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Deadly Science opening doors for Indigenous scientists of the future

Dianne Bortoletto -

Deadly Science is one of 14 national finalists and one of five in NSW in the Indigenous Excellence category of the 2024 Telstra Best of Business Awards.

Deadly Science is a not-for-profit Indigenous charity with a mission to help students discover science, technology, engineering and maths pathways through innovative education programs.

It started in 2018 with Corey Tutt from Kamilaroi (pronounced Gamilaroi) in Nowra, NSW, after he experienced the disconnect between STEM and Aboriginal students.

"Deadly Science is about ensuring the next generation doesn't grow up like I did – I had encyclopaedic knowledge of reptiles, but no encouragement to get into animal careers when I was at school," he said.

Mr Tutt left school at 16 and has held various jobs from zoo keeping to dog training to shearing.

"I love animals and wildlife, it's always been my passion. I just did a virtual session with student on emus and the kids were laughing, they loved it - it decolonises the lab code," he said.

"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were the first scientists and I want to encourage our kids to follow our tradition of 65,000 years of science.

"Our connection to the sea, sky, country, astronomy - we invented resin, aerodynamic weapons, complex combinations of bush medicines and more.

"Science doesn't have to be boring or slow. We show that research can be fun, it's not all test tubes and beakers."

Mr Tutt said he worked two jobs to fund Deadly Science and started by sending books and STEM resources into remote communities. A Go Fund Me page raised $250,000, and Deadly Science became a registered charity in 2020.

Also in 2020, Mr Tutt was named NSW Young Australian of the Year and a Human Rights Hero by the Australian Human Rights Commission. In 2021, he received an Australian Museum Eureka Prize and in 2022 a medal of the Order of Australia for service to Indigenous STEM education. He has been appointed an Adjunct Associate Professor of the School of Science at Western Sydney University.

Deadly Science employs 10 Aboriginal people and has supported over 800 schools in every state and territory with STEM resources including more than 25,000 books, 7,500 boxes of resources and 700 telescopes.

"We have a such a passionate team, it's become a family, and I want to support young and older people to work for us and help them on their career paths with development opportunities. I feel really lucky to have such a good team," Mr Tutt said.

"There isn't a gap in knowledge, there's a gap in resources. We're working hard to close the gap in resources and in opportunities."

The dream for the 31-year-old CEO is to have one of his students take his job at Deadly Science one day.

State finalists of the Telstra Best of Business Awards will be announced on November 3, and the national winners will be revealed at the National Gala Dinner on February 8 in Sydney.

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