, imaginative and explore new opportunities.

In 2020, we saw the launch of the first ever Virtual Science Week Festival, where the majority of events and activities took place online. This innovative concept of delivering science to the South Australian community from a distance must be acknowledged and congratulated. Inspiring SA, like many more of our community and government organisations, showed how adaptable South Australians can be. This year, they planned a mix of in-person and virtual events, along with the development of the alternate reality game Deep Blue Treasure Hunt, which saw families explore our local coastlines as part of a fun and educational activity.

Science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine are increasingly visible in our everyday lives. The last year has been a test of our collective skills and efforts in this area, and our experienced and capable frontline workers and health professionals have made South Australia one of the safest places in the world. We must also thank the meteorologists, bushfire propagation mathematicians and others involved in helping our firefighters battle the bushfires we experienced in the summer before the pandemic. Many of us owe our safety to these people.

But it does not take a crisis to step back and appreciate our STEM professionalsβ€”those scientists and researchers working on treatments for cancers and neurological disorders, the engineers working on our roads and infrastructure, and the mathematicians working in our schools and institutions. These are the everyday efforts that National Science Week highlights, and it focuses on STEM in schools to open young South Australians’ eyes to the emerging opportunities in science-related industries in this state.

Our government has an exciting agenda, encouraging the growth of science-based industries aimed at creating jobs for South Australians. This agenda is materialising with the local defence industry. Ship and submarine building continue to be a significant source of jobs, with Naval Group opening its $25 million headquarters in Port Adelaide last year. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison officially opened the Raytheon Centre for Joint Integration in Mawson Lakes.

Outside of defence, the state Liberal government delivered, in conjunction with the federal Liberal government, the historic announcement of the Australian Space Agency right here on Lot Fourteen. The Australian space industry will not only directly employ South Australians in science-related jobs but will drive investment in our state and indirectly create many more opportunities in South Australia.

Opportunity and excitement in all the sciences is all around us, particularly here in South Australia. There has never been a better time to pursue STEM education and jobs, whether they be in the defence industry, space industry or emerging industries such as cybersecurity. I am excited by the role science will play in South Australia’s growth, but I am equally as excited by what South Australia can contribute to science.

As I reflect over the past 18 months of the global crisis, I am reminded of a saying spruiked by my old science teacher whenever we were getting a bit ratty in the classroom. He would say, ‘Class, think like a proton and stay positive.’ There is much in the future of this state to be positive about and I thank the people behind National Science Week and Inspiring SA for showcasing our bright future. Thank you.’

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