Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Science Is Not Just Whitefella Business

By Rowena Ball

Australia’s indigenous culture has a rich scientific heritage, yet indigenous people are under-represented in science-related careers today. Some simple steps can change this.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are under-represented in science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM) careers to an extent that could amount to a violation of human rights under Article 27 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the right of everyone to share in science and its benefits.

History shows that it is impossible to remain free of colonisation and exploitation unless a nation or community reaches out to the knowledge of the world, makes it their own and adds to it, and trains its own people. Yet in 2010 only 11% of indigenous enrolments in higher education were in STEM areas. This compares with 34% of non-indigenous enrolments. It follows that indigenous people are being systematically locked out of well-paid careers in science-related fields.

Australia has a rich indigenous scientific and engineering heritage, but it is largely ignored and neglected. This is surely a significant contributor to this lag in STEM literacy.

Notions that science is all whitefella business or a purely Western construct, and that Aboriginal people are just not good at maths and science, help to perpetuate this situation but it is easy to bust them as myths. An elementary analysis of the peer-reviewed scientific literature reveals that the scientific outputs of the US alone are created largely by non-white, foreign-...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.