When the Governor-General welcomed a twenty budding indigenous engineers to Admiralty House it was the highlight finale of the 10th Indigenous Australian Engineering Summer School, run by the University of New South Wales.
During a week filled with scaling the Sydney Harbour Bridge, touring the Caroma Dorf manufacturing plant, visiting an EnergyAustralia substation and learning about weapons engineering on board HMAS Newcastle, the twenty potential Indigenous engineers were offered a taste of life as a university student and shown where life as an engineer could take them.
Addressing the students at their graduation dinner the summer school's Patron, the Hon. Bob Hawke, recognised the desperate need for such programs to guide talented Indigenous students into the engineering profession.
"To be representative of the population, there needs to be 3000 to 4000 Indigenous engineers. Currently there are 12," he said.
The Governor-General also acknowledged the problem but reminded the students that progress is being made. "In the ten years since its inception, the summer school has inspired graduates in electrical engineering, biomedical engineering and civil and business engineering", he said.
A reminder of that potential path was never far away, with Ben Lange, the first indigenous electrical engineering and an IAESS and UNSW graduate, and Courtney Thompson, a biomedical engineer who attended the 1st IAESS, returning to the program as peer mentors.
For Ben, the program is more than just about inspiring the students with what engineering involves. "The program is fantastic at forming connections between the students, the Faculty of Engineering and the indigenous community at UNSW and the industry at large", he said.
Commenting on his experiences during the week Mitchell Lowth, one of the students selected for the program from Newcastle, said "I went from having no idea what engineering was to having the ambition to go home and study hard in order to become an aerospace engineer in the Royal Australian Air Force".
The 10th Indigenous Australian Engineering Summer School was run by the Faculty of Engineering and Nura Gili Indigenous Programs at the University of New South Wales in partnership with Engineering Aid.
IAESS: Prashan Paramanathan, IAESS Media, Faculty of Engineering, University of New South Wales. Phone: 02 9385 6437 or firstname.lastname@example.org
UNSW Media Office: Victoria Collins, tel. 02 9385 3263 or 0412 980 044.