Speech at the Prime Minister's Prizes for Science 2022

Parliament House Canberra

ED HUSIC, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY AND SCIENCE: Good evening. How are you all? Oh, come on! That's what I'm talking about. 

Great to be here. I want to begin by acknowledging the Ngunnawal people who are the traditional owners of the lands on which we gather today; I pay respect to all Elders past and present. And I acknowledge, if I may, any other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people here. If I may emphasise to you, a big thing for our Government is to do more on this very important path in recognising First Nations knowledge. It's a very deliberate reason. 

Without going too much into the detail, there's a very deliberate reason as to why that [knowledge has] not [been] recognised. A number of things were done over the years, stopping people from talking in their mother tongue, then impeding the ability of storytelling to pass on those lessons, and then all of that process in terms of reinforcing, dispossession. 

We will, in our own small part, recognise this in many different ways and attend to it in many different ways. The start is through the refresh of the National Science Priorities, where we will, as a priority, recognise First Nations knowledge. 

We also recognise the great work in advancing that. Corey [Tutt from Deadly Science] gave me this great [book]. I'm not gonna do the whole [available at all good book stores]. But I did get it autographed, so make sure that was here. Thanks, Corey. 

There's a lot of people I want to welcome, a lot of colleagues here... This part of the building was designed to contain egos, but not this many minds in the one space. … I thought that mind land better. 

It is good to have you all back here. And can I just say, I'm sorry I was late. We had a cabinet meeting, went on for a bit. Took a hell of a long time to get in that cabinet room and it's bad if I rush out, if you don't mind me saying. And we're also landing our National Reconstruction Fund, for which we will be looking to introduce legislation very shortly. So that's going to be happening soon, which will be very important to support a lot of things that you are undertaking. So please forgive me for being late and missing out on embarrassing [former director of Questacon] Graham Durant again. I've been saying - there's Graham, how are you? 

I loved how much you're recognising all previous [PM Science Prize recipients] and thank you for all your contributions. I thought it was very touching to see you all recognised. But it's particularly to Graham, 19 years of public service at Questacon, helping inspire the next minds of our nation, you and the team, but in particular, if we may recognise, that is a mighty [achievement]. 

Graham is stopping attending these functions because every time I see him, I always recognise him. And he's a very modest person, but that is a record, you do not need to be modest about. That's something we all need to celebrate, so thank you to all the colleagues from the House and from the Senate that are here tonight and that are here with you, supporting what you do, I just want to welcome you all. I think the fact that we can celebrate in the same room once more after two years of interruptions makes the occasion even more special. I mean, paying tribute to scientists, innovators, science teachers in particular, if I may say, who are making outstanding contributions to our country. 

For more than 20 years, these awards have recognised achievements in scientific research and excellence. And the government certainly acknowledges the extraordinary achievements and contributions made by you all. You are all in some way contributing to the science literacy and engagement of science of all Australians. Vital as more and more areas of our lives, our work, our health, our well-being, require some fundamental understanding of science. 

The Government firmly believes in the importance of this. It's not just about learning, it's about living. We have a big, all of us, job to do. We have, all of us, great ambition, a lot of work we cannot, we need to call up all people to walk towards the community, to be involved and not hold people back through building pointless walls, biases and preventing people from being able to contribute to their fullest, regardless of who they are. Girls, women, First Nations people, people from regional, remote Australia, LGBTIQA+ people, people with a disability, people from education disadvantaged backgrounds, were all underrepresented in STEM. 

Instead, we need to be able to give them they've got the enthusiasm and interest we want to participate in the national interest, in what we can do to build a better nation. We need to be able to provide that platform of training and skills development and put that energy to work. We all need to work on this front together. 
So inclusivity, diversity, these are very important priorities. While they may not necessarily seem like a scientific endeavour, you all know in your hearts how important this work, this task will be.

We are all very ambitious for this country; the reason why so many of my colleagues are here. Regardless of parties, regardless of whether they’re members of the House or Senate, we are all here because we believe in the value and the power of Australian ideas to improve not only the wellbeing of our nation, but to make a global impact, to contribute at a global scale, to improve the lives of the many, not the few. And we need to celebrate what you do. And importantly too, if I may say, we need to back what you do.

I know how hard your work has been, particularly through the last few years, where you have to have challenge and [while] sometimes you appreciate [that] you'll get challenged, [from quarters that] may not necessarily understand the full breadth of your work. What's got me, though, is you've had challenge from corners you would never expect. You would expect to know better. 

Friends, those days are over. You have a government that is committed to involving more science, more of what you do, to embed that in the heart of policy and decision-making because we recognise, fundamentally, what drives you is to create that better future for all. 

We are in the same game, the same business, the same mission, the same purpose, and we will do better together. That's how it's always been, how it always should be. So, thank you to you all, for what you have done. It is a true honour to be able to spend time with each and every one of you and to be able to say to you all that we will back up not only with words, but with deeds. 

We will work together to be able to achieve that. Please have a great night. I want you to know, promise you all, we're here, and from here, we're with you.