Speech at the Engineering Innovation Hub

Parramatta NSW

Thanks everyone, and I do want to recognise we are on Darug Land and pay respect to Elders, past and present. It's great to have Andrew [Charlton] here as the Federal Member for Parramatta and someone who I quoted his work so often, I was expecting him to invoice me and now he's a Federal Member, I can't get those invoices!

It is good to have someone with Andrew's passion and interest in this space as well. 

Misha [Schubert] from Science & Technology Australia – I want to extend my deepest and our Government's deep gratitude for your belief. You need the energy to drive that and that is powered by the belief from yourself and your entire team about what science and technology can do. 

To you all – I’m in awe, and deeply respectful of your contributions to society. The big thing for us longer term if we want a better future, if we want better opportunity, if we want to see the country grow, this will simply not fall in our laps. It is not there for us to just flick a switch and expect that that will occur. It requires that thought, the idea, what sparks things and then driving it through.

What [else] is required to achieve that change at scale? One of my big things is that we have so much work to do and yet we still have these walls, these barriers that are built by people among themselves as to who will contribute and who will not. They are there because of those biases that exist in the mind. And when you [participants in the Superstars of STEM program] were speaking to me before it spoke to me deeply as well, as someone from an ethnic background too, you do feel that. 

And we feel it in this city too, in many respects, one half, and the other – and this happens in different parts of the country as well. Which is why when you said and we were all laughing about you literally being from the Back O' Bourke. 

I know those challenges where you don't have necessarily people with the same interests and are looking at the same things that you can lean on to bounce ideas from. And so, in some cases, some of you are here having been in different parts of the country, where the challenge is even greater because it's not just an issue in respect to diversity, but it's also where you live and what opportunity is afforded to you. 

So, from my perspective, we've started that work [to bring down those barriers] - one, of talking about this a lot more vigorously on the national stage because, similar to what Misha [Schubert] said, it has that profound attitude-altering impact and trying to make people open their eyes to the existence of the walls that I said that are there so we can smash those down. 

And the other thing is too, to be able to have people have a sense of ownership. This is a national mission - we need every single person involved. And by being able to have a program like this, why I'm so committed to supporting this continuing, is because of all those things. 

We are doing a review of our national STEM programs. I came in and saw all these programs and my thing was, if I can assure you, it was not about stopping it, it was about scaling it up. 

And as you well know, once you find things that work, you want to do more of that and less of the stuff that just is not delivering for you. And what we also want to see is to get the best components of those programs. Because not just in my portfolio, these STEM programs, particularly encouraging women in STEM, exist across so many departments. 

There are about three hundred of these programs that exist. So why don't we get the best design features, spread those out? - what a radical idea! 

We want to see that happen at the outcome of all that work as well. But the reason why I respect what you are doing is because you are shining a light on the ones that will follow. That is the most important thing - what you are doing in terms of your individual contributions and what you've been given the platform through Science & Technology Australia to do, you are giving the platform for the ones that follow. 

So, I thank you very much for what you are doing - and I'm going to invite Andrew [Charlton] if he doesn't mind to speak as well. 

But if I may say, in terms of your individual contributions, what you're doing for everyone else, particularly for the science and research community, we cannot thank you enough for what you are doing to build a better life for the rest of us. 

So thank you so much.