Standing up for Canberra

Prime Minister's Prizes for Science

I have just returned to the parliament after enjoying a breakfast down at the Academy of Science's wonderful Shine Dome at the ANU. The breakfast was called to celebrate the winners of the Prime Minister's Prizes for Science, and it was a real honour and privilege to meet those winners. I did not get the chance to see them last night because I was at another event.

I want to send congratulations to Professor Graham Farquhar for winning the Prime Minister's Prize for Science; Laureate Professor Graeme Jameson for winning the Prime Minister's Prize for Innovation; Dr Jane Elith for winning the Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year—it is great to see a woman there, Madam Deputy Speaker; Associate Professor Cyrille Boyer for winning the Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year; Rebecca Johnson for winning the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools; and Ken Silburn for winning the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools.

The focus of the last two awards is on education, and it was wonderful to meet with a number people from the Academy of Science who are engaged in a range of programs to bring science literacy to students at the high school level, at the primary school level and also at the preschool level. I spoke to Professor Denis Goodrum and his colleagues about Primary Connections, a program that has been going for 10 years which gives schools a range of resources and takes science students at primary school. Not only does it provide schools and teachers with their resources, it also gives teachers the skills to teach science. They are also piloting the Little Scientists program, which is based on a German model where very little children are introduced to the joys of science. I also heard about the Science by Doing program, which is also a fantastic program rolled out at the high school level.

At the breakfast I also had a chance to meet with a number of people who are involved in the early to midrange career programs, particularly the SAGE program, which is targeting gender inequity for women in science. It was great to hear about the real advances they have made, particularly in getting greater appreciation and acknowledgement of women's career breaks in the ARC grant process and also in the other activities they are involved in to address the brain drain that we have here in Australia, particularly for those early to mid-career scientists.

As was pointed out to me, science is life; it is not just for scientists. We are engaged in it in every way every day. It was wonderful to meet these extraordinary Australian scientists this morning.

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