Indigenous teenagers at remote schools rarely have opportunities to envision themselves in science, technology, engineering and maths careers – but one young Wiradjuri woman has found a path.
Second-year University of Queensland biotechnology student Keely Perry grew up in Longreach where she was High School captain in 2018 and worked part-time as a bakery supervisor.
When Ms Perry finished Year 12, she contacted CareerTrackers, which each year creates internship opportunities for hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
“My older sister spoke highly of her experience as a law student with CareerTrackers,” Ms Perry said.
“I do too – they helped me become a Westpac Learning Consultant Intern in the break between school and University.”
Ms Perry has since completed two Origin Energy internships and is involved as a mentor and mentee with the CareerTrackers / CSIRO Young Indigenous Women in STEM Academy.
“People sometimes ask how a molecular and plant biology student comes to work with Origin Energy,” Ms Perry said.
“But Origin’s interests now span plant-based renewable energy and biofuels, including biogenic production of gas, and I’m exploring postgraduate research opportunities in that exciting area.
“I am passionate about helping to improve Australia’s future in biological and technological research and manufacturing, as well as finding ways to bolster the agricultural sector.
“Getting involved with CareerTrackers, and the National Youth Science Forum for example, can be a real game-changer for students from Indigenous and rural backgrounds.
“These organisations connect you to opportunities.”
Professor Bronwyn Fredericks, UQ’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Engagement), said she was thrilled that increasing numbers of students, like Keely, were gaining exciting opportunities and a range of workplace experiences during their studies.
“UQ is encouraging our students to get involved with CareerTrackers because we can see the work they do is a great help to students when they are moving into the workforce after graduation.”
Ms Perry said she wanted to inspire others to work in STEM.
“Working with Origin, I really enjoyed the opportunities I had to help guide high school students on educational tours of power plants and LPG facilities,” she said.
Through CareerTrackers, Ms Perry was invited to speak on “energy poverty” at a leadership event in Melbourne, earlier this year.
“Thanks to my experience with Origin Energy, I was able to help guide a workshop about assembling and testing solar lights from the SolarBuddy program.
“The program provides lights to communities lacking access to reliable energy, and we were able to present our lights to a Papua New Guinea representative for use in remote areas of his country.”
CareerTrackers has placed Indigenous interns across a range of fields in companies including Westpac, Lendlease, Qantas, Telstra, Herbert Smith Freehills, Nous Group, Social Ventures Australia and Sydney Theatre Company.