Immersive scientific experience inspires First Nations students  

This article featured in Illuminate Newsletter Summer ‘23
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DeadlyScience Pathways Programs students conduct experiments in a WEHI laboratory

First Nations secondary school students from across the country have been immersed in the world of science, and STEM-related study and careers, thanks to the WEHI DeadlyScience Pathways Program.

At a glance
The WEHI DeadlyScience Pathways Program provides First Nations students with a range of tours and activities to discover pathways into science education and employment. 
The three-day biomedical science immersive experience for 24 students from three urban and remote schools was held at WEHI’s Parkville campus. 
WEHI’s partnerships with DeadlyScience aims to cultivate and extend engagement with First Peoples and communities.  

Fostering the next generation

WEHI has partnered with leading Indigenous not-for-profit, DeadlyScience, to foster the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander scientists, in the first partnership of its kind. 

DeadlyScience has grown to be Australia’s leading Indigenous STEM charity, working with schools and community organisations across all states and territories.

The three-day DeadlyScience Pathways Program involved students from Central Queensland, Brisbane and Western Sydney travelling to Melbourne to tour WEHI’s Parkville laboratories, conduct hands-on experiments and listen to inspiring scientists.



Thane Garvey - Wurundjeri Traditional Owner (left), Corey Tutt OAM (middle), Joshua Waters (right) and students in the DeadlyScience Pathways Program.
The 24 students travelled to Melbourne from Queensland, Brisbane and Western Sydney for the three-day program.

WEHI director, Professor Doug Hilton AO, said the pilot pathways program gave First Nations students an opportunity to experience first-hand where a career in science could lead.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were Australia’s first scientists, and as part of our deep commitment to reconciliation WEHI is dedicated to increasing First Nations representation in STEM,” Prof Hilton said.

“This new program, co-designed by WEHI and DeadlyScience, introduces the next generation of First Nations students to a career in biomedical science and shows them the difference they can make in people’s lives.”

DeadlyScience founder and CEO, Kamilaroi man Corey Tutt OAM, said: “This program builds on the fantastic work that DeadlyScience has been able to do at the primary level, offering secondary school students from across the country the opportunity to expand their knowledge and gain critical insights into science education and employment pathways, while developing peer networks that they will be able to access for many years to come.

Participants experienced a hands-on range of activities such as as lab experimentation, looking at biochemical processes and problem solving.

“We are proud of the impact that this will create in the lives of students and their communities.

“It is important for learners to find their passion, experience as much as they can and follow their passion with energy. They are the next generation of Deadly Scientists.”

The students were welcomed to WEHI with a Welcome to Country and Smoking ceremony.
The students were welcomed to WEHI with a Welcome to Country and Smoking ceremony.

Exploring what science can offer

The DeadlyScience Pathways Program began with a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony, establishing a profound commitment to embracing the cultural practices of First Nation peoples.

During the program, students learned about alternative entry pathways into science and heard from researchers such as Dr Jason Brouwer about a day in the life of a scientist, and Dr Rene Hessling, who shared insights into optics, a critical part of biomedical research.

World-renowned scientist and animator Dr Drew Berry showed students the process of developing animations for scientific communication and research translation.


Associate Professor Misty Jenkins inspiring students in her presentation.
Associate Professor Misty Jenkins AO inspiring students in her presentation.

Students also conducted lab experiments with imaging expert Niall Geoghegan, bringing water samples from their home towns to test using bench top microscopes.

The last day focused on visiting the Gene Technology Advancement Centre (GTAC), Victoria’s leading source of Life Sciences education and resourcing.

Participants experienced a hands-on range of activities including cell biology, biochemical processes, pathogens, evolution, and using biomimicry to solve problems.

In May this year, WEHI launched its third Reconciliation Action Plan, outlining the institute’s reconciliation journey so far and the actions and commitments it will continue to implement.

The RAP details over 70 practical actions to be taken over the next two years, supporting WEHI’s vision to be purposeful, visible, and bold in its efforts to take tangible steps toward reconciliation.

Header image: Students conducting lab experiments to test water from their home towns.

First published August 25 2023

First published on 25 August 2023
This article featured in Illuminate Newsletter Summer ‘23
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