Speech at the Eureka Prizes for Science Awards Dinner

Sydney Town Hall

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Good evening. As you have just heard, I am Karen Andrews and I have been the Federal Science Minister for less than 36 hours.

But let me tell you this, when Scott Morrison phoned me on Sunday afternoon, and he said that he wanted to offer me a position in cabinet and he wanted to offer me the role as the Minister of Industry Science and Technology, I was one very happy person.

Science has always been very near and dear to my heart. As many in this room would know, my background is as a mechanical engineer. I will always be. I might just be a little bit naughty and say that there actually is quite a strong connection between engineering and politics because being good at numbers actually helps.

So science has been my passion since when I was very young.

Maths has also been an area that I was very comfortable in growing up.

So, when I had the opportunity to choose what my career was going to be post school, engineering was clearly an obvious one for me.

In my time as a parliamentarian, I have done all that I can to promote science amongst my colleagues, starting with co-chairing the Parliamentary Friends of Science.

I am hoping that in the role I have now, I will be able to ensure that there is much greater engagement between parliamentarians and the science community, because I think, quite frankly, that parliament would be a better place if they understood the significance of science.

So, whilst I am very new in my current role, I was previously the Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Science and also the Assistant Minister for Science.

So the last few hours have been taken up with a lot of briefings that have brought me back up to speed to cover the couple of years that I was out of the sector working in vocational education.

I can’t wait to roll my sleeves up to get back out into the sector and bring myself even further up to speed.

So, thank you so much for the welcome that you have given me tonight. It was fabulous just walking in the door and seeing so many familiar faces.

So, I am committed to making sure that STEM is front and centre of everything that I do, and takes a key role in what the federal government is going to be doing.

I’ve already reached out to our Chief Scientist. I’ll be talking to many of the agencies, some who I’ve actually already said hello to, I’ve met up with again tonight, and will be reaching out to them to talk to them, to make sure that I understand fully the issues that are of concern to you.

ANSTO here tonight, Questacon here tonight, and many others.

But I’ll be working closely with CSIRO. And I am actually pleased to announce tonight CSIRO will be gaining a new board member.

Ms Kathryn Fagg, who has worked for over 25 years in the steel, engineering, transport and logistics and the banking industries, will become a new board member of CSIRO.

I was very fortunate to be sitting next to Kathryn. Let’s give her a warm round of applause.

So, Kathryn has a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours from the University of Queensland, and I can say that I think that’s an outstanding achievement having an engineering degree.

Kathryn is certainly a true role model for girls who aspire to a career in STEM and she will be a valuable addition to the CSIRO’s board. And on that note, I should say encouraging young people, and particularly girls, to study STEM subjects and pursue careers in these fields, as I have already said, will be one of my priorities as the new minister for science.

So ladies and gentlemen, each year the Eureka Prizes gives us an opportunity to recognise the hard work of Australian scientists, researchers, science communicators, and science leaders.

I have to say that I am particularly thrilled to see Queensland, my home state, is represented amongst the finalists this year but well done to all of the finalists around Australia.

As you know, my department is a long time sponsor of the Eureka Prizes, and this year is supporting two prizes.

I’m honoured this evening as minister to present those prizes—for Innovation in Citizen Science, and for Science Journalism.

The Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science recognises the extraordinary work involving the public in the scientific process.

We know that people’s lives are improved when they engage in science and understand the role it plays in shaping society, and I am so impressed by the citizen science going on around Australia.

Equally, high-quality science journalism has never been more crucial in bridging the gap between researchers and people’s lives.

The Prize for Science Journalism recognises the best reporting of science issues and discoveries in Australia, helping to ensure that the public remains engaged in scientific discussions.

I thank our citizen scientists and our science journalists for the time and thought, the creativity and skill that you bring to your work, and for the role that you have in bringing Australians along on the scientific journey.

And, before I perform my official duty tonight, I sincerely thank all of our scientists here this evening for your outstanding contribution to all aspects of Australian science, and I wish you many more Eureka moments.