A camp unlike any other, the Koori STEM camp is a place that gives students the opportunity to learn about their culture, grow as individuals and take their newly learnt knowledge into their future.

Hidden among the trees of Mount Keira, a Scout camp became the home to 17 bright Aboriginal students. Over the course of three nights, they were to learn about the significant Aboriginal history of Wollongong, and how today society is only re-discovering the knowledge that Aboriginal people used thousands of years ago, enabling the survival of the Aboriginal Culture.

The first day of camp showed the students that they were about to go through a once in a lifetime experience. They were taken to the top of Mount Keira and were introduced to the Dreamtime stories of Wollongong.

The second day was the introduction to the STEM aspect of the camp, what was special here for the students was realising that the knowledge coded into their DNA was science; science that the rest of the world has only just started to realise.  The first link created was through the returning Boomerang, not only was it pointed out that the returning Boomerang was first created in the Illawarra, but it was created for flight and catching birds for food. The Students were then taken to a lab where the link was made, the dimensions of an aeroplane’s wing are the same as a Boomerang.

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Throughout the remainder of the camp, these common connections were made, the students started to see how their ancestors were the pioneers of many modern technologies.

The next two days were introductions to sustainability, identity and responsibility. The students were able to tour around Illawarra Flame house, create their own robots, construct robotic muscles and enter an alternative universe with some VR goggles.  While learning about technology today and the rapid growth of jobs that are all structured around STEM, there was always that link back to culture.

On the last day, the students were able to work on presentations to showcase what they have learnt and how they felt about their time on the camp. Every student left the Koori STEM camp as a family unit, with the important knowledge on how strong their culture has always been. It was clear from the feedback from the students that their lives have truly been altered over the course of three days, not only on STEM but also with their sense of identity.

 Voices from the June Koori STEM Camp

Koori STEM Camp Participant 2017
Participant feedback from June, 2017 program

A STEM intellectual reconciliation in action.

I found that a lot of the technology we have today is thanks to our ancestors. For example, the creation of the boomerang helped inventors to create planes and helicopters. I learnt that I and others are part of a really special community. I learnt how they (UOW Eletromaterials researchers) use the same technique as our ancestor to weave, but they use it in new ways. I learnt that we have the oldest most sustainable surviving ancestors in history

UOW Pro Vice Chancellor, Inclusion and Outreach
Professor Paul Chandler

At [Koori camp] graduation celebration today with the children and their parents in the Smart building it occurred to me, that from my 30 years of experience in academia (and much longer in Aboriginal Affairs), I have never seen a program like this. This comes from one of the people who created Nura Gili and the Indigenous Winter Camp at UNSW and someone who has witnessed firsthand most future student programs at Australian Universities. At a time when Universities and programs are all starting to look very similar the UOW Stem Camp is a refreshing change. The enthusiasm of the UOW EIS Staff itself gave me a measure of the quality of the program.

Teisha Cloos
AIME Mentor |