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Renee: Welcome everybody to our second webinar for Canberra Women of Science and Art. My name is Renee and I have co-created this event with Claire Harris from Innovate Communicate. And we’ve created this event to showcase some amazing women in our own backyard who are doing the unexpected and pursuing their passions at the same time. Now this event is supported by funding from the ACT National Science Week Committee as well as the support from those partners that you saw listed on our welcome slide there. I would also like to give a big thank you to Jessica Reese and Rob Thomas for all of their help and expertise. This evening we will be featuring Maddie Diamond and Mikaela Jade. They are two amazing women who are working at the intersection of Science and Art.
As we begin, I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land that I stand on, the Ngunnanwal and Ngambri people as well as the many Lands and Nations you are joining us from today. We recognize First Nations Australians as our first Innovators Problem Solvers, Artists and Engineers. And I pay my respect to their Elders of yesterday, today and tomorrow. I also extend that respect to any Aboriginal or Torres, Strait islander peoples here with us today.
Thank you for joining us virtually for National Science Week 2020, a year that’s going to be very hard to forget. We have all had to make some adjustments this year and that has meant embracing technology for all of its wonderful innovations, as well as accepting some of its quirks and faults. So if we do have some tech issues this evening bear with us. Claire will be working in the background she’s going to be moderating and she’s going to be making sure that it all goes to plan. Now before we begin. I am going to go to Claire just to run you through a little bit of that tech.
Claire: Hi there everybody thank you for being here. So we are recording tonight so that we can put this amazing event up on the website afterwards for anyone who misses out or for any of you who’d like to revisit what we talk about. So the thing is we need to keep everybody safe. We have adults and children here tonight and I want to run you through three things.
So number one (1) you are welcome to share your video so that you can see other people that are participating. Just note what is around you though as you turn that video on. So you know just be careful with what’s in the background and obviously make sure that you have clothes on etc. You will not be recorded so don’t worry about that. Our recording is focusing on the speakers. Number two (2) is audio. So please stay muted throughout. We just want to make sure that there’s no interference and number three (3) is the chat. So you will find in the Zoom platform a chat window. And that is open for questions and comments as we go we may interact with that. The speakers may see things pop up, they may not, but we will have time at the end as well for facilitated questions. And of course to the people who submitted some questions early on, we are going to cover as many of those as we can. So the only other thing i just want to say is please be aware that this is a public event. If there’s any sort of untoward behavior, then you will be booted out of the webinar. So I’m just going to throw back to Renee. Thank you very much.
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Renee: Great! Thank you, Claire. Now I’m just going to share my screen and we can introduce the first speaker. Okay so we’ve got the screen up here. And our first speaker is Maddie Diamond.
So Maddie is a 23 year old social and environmental activist from Canberra. Maddie was awarded the 2020 ACT Young Australian of the year for her community leadership in sustainability. She is the founder of ‘Trash Gather’ a youth-led volunteer group that organises regular rubbish cleanups around the city. She is also the Executive Officer of ‘Sea Change’ a local Grassroots Organization bringing people together to create sustainable change in Canberra. Maddie has just completed a diploma of sustainable practice at Tafe New South Wales. And I have some great photos here of Maddie. So we have her there receiving her award and that’s a photo of a trash gather cleanup. So it looks like heaps of fun as well as helping the environment there. And this is the photo that you might recognize Maddie from. So you might recognize her where she sent a very clear statement about her climate future. We’ll be asking her about that in a little bit but before we do that I would like to talk to Maddie about what she does in Science and Art. So we’ll throw to Maddie now.
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Maddie: Hi everybody. So yeah, thanks Renee for that awesome intro, yeah. So for me Science and Art really kind of drive the work that I do even though I don’t quite consider myself a scientist or an artist. So working at trash gather, obviously we pick up rubbish that’s a kind of basic concept but we do bring in our creative thoughts, our creative vibes. We’re a group of organizers full of young people. So we’re always trying to think of new ways to invade people and things like that and at sea change. A major project that I’m trying to well that I’ve brought to our organization is future Film Festival. So this is a program for young people to make films. So short films about sustainability, climate action, climate solutions, environmental issues, and put it into short film format. And then it’s sort of a competition and festival with prizes and screenings and all of that kind of thing. So, really, sort of my passion for climate action and sustainability is really driven by the science of climate change. But I also want to bring people sort of creative outlets and creative platforms to engage with that issue. So that’s kind of me at the moment. I’m not sure where I’ll take it in the future but yeah, I’m definitely super influenced by those two kinds of aspects.
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Renee: Awesome! Thanks Maddie. And just on the topic of Future Film Festival, we have had someone send in a question. So Madison has asked: “What is your favorite art medium to work with and why?” And yeah, we just wanted to know. So is film your favorite, Maddie? Are you into digital media or are there other art forms that you’re interested in as well?
Maddie: Yeah, so like I said, I don’t really consider myself an artist. I think I’m probably more of a hobbyist artist. But for me, I really like to try kind of different creative forms. And I guess my kind of focus on film was sort of driven by you know, what are young people good at? How do they engage with issues? You know, how do they engage with the world around them? And I just found that film was something that was really the key, you know. We’re all kind of obsessed with TiKTok and Instagram and Vine, and all of these things using that digital format. So I thought, I would kind of play on that and I’m really sort of into it. In a sort of viewer, stands less of a creative instance in terms of digital media. But yeah, so for me just as you know a person and sort of my artistic expression. I really like kind of more Visual Arts like drawing and painting but that’s just a personal thing. And I’m really like keen to explore lots of different types of art.
Renee: Yeah, awesome. RIP Vine, I definitely haven’t gotten on the TikTok train yet but maybe I should. I recommend it, so a lot of participants joining us today are either from high school or they’re coming towards the end of their high school life and are looking at their future I guess. What they can do next? You haven’t gone to university?
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Renee: Maddie, I was wondering if you could talk to us a little bit about what you did instead of following that i guess traditional pathway.
Maddie: Yeah, so when I was in school, I was really unsure about what I wanted to do with my life. And have a career and things like that. Even the word career was like ‘yuck’, so yeah, I kind of knew that because I was unsure. I didn’t know, I didn’t want to go to Univ. I didn’t want to go into it, not being sure of where I wanted to dedicate my time. So I had a gap year or maybe like three gap years. I don’t know, depends what you count as a gap year.
But I went traveling a bit and tried different kinds of work and eventually realized that I was super into sustainability and all these kind of sustainable concepts of better ways to live. And I learnt more about you know what we’re doing to the planet and that really sparked something in me. So for me, my career has really been based on just my passion and I’ve just kind of thrown myself into that in different ways. And most prominently, volunteering. But yeah, from that volunteering I thought you know I really want to take this seriously. I really want to do it as a job. So I decided to do a TAFE course because I found it was going to be really practical and really useful information, that I was learning, that I could kind of apply to my job in real time and apply to my life in real time, so yeah. I’ve just finished that up a couple of months ago and it was a really awesome experience. It was all online but I really, you know, all my classmates and stuff, we made an effort to really talk to each other even though we weren’t there in person, yeah. So that’s kind of the path that I’ve gone down. I definitely don’t think that University is out of the question. I’m just not sure where I want to go with it. So it’s something I consider but it’s definitely not the only way to kind of end up doing what you really want to be doing, yeah.
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Renee: I think that’s a really awesome message. I kind of wish I’d taken a more practical route when i first kind of came out of high school. I spent a lot of time figuring things out while I was studying, so yeah, maybe a gap year might have helped me a little bit. All right, so now we’re going to do a short activity with Maddie. So I will share my screen and do you want me to share that now Maddie? Or do you want to do an end?
Maddie: Yeah, yeah. I’ll just oh, you can chuck it up there. That’s all good. So really, what I wanted to do for this activity was you know, if you’re coming to this event it’s probably because you’re kind of interested in Stem or interested in kind of making a difference in maybe your community or the world at large or the world of Science or Art. So I kind of wanted to get people thinking about you know what they’ve already got in the bag, like what skills have you got, what interests have you go, and how can you use that to contribute. Because I can assure you there’s something for everyone, especially in something like the climate movement where I’m sort of working. So I wanted everyone to just take one minute to think of something that you really enjoy or you’re really good at. Or something that you feel like you could be good at and could learn pretty easily, you know anything from you know science. Maybe a really specific art form that you’re really into, even sport, singing. Like I said making TikTok’s, anything. And I want you to think of it in your mind or write it down for later if you want. And just take a minute to think of that thing that really sparks your interest or that thing that you know you’re really good at.
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I’ll give you a minute or a little, a little while. Okay, that was probably more like 30 seconds but I’ll go into the next part of the activity. I want you to take a minute or another 30 seconds to think of a way that you could apply that skill that you’ve thought of to making change so that could be you know change in terms of climate change, it could be a social issue that you’re really passionate about, could be something that’s happening in your local community. And just think about how that skill could work to progress that issue that you know action that you want to see. And if you’re having a bit of trouble, feel free to put a question in the chat box you know, like I’m really good at this, how is that relevant or if you’ve thought of something you know ‘I’m really good at this’ and ‘I could totally do this with it’. Feel free to share that in the chat box as well because I’m sure everyone would love to hear. All right I might leave about 15 more seconds. Don’t be afraid to put your ideas in the chat box because I would love to hear them, Maybe help you work out some way that you could kind of you know use those passions of yours. All right maybe we’ll wrap up now.
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So I just saw in the chat box from Tilde, they said “I’ve just started to learn watercolor painting. It would be awesome to do some botanical art on endangered species” and I think that’s a wonderful idea and something that could be really impactful and influential for sure. I know lots of people that I kind of follow on Instagram and things like that, do lots of kind of political or environmental art. And I know that definitely has an impact on me and inspires me.
Renee: All right, I wonder we might just give people like one more minute if they want to participate in that chat. Let us know what you just did in that activity with Maddie. We have had a question come in that says “Hi Maddie, I was wondering what subjects you did in college? So Maddie has just told us she didn’t go, hasn’t been to Uni yet. It’s a whole college; does that refer to like high school in Canberra? Sorry.]
Maddie: Yeah, that’s all good. It’s a bit confusing here. So college is year 11 and 12. So I actually did go to college. Even though I grew up in New South Wales, I lived in Yass. But I traveled over to college because I was just a really keen being in school. So the subjects I did in college was Math’s’ and English, pretty standard exercise Science which I was really interested in. And potentially felt like I was going to follow something, maybe in health or something like that. I just loved learning about the anatomy of human bodies, really.
What else did i do? Photography that was you know, a creative kind of outlet for me that I was really passionate about and still am as a hobby. What else? Are you Drama? there’s a bit of a theme going on here. And what was my other one? It obviously wasn’t good. I think that might have been it, tourism and event management because I really liked, I don’t know that kind of fun social aspect of it.
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Renee: Awesome, sounds like a great time. We’ve had someone write in you might be able to give them some advice, Maddie. They have said that they have creative ideas but they don’t know how to speak up and say what they want to say. Do you have any advice for anyone who’s in that same predicament?
Maddie: Yeah for sure. That can be really hard and really daunting and especially if you’re around people who maybe feel a little bit intimidating to you. I know that like as a young person working in a not necessarily young field. Sometimes that’s a bit scary. So I think practicing is a good way to go about it, you know like maybe have a journaling session and write down all the things. Write down all the ideas you have and all the things that you feel about it. And maybe that can be a way to help, you know share it with other people as you can just read it off the page and also, maybe trying to just have conversations online as well before you get to that kind of face-to-face element. Just to practice you know having those conversations and explaining to people your ideas and things like that.
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Renee: Awesome! Thanks Maddie. We’ve had a few people riding with their creativity. So we have had, sorry, just finding it. So Priyashna said that they’re very interested in making sustainable mechanical vehicles for third world rural countries. That sounds like an awesome way too. It gets to combine your passion of sustainability with something that could help people and we’ve had Luca write in saying that. Oh Luca and Maddie, saying that they like printmaking drawing and lots of crochet. I also like those things I think they’re great outlets and definitely a way to get your creative juices flowing. And maybe if you find another passion one day you can make them fit together.
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Renee: Okay, now we may might move on now to our next speaker. So I’ll share my screen again. Okay so our second speaker today is Mikaela Jade. And Mikaela is a Capricorn woman from the Daruk speaking nations of Sydney. She started her technology journey in 2012 with an idea that would help shape our nation. Augmented and mixed reality production and later digital skills programs to leap frog first nation’s peoples into the fourth industrial revolution. Mikaela is inspired to find new ways to digitize and translate knowledge and culture from remote and ancient communities. She has a background in environmental biology and has spent most of her career as a national parks ranger. She is also the CEO of an education tech company in digital. She developed a mobile and Hololens App in digital storytelling to bring the world’s cultural sites alive through augmented and mixed reality. Her latest accomplishment is in digital schools an indigenous designed digital skills training program for primary and high school students. It enables indigenous and non-indigenous kids to connect with and learn from elders about cultural knowledge, history and language, While learning digital skills in cutting-edge technologies like augmented reality animation and coding and. I do have a video to show that will give you an idea of a little bit of what Mikaela does. So I’ll share that one now.
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[Music] In the world’s largest cultural landscape, we’re breaking tech startup rules. Aboriginal peoples in a 20 million hectare co-working space have built the world’s newest technology to bring ancient knowledge to life from rock art to 3D augmented reality in the palm of your hand. Without connection to the internet, our app works here and anywhere on planet earth. And for any culture in the world, we are bridging ancient cultures and the digital economy and maintaining humanity’s most ancient stories through technology. If you would like to try it yourself, you can buy the Augmented Reality T-Shirt or the Augmented Reality Mini Art Set and use them with our free app. You can find us and our free app at www.cultureindigital.com
Renee: I’m so excited to hear more so we’ll head to Mikaela now and she’s going to tell us a little bit about what she does in science and art.
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Mikaela: Hi everyone. It’s really nice to be here tonight. And I just want to say thank you to Claire and Renee for hosting this chat tonight and also to Maddie for sharing her inspiring story. So my name is Mikaela. I was just a school kid like you or maybe a Uni student. I didn’t do so well at school. I didn’t really fit in at school. And I always knew that I wanted to be a park ranger. So I ended up being able to do that when I was 18 which were really lucky. While I was starting my environmental biology career and part of my job in parks was to manage cultural sites and showcase cultural stories with park visitors. And when I was working in national parks, I discovered a different way to do this which was the application that you just saw the video of. So that was our first application. The concept that I had was imagine if you could stand at a cultural place or look at a cultural object and you could hold your phone over it just like this. And our traditional owners would appear in holographic format and be able to share with you the right story at the right place at the right time for the right reasons. So in 2012 I set about trying to work out, how to make this amazing technology called ‘Augmented Reality’. And as Renee mentioned earlier I wasn’t a technologist, I was a park ranger. So I knew a lot about the environment but I didn’t know a lot about technology. So I had to basically find people from around the world who would teach me. So I was self-taught in augmented reality with some support from mentors around the world who’d already been working in this technology. And I worked in Kakadu when we released our first application. So some senior traditional owners at Kakadu worked with me to bring some of their cultural stories to life in augmented reality. And we released that and it was very popular. But we did have a slight little challenge with it. In that, it was a very expensive technology to build. So I ended up making in digital schools because I realized through that process that the technology was fantastic and that Aboriginal, Torres, Strait Islander peoples like myself wanted to be able to express our culture and language in this way. But we couldn’t afford to continue to build the augmented reality in the same way, so we invented a new solution to be able to build the technology that was cost effective. And to do that we made a platform that uses artificial intelligence to help you bring your creation to life through augmented reality.
Renee: That’s awesome! It’s so exciting to hear that.
Mikaela: I know I haven’t had a lot to do with that and augmented reality. So it’s very exciting that kids in schools nowadays are getting that education and also the cultural education from what you’re doing as well.
Renee: Mikaela, that’s fantastic! So you are an EduTech Edgy Technology Entrepreneur.
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Renee: What does that mean and how did you get to the point of launching your business?
Mikaela: Yeah, my goodness. That’s a great question. So EduTech? That means education, technology, company. So we specifically focus our technology solutions on the education market. So that means primary in high school and other community group education opportunities. So we sometimes work with cultural arts centres and out of school care programs and others that are involved in teaching youth digital skills, so that’s what we call our primary market for our product. How did I get to be a tech entrepreneur? I was really stubborn and the vision that I wanted to achieve with augmented reality was so clear in my mind. That I worked really hard to try and get all the resources I could with what I had at the time to make what’s called a ‘minimum viable product’. So that means that it’s a product that you can show someone in the most basic functional way what your concept is.
So augmented reality is a very difficult technology to try and explain to people. But once people use the technology, they can understand immediately what it is all about. So I had to try very hard to get that first application where people could see what I was talking about. And I knew that I needed to get that first step because when I was talking to my mom and dad about what I wanted to do, they didn’t quite understand. So I was thinking, well if my mom and dad can’t understand what I’m trying to do then I’m going to have problems communicating it to a lot of other people as well which is why I had to make that first application. And then I just got more and more interested in other parts of the technology. So, some really interesting parts of the technology that you need to understand how to develop are things called ‘image recognition’, so basically teaching phone cameras, how to like see things in real life. So we use algorithms to help the phone camera detect a site that we’ve programmed with cultural stories or cards or artworks or objects and something fun that I taught myself, how to do in Kakadu because the cultural places were very-very big to fly a drone. So I ended up teaching myself how to fly a drone and create the rock art sites in three dimensions through a process called ‘Photogrammetry’. And I ended up becoming a commercial drone pilot through doing that process. And then I had to learn all the things about animating. So I had to learn how to make a 3d character. I had to learn how to rig it which is basically putting bones in the 3D character. And then I had to work out how to animate the character and how to embed voice recording. So I had to learn all these little tiny pieces of the technology workflow to then bring it all together. And once I worked out how to do that I realized that the only thing I could really do to make sure that Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people have a place in future in technology was teach everyone how to do it themselves. So that’s why I invented in Digital School.
I have an amazing team as part of my business now. So we have six people in our team, all of whom are Aboriginal people apart from one person in our company. So something that I always wanted to achieve which I’ve only just achieved this year was to be able to employ our people on our country in regional and remote communities. Because something I’m very passionate about and a strong advocate for is that, we should be able to have jobs from our Aboriginal country and we should be able to work in careers that are culturally meaningful to us.
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Renee: Yeah! Such a powerful message and I think the way that you’ve brought together science like you’ve just spoken about there and art and your stubbornness which I would call persistence. I don’t know, it’s just come together in this amazing- amazing product that you have. And the fact that it’s also an EduTech company and you’re teaching people how to use it and how to make it in the future just shows how powerful it really is. So now we’re going to do an activity. So Mikaela has told us all about her journey and I guess how she has created this augmented reality and artificial intelligence. So I’ll just share my screen so you can all read the activity that we’re going to do we would like everybody to think about how technology like augmented reality could solve problems in the future. So you’ve heard about what Mikaela has done with it and now we want you to have a little bit of a brainstorm and type your answers in the chat, yeah. And maybe to help you think about it you could think about what could you use a hologram for awesome. And while everyone is doing that I would love to ask Michaela another question. So Mikaela what other exciting things are happening in the industry right now?
Mikaela: There are so many fantastic things that are happening with Augmented Reality. So I probably should just briefly explain the different realities. So there’s like actual reality which we all live in which is no devices and then there’s virtual reality. That’s where you’re in the headset but you’re in there alone and you could be in a completely made-up environment. And then there’s augmented reality which is where we program a digital layer into the real world so you’re seeing something that we’ve created in digital but you’re also seeing the real world. And there’s another reality called ‘mixed reality’ and that takes augmented reality to a whole new step where you can actually interact with the holograms so they’re in the real world. You can see the hologram, you can see the real world around you but you couldn’t do things like pick up a digital cup and drop it and it would drop and shatter like a real cup in the real world or you could speak to a hologram and it could understand what you’re saying and it can speak back to you. So we’re getting to the stage where the holograms are so good that it’s very difficult for people to detect whether they’re real humans or not. So there is a specialty called ‘Deep Faked Technology’ and that makes digital twins or completely different humans. So if you wanted to see something in the deep fake realm you could look at a website called this persondoesnotexist.com and they’re completely computer generated people and you really can’t tell that they’re not real people that their computer’s done such a good job in stitching their facial features together. So there are a lot of very cutting-edge deep technologies that are coming out at the moment where in the future it might present some challenges for your generation and my generation uh including like how would you know if there was a digital twin or a hologram in social media? And how would you know if it was a real person or not? So these are some of the ethical questions that we’re considering with this technology and what looking at what kind of impacts it might have in communities.
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Renee: Awesome! That might have given people some ideas about what they could discuss. So it doesn’t look like we’ve had anyone type in the chat. Oh here we go. So Luca and Maddie said: “You could buy a hologram to keep you company and help you do chores.” That would be amazing. That would be fantastic yes if you look up virtual agents you can see some of those coming onto the marketplace already. So that is a great- great idea. Nice one! What else do we have here? “Promote sustainable and eco-friendly substitutes to fossil fuels,” from Lydia. Great idea in the medical profession of a doctor could be there without having to leave an office. That would be something very helpful in our current climate.
Mikaela: Yes, that would be incredible and you can look up so some doctors are using Augmented Reality to help them with precision surgery. So they can see augmented reality of your spine so they can make sure that they’re putting the nail in the right place.
Renee: Wow very practical there cool. What else do we have here, again, some medical applications. So Ann has said: “Applications to medical uses monitoring temperatures heart rates blood glucose levels”, very practical examples. Yep, tourism, so Dee has said: “Tourism tour guides for museums and cities”, yeah, that would be great, wouldn’t it? Because they could give you could select what you’re interested about in the museum rather than just having to read what everyone has to read like if you are interested in like my culture for example, you could ask about maybe our language or something to do with our creation stories or things like that. So you could explore like it’d be like choose your own adventure with a virtual hologram that could help you out to explore museums, yeah totally! And also languages if we had it could anyone could pick their language and it’d be completely translatable that’ll be awesome. So Joe has said: “It could help to show people how extinct species from the past would have acted in the world around you”. That is a great example. We’re actually making some of that in Alice Springs at the moment. So we brought some Mega Fauna to life in Alice Springs. Very-very cool awesome! And sharia said: “Art gallery guides are similar to our tour guides for museums and cities there as well”. That’s fantastic. Thank you so much Mikaela for helping people bring out that creativity and telling us a little bit about your story. And thank you to our audience as well for participating in that activity. Now I do have one more question for Michaela. We just want to know what high school was like for you. So i know you briefly spoke about that in the beginning. Did you follow the normal path into your career? Could you expand a little bit on that?
Mikaela: Yes! definitely. I did not follow the normal path so my family descends from what’s called the ‘Stolen Generations’ where our my ancestors were forcibly removed from their families and put into institutions and from that have devastating effect of that happening to my family. I was disconnected from my culture and I wasn’t reconnected with my culture until I was in my 20’s. So I always grew up in high school being asked why I look different to other people. And people used to ask me if I was from the pacific islands or if I was from somewhere else which was pretty hard to deal with because I didn’t know what the answer to the question was and I couldn’t see why they were seeing something different in me. And it wasn’t until I was park ranger that traditional owners in the communities, I was working with kind of helped me piece together the puzzle because I could say I was an aboriginal person so I had a lot of challenges trying to work out like ‘why I was so good at nature?’ and ‘why I was so connected to the country that I grew up on?’. And I was such a staunch environmentalist and I used to go and go to council meetings and like try and lobby to stop development because of the green and golden bell frogs that were living in that habitat. So I was just very passionately connected to the environment and I knew that I wanted to become a park ranger so I could care for the country. I didn’t realize at that time that I was actually a custodian of the country and that it was in my DNA to be looking after my country and so and passionately. So I did become a park ranger but I really didn’t like tertiary studies. So I only did my first two years of my environmental biology degree and then I ran away to Queensland to the Great Barrier Reef and worked as a marine park ranger up there for eight years. And I had an amazing boss who at the time told me that I wasn’t going to be a ranger for the rest of my life and that I needed to step up and start leading in a higher part of the organization. So he encouraged me to finish my degree which I completed from Cape York in Queensland.
So I did something that was like really rare back then. I did finish my degree by distance which was quite difficult to try and organize because it wasn’t a thing that you could just do when I finished my degree. So I did that. And then I got to work in Ningaloo in Western Australia for a few years and I got to work in Northern New South Wales in Kakadu National Park. And I’ve been working with ACT parks and conservation service down here for two years. I’m just on leave at the moment and throughout working as a park ranger I’ve developed my interest in technology and I guess that comes a little bit from my heritage as well so my dark side on my mother’s side. Her aunties and my great-aunt are in her 80s and she’s been teaching computer science to senior citizens in Parramatta for like 20 years. And I remember going to my great-grandfather’s house and kind of tripping over cables and there was satellites and all sorts of things around the house and I only just talked to my great uncle about what my memories of his house and he told me he made his first computer from scratch in the 1970s. So we’ve always had a bit of ability in computing. I dropped out of computing in year nine because I was the only girl in the class and I have to say that’s one of my biggest regrets and my heart nearly broke. This year when my daughter who’s 15 told me that she wanted to drop out of computing studies because she was the only girl, so I was like ‘No, No. Don’t do that! That’s my biggest regret!” So yeah so I think being a girl and interested in computer science was a little challenging but you know I just found the way that worked the best for me to learn how to do things like coding and like my brain works the way that a lot of my people from my tribe’s brain work. Like we think it’s almost the reverse way to what western science thinks. So once I recognize that’s how I learned I was able to unpack things the other way and just teach myself things. And YouTube is an amazing resource for learning how to do stuff and also things like LinkedIn. I became an amazingly great internet stalker about who was doing things in the areas that I was interested in and I would just reach out to them and say hey “I’m a girl from Australia. I’m really interested in doing Augmented Reality” for example. And I got assistance from a guy in the UK who’d been working on that for quite some time and he mentored me for two years. So I would be going to work as a park ranger and getting on Skype at 11 o’clock at night. And for a couple of hours he would teach me what he called the ‘Dark Arts of Augmented Reality’. So just being dedicated to learning what I needed to learn to get the thing built that i wanted to build, was how i did it.
00:41:43,839 –> 00:45:18,160
Renee: That’s amazing! Thank you so much for sharing that as well, Mikaela. It sounds like a lot of hard work has gone in I guess to help bring your passion to life.
Mikaela: Yeah, I think when it’s a passion though it doesn’t feel like hard work, it’s just curiosity. I think if you have curiosity about something it just inspires you to want to learn more and more and more and you know, it’s okay to go down rabbit holes occasionally and explore other kind of avenues associated with whatever you’re doing and also looking in other industries. So I look a lot to other sectors like Agriculture and Mining which doesn’t seem like a great place to be looking if you’re an environmentalist. But I do have a lot of networks into Agriculture and Mining because they use similar technologies and they think about different ways to apply the technology. So I can look into those industries and say oh they’re using that for I know for hydrometric or volumetric assessment. What if we turned that kind of technology and used it for cultural preservation? What does that look like?
Renee: That’s awesome! So on that note, I guess looking at what’s out there. I’m going to share my screen again because if there’s anyone in the audience who is interested in a career in STEM or if you’re interested in a change in your career in STEM, you’re looking you’ve been inspired by Maddie or Michaela. We have, oh it’s not us sorry, our supporting partner careers with STEM. They have an awesome website and they have this particular careers path tab as well if you want to narrow down your search a little bit so if there’s anything that’s kind of in your mind you think oh maybe I’m interested in that area. Definitely check out the website. So I will go to Claire in a minute for some audience questions that have been submitted but before i do that i just wanted to address this other question that we’ve had sent in from Prayashna. So she’s asked, sorry, they have asked: “What are the different career pathways to go straight into after university? Are there companies industries and they were particularly interested in mechanical and mechatronic engineering?”
Mikaela: So we don’t have any engineers on the panel tonight but what you can do is have a look at some of the careers with STEM magazines. So they have a magazine dedicated to engineering, engineers. Australia also have a students and educators section on their website with heaps of resources for primary, secondary and tertiary education and when it comes to industries or employers it’s a good idea to look around and think about what kind of company and what industry you’d like to work in.
Renee: So similar to what Mikaela was saying just have a look at what’s out there and think about what would be a good fit for you. The Australian Defence Force for example has an ADF Gap year where you get to experience the navy army or air force and get paid for meaningful work while traveling around Australia, learning and meeting people. So there are lots of options out there and yeah just the things we have said are one place that you could start looking. So I’ll stop sharing screen now. Before we go to Claire though, I have realized that I forgot to ask Maddie a question. So I teased that I’d ask Maddie about that message she had written across her chest at those awards. So we might just go to Maddie quickly and ask about the story behind the climate justice message.
00:45:18,160 –> 00:47:47,280
Maddie: Yeah, sure. So, just a bit of context, I got 2020 ACT Young Australian of the year which is really cool. I didn’t really know much about the awards but it turns out that this big National thing that’s on TV which I’d never watched on TV. So it was all very new to me and I was quite overwhelmed by it all. But basically as soon as I heard that this was going to be like a televised event, I was like ‘wow! Okay how many opportunities do you get to be on TV in front of the whole country and send the message that you need to send?’ So to me you know climate change really is our most urgent issue that we need to deal with as a society so I kind of take any opportunity that I can to talk about that with people raise the issues, see how I can progress climate action and things like that. So yeah, I kind of got a bit creative and I was actually inspired by a singer called Montana who had worn like paint across her chest and her cheeks at music awards ceremonies and things like that. So one year she wore stop Adana across painted on her cheeks and I just thought that was such a brave and awesome thing to do and such a great use of the opportunity of you know having that little bit of limelight, yeah. So I got my friend to paint climate justice across my chest because I knew that was going to be pretty eye-catching. And yeah I was basically thinking about you know that two seconds that get to be on TV that’s what was in my head, I was like okay I need to make it big, make it striking, make it readable. But I kind of forgot that also the internet exists and social media exists and whilst i was sitting there like drinking my free champagne and all the fancy things that they were doing I didn’t realize it was just blowing up on twitter. So it actually ended up having a much bigger impact than I originally thought which I was you know really happy about and glad about because lots of people were writing about it online and talking about it. And talking about what climate justice means and not just about you know the night but just like the message that I was trying to get across so yeah, that’s basically how it went down. And I was glad I did it. It was kind of a spontaneous decision that i was like you know what I’m going to use this to my benefit. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want anyone to tell me not to do it. I just thought you know this is my chance I’m going to give it a shot and I think it was very worthwhile and definitely something I’m proud of in my kind of activist journey.
00:47:47,280 –> 00:53:16,079
Renee: That’s awesome! Thanks Maddie. It’s great to know the context behind it as well. I think that’s really cool. All right we’ll go to Claire now who’s going to answer or sorry pose some of our questions to our speakers.
Claire: Great! So the first question that I have, so all of these are open to any either speaker to jump in with and talk about. So Robyn has asked us, as someone inspired by or working in a STEAM related activity, how did you get validation? That this was the right pathway for you? What moments have really mattered? Would you like to go first Maddie?
Maddie: Yeah for sure. So I guess for me, not! Not necessarily just my kind of career and volunteer choices in kind of the science and art intersection but also just the my broader activism is definitely kind of validated by other young people that I know and other young people that I see, just that I don’t know or over online on rally doing school strikes and things like that and just knowing that like. Actually I have this massive team of young people you know side by side working for climate action. So that’s super-super validating and inspiring and kind of constantly uplifts me. And knowing that we’re all in it together so you know yeah seeing young people striking and doing those really bold actions is really those moments for me that kind of make it stick and makes me think yeah I’m doing the right thing here.
Mikaela: Thanks, Maddie. I think for me I kind of liken it to a little seed. The little seed was an idea in my head and then kind of the first leaf that sprouted out was the support of my mom and dad so well. No one in the world wanted to know what I was doing, mom and dad were. They’re encouraging me and then a couple other leaves sprouted from my community and they became interested in what I was doing. And then it started like just this tree started growing with all this support that started happening. And there has been times where it’s been like it has been really hard and I’ve been questioning whether what I’m doing is right and they kind of talk about the entrepreneur’s journey like being like this like in the peaks and valleys of life and sometimes that’ll happen all in one day so. It’ll be like ‘Yes! I’m having the best day ever’ – ‘My God I want to, I want to die and quit’. So there’s like a lot of days like that when you’re creating something new but every time that something has gone very wrong with what I’ve been doing. I’ve tried to take that as an opportunity to grow and to learn. And I think something that STEAM teaches us is that you pay more attention when something goes wrong because you want to know why so it doesn’t happen again. So I took that kind of lesson from my training about instead of just getting really upset that something wasn’t going right or something you know had offended someone or something happened to the program. I took the opportunity to view it through another lens and say ‘okay how could I do things better like what happened?’ ‘How can we put a process in place?’ or ‘how can we adapt what we’re doing so we avoid that pitfall the next time?’ And just keep going that way. And every time I’ve done that you know we’ve had more and more supporters come on our journey I guess. So I keep thinking that if I’m not supposed to be on this path and the door would have closed and another one wouldn’t have opened for me to walk through. So I think uh just trying to see when that’s happening in the journey has been something that I’ve had to learn to recognize and also, recognizing when things when something doesn’t go the way that you wanted it to go. There’s a good reason why that’s happened and it’s helping you to think about a different way of applying your idea concept. So having multiple failures I think has helped me be more successful because I’ve been able to use those failures as stepping stones to learn to be a better person and to develop a better product. And then join with different organizations. And you know it started with mom and dad in 2012. And now I get to work with amazing organizations like Microsoft and Telstra and Mine Craft and lots of community organizations are behind the work that we’re doing. And I don’t see that this work is for me. I see that the work that I’m doing is for my seventh generation descendant. So I told you that my family were the first of the five stolen generation that was seven generations ago and I always look back to my ancestors from there. So I’m trying to be a good ancestor myself for my seventh generation descendant. So yeah I think having purpose and commitment and learning from mistakes is something I’ve been able to develop over my career and I value those things a lot now.
00:53:16,079 –> 01:00:12,799
Claire: Wow! Thanks for sharing both of you. It feeds in well actually to the next question, which is from Amelia. And she would like to know how you have overcome the challenges, so we’ve heard quite a bit there about finding supporters around you and you know other people that are telling you that you’re on the right path and seeing that others are doing it. Is there anything else Maddie or Mikaela that you’d like to add about how people can overcome the challenges? That no doubt crop up?
Maddie: Yeah. I’m happy to answer. I think the biggest thing for me like I’ve definitely had challenges in my journey and when I say my journey I kind of mean like when I started to be involved with activism and environmentalism and things like that. Where I thought maybe I wasn’t on the right track or you know like Michaela said like you’ve done something wrong and things like that. And I think it’s just a matter of keeping the bigger picture in mind. It’s like, okay well what is the core reason that I’m doing what I’m doing. Like what does it come down to what is my true passion, what is the issue at hand and then what you’re doing in your everyday life can easily change but that core passion it doesn’t have to change just because something’s gone wrong. So yeah, I think just a matter of reassessing where you’re at. I’ve totally made mistakes or done things that just didn’t work out the way that I wanted them to and I’ve just kind of I don’t know pulled my socks up and kept going. So it’s just a matter of resilience. And the more you try the more strength you definitely build and you feel way more confident and you feel like you can take on new challenges. So a challenge is a good thing it makes you stronger, yeah and it’s just a matter of yeah, being able to overcome them with support from other people. Like Michaela said as well that’s a massive one, people are actually very willing to support you so reach out to those people and you don’t have to go it alone.
Claire: Not sure Mikaela if you wanted to add anything? But perhaps we’ll keep moving just because we’re running out of time. And this question is from Lydia: “How did you deal (if you have had to deal with this); How did you deal with sexism? And she also said and opposition. So I guess you know you can take that as broadly or as narrowly as you like.
Mikaela: Yeah, I have had to deal with a lot of sexism in both careers that I’ve had. Firstly being a young woman in a parks service was quite difficult. So it’s a very male dominated industry. And because I had a tertiary education and was just curious and could do things on computers that the older park rangers, I couldn’t do in my early career. I got promoted quite early in my career. So by the time I was 28, I was near the top of where I could be for that career, in the area that I was in. So that was very difficult for people that had been in that career for maybe 30 years and to deal with. So I tried to, I didn’t ignore it but I tried to see things from their position and you know I could understand that I was promoted pretty quickly and that was unusual for the area I was living in so. But also in, as I got older and I entered into the tech sector, I got told things like my idea was too high risk because I was female, and I was aboriginal and I was working in cutting edge tech from a remote community so that combination of things just seemed impossible for people. And rather than fighting people, arguing people, I just got on with it and did what I wanted to do and achieved what I wanted to achieve. And I think something that Maddie and I both recognized before was working more with people that want to support you than trying to fight people that don’t want to support you is probably more productive use of your time. And I guess picking your battles is another thing that i would suggest as well is especially being an aboriginal woman like this, we get asked a lot about a lot of things and i try and keep my space in the tech sector and leave the advocacy work and other areas of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights to people whose journey that is and whose specialization that is for them, so creating space for other people to speak as well.
Maddie: Yeah, for me I think in terms of sexism and opposition, I think on a really big picture. We are fighting the man in terms of climate change. And I think those kinds of issues that we’re looking at like you know living in the patriarchy and also living in an age where you know massive companies are kind of destroying the environment you can kind of make those links. And see that the bigger picture is like those two issues are actually almost the same, so you kind of are always in opposition to the man or a man a CEO that’s probably a man. So I guess that’s always something that I’m going to deal with on a big picture. On a smaller kind of everyday thing, it actually hasn’t been too much of a struggle for me and I think that’s because the majority of the people I work with are women. And I think that women have just really stepped up and taken the lead in climate action and sustainability and i think that’s kind of innate for us to want to kind of protect our fellow woman and our fellow you know mother earth. But I do kind of wish that there were more men stepping up into those, at least volunteering more and yeah kind of just balancing out the sort of gender roles that are happening there. But yeah of course, I mean in workplaces and things like I’ve come up against particular people that have just opposed me purely just because I’m a young woman and in those circumstances I basically just didn’t tolerate it you know. I told management, I told whoever I needed to tell and I basically removed myself from the situation and was like. Look if they’re not going to listen to me they’re not going to incorporate me just because I’m a woman, I’m out. Like you can take it or leave it kind of thing. So that’s kind of been my approach to those issues but yeah it’s definitely something that a lot of us are going to come up against.
01:00:12,799 –> 01:04:11,599
Claire: Thanks! Thanks for sharing really powerful stuff there. So we are running a little bit over time but we’ve had another fantastic question come in. So I would really like to get to so everybody if you need to leave that’s okay feel free to jump off this is being recorded so you’ll be able to catch the end. But I have a feeling that most of you are going to stick around. The next question that I’m going to shoot out to both of our speakers. It’s from Cherie, she’s a teacher actually, and she has asked: “Where do I start to encourage STEAM for secondary students? Would you like to go first Maddie?
Maddie: Would you like me to go first? I don’t mind. I was just kind of thinking about where someone could have kind of introduced me to that as a teenager in high school. And I think, for me like I was okay in science depending on the topic, And I was kind of into it but in terms of math’s and things like that I fully dropped behind. So it kind of gave me the impression that I couldn’t pursue that, so I guess it’s just kind of encouraging those people who are maybe not thriving in those subjects to really like just support them through the learning and things like that so that they don’t feel like it’s just not an option because obviously like even if you struggle with something in school, it totally doesn’t mean that you’re not good at you know just because you can’t you know thrive in that environment of school, so yeah. Maybe kind of encouraging some outside of school activities and just trying to foster that love for things that people maybe struggle.
Mikaela: That’s a great response. I was, I’m going to go lean back to my cultural and environmental biases here. But I think any opportunity to get kids outdoors and doing things outdoors is a really great start for introducing teens to STEAM a lot. I’m a mom to two girls, so a lot of our time is spent outdoors. And when you’re outdoors and you create space for conversations, kids often ask you questions about things to do with nature because that’s where they are and they’re looking at they’re looking at trees and plants and animals and all sorts of things and asking questions. So I think getting kids to enjoy the outdoors is one really huge step you can take towards introducing people to STEAM and there are other things that you can do. So when I was in parks and conservation service, I worked with an amazing staff member called Alison MacLeod who developed an entire virtual reality program around parks where the kids got to be the superstars of the virtual reality movie where they got to film nature-based short films in 360 degrees to teach other kids about nature-based science and for national park experiences. So they, I think kids teaching kids is often a lot more powerful than potentially adults teaching kids about science. And I guess it engenders a sense of, I guess, I know my daughters are really interested in things that their peers are interested in. So getting other kids to share their experiences in STEM and STEAM, and encourage other kids is a great way to do it as well. But yeah in the act, we’re very lucky I think, no one lives more than three or five kilometers from a reserve here so we don’t have many excuses to not get out into nature.
01:04:11,599 –> 01:04:17,680
Claire: Great! Thank you so much for that. I’m just getting some cues from my co-host Renee. I’m just wondering, am I throwing back to you now?
Renee: Yeah, I think we probably wrap up now. Thank you. All right, so thank you everyone for joining us this evening. It’s been fantastic. I know I’ve been very inspired. Thank you to Maddie and Mikaela as well for joining us and sharing your journeys with us. And yeah, I know all the comments in the chat have been super happy. So glad you’ve been here with us and I think everyone’s going away walking with a little bit of a spring their step hoping to change the world just a little bit and that’s why we’re doing this today. So this is our final webinar for Canberra Women of Science and Art but it doesn’t have to stop here. So we’re going to be putting these recordings up online so you can view this one again or you can watch our Saturday webinar as well to get inspired by those speakers too and enter our competition. So we’d love you for you all to submit an artistic interpretation of anything you’ve heard this seed or anything you’ve seen online and yet just submit that through our website. I’ll pop up the link and yeah we will have prizes, there are a few categories you can enter into. And we’ve had prizes donated from some of our speakers. We’ve had Questacon passes donated crisis from careers with STEM Defense Science and Technology National Science Week and Innovate Communicate. And don’t forget to check out everything you’ve heard about today as well so that future film festival that Maddie told us about. And all of Michaela’s awesome stuff as well, it’s all on our website. So you can find it there so I’ll just pop this final slide up. We’ve got our website up there and we also have our Facebook page. So get those submissions in and we will be sharing them on our website too. So you can see what everyone has done. But for now we’re going to say goodbye. So, good night everyone and thank you for joining us.
All: Good night! Thank you everyone, nice, great to have you have you all here. Thank you!