I was thrilled to announce the “ACT Scientist of the Year” award today when I officially opened the Canberra contingent of National Science Week. This is the first award of its kind in the ACT and it will recognise the amazing work of Canberra’s scientists. The “ACT Scientist of the Year” will be awarded annually by the ACT Government, with the recipient to receive $30,000 to help with a research project of their choice.
Canberra is a city that is home to some of the greatest scientific minds in the country, and the world, so I’m pleased we can now recognise our local leaders in the field. Each year the award will be themed around a particular field of science and innovation. Nominations for the award will be called for in early 2015, with the winner to be presented with the first award during National Science Week in August 2015.
I believe Governments need to do all that they can, big or small, to support work in science and innovation. That’s why over the past couple of weeks I have established several initiatives to help local scientists to continue doing their fantastic work.
In July I announced the establishment of the Judith Whitworth Fellowship for Fender Equity in Science at the Australian National University. The new Fellowships, which is believed to be the first of its kind at any Australian University, was established to encourage and reward young scientists who have taken maternity leave or parental leave from their academic career to become parents.
Often scientists who have taken time out from their academic career find it particularly difficult to re-establish their medical research work. The contribution made by these scientists is critical to maintaining scientific capability in medical research in Australia and this Fellowship will go some way to achieving greater equality in academic workplaces. It also recognises the important work being undertaken, particularly by women, in the field of medical research.
Last week I announced new business grants to increase internship opportunities for ACT students. Canberra businesses can now apply for $7,500 student internships grants as part of the STEM4Digital Business Internship program designed to accelerate business engagement with the digital economy. The program aims to enhance Canberra’s reputation as a ‘smart city’ by providing practical work experience to second and third year tertiary students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The program will give students the chance to undertake paid work for either 12-weeks full-time or 450 hours part-time in a field related to their area of study, with a local business that will offer career mentoring. It will also contribute to increasing the longer term STEM skill requirements of the ACT’s workforce and enable local businesses to take full advantage of the growing digital economy. I encourage businesses in the ACT who operate in a STEM field or have a need for STEM employees to apply.
This evening I launched National Science Week in Canberra. This is Australia’s largest science festival offering more than 1,300 events around the country and reaching more than 1.4 million people throughout the week.
This year Canberrans have a program of more than 50 events to choose from, including guided nature walks, entertaining panel discussions, behind the scenes tours and explosive science shows. Last year’s program attracted an estimated audience of more than 100,000 and we hope to beat that this year.
National Science Week 2014 will offer a variety of events for all ages, truly showcasing the diversity of talent that can be found in the nation’s capital. National Science Week 2014 will run from 16-24 August. Event details can be found at: www.scienceweek.net.au.
I encourage you all to pop along to one of the events this year.