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Fraser Coast Student Wins BHP Billiton Indigenous STEM Award for Science Excellence

Maryborough high school student Greta Stephenson says that winning the inaugural Indigenous STEM Award for students has strengthened her determination to become an engineer.

It is for her passion in studying maths and science as well as her academic and leadership accomplishments that Greta was chosen as one of two student winners in the first ever national Indigenous STEM Awards conducted by CSIRO and funded by the BHP Billiton Foundation. On Thursday, Greta received her award at a ceremony at St. Mary’s College in Maryborough. Attending the ceremony were representatives from CSIRO and BHP Billiton including Paul Travers. The other student winner, Sharni Cox, received her award in Hobart before Christmas.

“It is both a privilege and an honour to win this award on both the behalf of Indigenous Australians and women who are either in the STEM field or are currently thinking of pursuing something in the STEM field,” said Greta.

Greta applied for the Indigenous STEM Awards program after attending the Aboriginal Summer School for Excellence in Technology and Science (ASSETS) in early 2016. She said the nine day summer school program offered a powerful combination of science and opportunities to learn about her Aboriginal heritage. ASSETS is funded by the BHP Billiton Foundation and carried out by CSIRO. Greta sees her award as a responsibility as much as a reward for her past achievements.

“By continuing to study STEM, and by encouraging others to pursue this pathway, the other winners and myself can be active role models to young Indigenous Australians,” Greta said.

Aside from her work and participation in Indigenous STEM programs, Greta is a flutist and a former Deputy State Leader for the Queensland Country Women’s Association Young Leaders. Greta is proud of her Indigenous heritage. She has attended a number of Indigenous camps that have helped her connect with her Aboriginal heritage.

Greta hopes to work with Engineers Without Borders after she graduates from university. She was inspired by a presentation from the NGO that showed volunteer engineers providing residents of a slum in India with solar lamps made from basic household items.

“Such a simple fix to a long-term problem,” said Greta. “I would love to do work like that.”