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Speech at the National Youth Science Forum Annual Dinner

Australian Institute of Sport Canberra

13 January 2016

Hi everyone, it’s great to be back for the National Youth Science Forum annual dinner.

I’d like to acknowledge:

  • the board of directors and members of the National Science Summer School

  • Dr Nick Gales—Director, Australian Antarctic Division

  • Professor Graham Durant—Director, Questacon

  • Mr Geoff McNamara—2014 winner, Prime Minister’s Prize for Science in Secondary Teaching, and

  • Representatives of the National Youth Science Forum funding partners.

As the new year rolls on, I’d like to wish all our student participants the very best for 2016.

I hope you had a wonderful time with your families and friends during the festive season.

It takes some commitment to give up part of your school holidays to be here so early in the New Year.

That says something about the young people who pass through this program.

It shows how much you value this forum and how motivated you are to follow the science path.

There’s a lot to be gained from participating in the National Youth Science Forum.

From its humble beginnings in the 80s as the National Science Summer School, this forum is now a source of inspiration for our future scientists and engineers.

As we mark its 30th anniversary, I congratulate everyone who has contributed to its success.

I understand it’s been a busy time for you and I’m sure you’ve had lots of fun too—science is more fun than many people think.

You’ve had science quizzes, seminars, communication workshops, lab visits and debates—all important for furthering your interest and knowledge in science.

But they’re also helping prepare you for some of the most crucial and exciting roles in our society.

Roles as researchers, innovators, inventors, engineers, educators and other science-based careers that Australia needs for its future development.

I encourage you to continue with your science studies to help you make the most of these opportunities.

After all, a university science course is almost within your reach, so go for it.

Soon, you could play vital roles in the Australian Government’s plan to transform Australia into a modern, dynamic, 21st century economy that thrives on science and innovation.

I’m sure you’ve heard Prime Minister Turnbull say many times that the Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile, innovative and creative.

Young people like you, keen to study STEM or science, technology, engineering and maths and pursue these as a career, are our best hope of realising this vision.

Australia’s ongoing prosperity will increasingly depend on our ability to innovate—create new ideas, new tools and new processes to meet our needs and solve our problems more effectively.

No field of study, no field of work, is better placed to help us achieve this than STEM.

We need more students to study STEM subjects and pursue STEM careers to support an innovation culture.

We want more young people like you to get the STEM qualifications that will enable you to work with industry to turn research breakthroughs into commercial success.

This will help Australia compete with other nations, while you also enjoy fulfilling and well-paid careers.

The Government has a new plan that will help us bring all this together.

It is called the National Innovation and Science Agenda. The Government launched it in December.

Through this agenda, we’re investing $1.1 billion to ensure innovation and science drive the economy.

Initiatives include helping students prepare for the jobs of the future.

Did you know that most of the fastest growing jobs in Australia require STEM skills?

These are high-skill, high-paying jobs in biotechnology, healthcare, advanced manufacturing, ICT and so on.

You must be proud you are on the right track, but we want to see more students like you.

The Government will invest over $40 million to generate interest in STEM among students from their earliest ages and $50 million to give them the computing skills to succeed in 21st century jobs.

All Year 5 and 7 students will have the chance to learn computer coding through online challenges.

We’ll also give teachers support to implement the Digital Technologies Curriculum, including bringing scientists and ICT specialists to classrooms to help.

We’ve set aside funding to give more women greater opportunities to study and work in STEM fields.

Additionally, the agenda will help boost collaboration between researchers and industry and offer incentives to help turn great ideas into commercial reality.

Science-engagement activities are also important.

Like Questacon’s fun-filled activities to promote science and technology in our community, and the Australian Academy of Science’s programs to improve science and maths teaching and learning in schools.

Of course, there’s the National Youth Science Forum.

In fact, the forum is one of several initiatives the Government will support under the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

And as you pursue your science ambitions, you can take comfort in the knowledge that there are people in the STEM community who are ready to help.

You’ve already seen that throughout this forum.

To all the university science researchers, academics, industry representatives and others helping at this forum, I say thank you.

And to the students, I wish you the very best in your studies and hope you come out of this program more determined than ever to be our future scientists.

Thank you.