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Shaping an Indigenous future in Engineering

Australian Universities are uniting in their commitment to greater representation of Indigenous Australians in the field of engineering. The Partners for Pathways project aims to create scholarships and devise strategies to promote pathways into engineering and remove barriers to entry for Indigenous and other students who do not have the STEM prerequisites.

University of Melbourne alumnus and former Sinclair Knight Merz, Chief Executive Officer Professor Paul Dougas (pictured), leads the Partners for Pathways program, aiming to vastly improve opportunities for Indigenous engineering students and increase the number of Indigenous engineers working in Australia.

The Partners for Pathways project is a nationwide initiative being led by The University of Melbourne through a Commonwealth grant of $700,000.

The first ever National Indigenous Engineering Summit will bring together the engineering industry, professional bodies, educational providers and policy leaders to exchange ideas and develop strategies to create and support pathways into the engineering profession for Indigenous Australians.

Current Indigenous engineers who have graduated will come from around the country to contribute to the National Summit.

Most of the major Australian University engineering schools will be represented at the Summit. They will work together to redress the poor representation of Indigenous Australians in the engineering field.

“Indigenous engineers are part of the conversation and providing input into the building of the pathways. They are engineers and have gone through the journey into engineering,” Professor Dougas said.

“These engineers can now be mentors to current students coming through the ranks and are able to provide advice on what barriers and experiences they had to help build a tangible pipeline into the profession,” he said.

“The Indigenous community has until now been underrepresented in the engineering profession, a situation that has had major negative consequences.”

The stakeholders are examining the blockages that are preventing Indigenous students from pursuing studies in engineering, with a view to devising ways of working around these barriers. One of the key barriers was a lack of take-up of maths and science subjects among Indigenous school students.

Professor Ian Anderson, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Engagement) said the University of Melbourne has a commitment to population parity as a key feature of the 2015 Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

“Building on that commitment and taking greater steps towards setting hard targets to achieve population parity, the University will look towards the recruitment and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students,” Professor Anderson said.

“This will certainly assist with young Aboriginal children seeing real life role models of Indigenous engineers and how that it is possible,” he said.

“The Summit is a life-changing event involving industry, not for profits and education providers providing recommendations to help steer this pathway. We have a consultative approach that places current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engineers at the centre of this approach.”

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