Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has launched their new Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) this week, bringing culture and community to the STEM world.

Indigenous Engagement Outreach Committee Vice-Chair, Brett Rowling, said the RAP is a finalisation of what ANSTO has been dedicated to driving towards in the past decade.

“It’s a little bit different than some other organisations … some organisations you’re in a tower block. We’ve got bushland and so on, and a lot of artefacts that are significant to Dharawal culture.

“They are my southern cousins; my Country is the central coast. It’s not too dissimilar, and we’ve understood that it’s about having those conversations between mob and sharing that to those who come along.”

Rowling said a major priority for ANSTO is ensuring that Indigenous community can re-claim and lead conversations.

“What I am more interested in, particularly with the research side, we’ve had collaborations … But what I really want as things move forward, is that blackfullas will drive it.”

“The stories and so on that come out have always been from whitefullas’ point of view and to be quite honest, we are sick of it.

“What we want to do … there’s a lady nearby who has a lot of knowledge around health and plants. At the moment, it is anecdotal as to how they work, but what we would like to do is to see the compounds that are present and how they work and bring that marriage together. If we have that established by the end of the year, we’ll be glad.

“We did succeed last year, on one of my sites. We found a non-destructive method of looking at the artwork and digitising it to preserve it. Again, it’s a nice start but I want to get that moving into more projects.”

Indigenous Engagement Outreach Committee Member, Susan Bogle added to Rowling’s point.

“We have a number of research projects that look into the validation and integrity of Australian cultural heritage. We want to do more of those things, we want more projects that are being led by community or have a very strong involvement from Indigenous community of that area.”

“We would love to have Indigenous scientists … Brett is very keen in having a joint relationship as it isn’t just about our science, it’s about Indigenous science and engineering and how they might come together.”

The RAP launch consisted of two days of activities and the launch began with a Welcome to Country by Dharawal man John Bursil, who is also President of the Sutherland Shire Aboriginal Education Consultative Group.

The organisation paid homage to the significant cultural heritage surrounding their Lucas Heights campus by unveiling a Dharawal mural on site. Painted by students from local school, Endeavour Sports High and art teacher Rick O’Brien, it was unveiled by Cr Carmelo Pesce, Mayor of Sutherland Shire.

Both O’Brien and Dharawal Cultural Advisor, Bruce Howell, addressed the mural and explained its significance to the land it sits on.

Cultural bushwalks were also included in the program, with 60 spots available, the walks saw over 100 people come along to learn.

The celebrations continued with over 115 local students from the Sutherland Shire and the Illawarra travelling to ANSTO to learn about STEM careers.

Rowling said the day opened the doors for students who may not have had the chance to explore STEM.

“It’s exposure and experience, I put it in a practical sense as originally me and my brother used to hang around Port Kembla, around the shipping terminal and climbing on and off ships and trains. It’s a totally different time now, you can’t do that – if you don’t get exposed, you never see it and you never know it.”

By Rachael Knowles