It is wonderful to be here tonight representing the ACT Government to officially launch National Science Week in the ACT.

Science is such a vital part of our lives, it’s everywhere, whether it’s checking the weather first thing in the morning, or using GPS to get to an event like this one tonight.

For me, science, and the wonderful discoveries that we continue to make, gives us the opportunity to stop and think about our place in the world and our impact on the earth.

 

I know I wasn’t the only one to be blown away by those amazing images of Pluto that were beamed back to earth by NASA’s New Horizons mission last month. It was incredible to learn so much about a planet (and I’m of the generation that still considers Pluto a planet) that is billions of kilometers away.

Now if we could just come up with a cure to my husband’s man flu, we would really be getting somewhere!

National Science Week is Australia's largest annual celebration of science. There are over 1,000 events registered on the Science Week calendar each year and more than one million people participate nationwide.

In the ACT last year more than 29,000 people attended over 130 distinct Science Week activities.

Needless to say this is a wonderful event, and one that the ACT Government is very pleased to support. We’ll all look forward to world record attempts, to schools day, the community day and the open days at ANU and GeoScience Australia.

As many of you know, Canberra is a community that is informed and excited about science.

We recognise and value its significance to our economic and social well‐being.

And we understand the importance of a scientifically engaged community – one that embraces the knowledge‐based industries that enable our economy to remain internationally competitive.

Since 2002, the ACT Government has invested in programs and initiatives to drive growth in the jobs and industries of the future.

For example, we have invested $30 million in the National ICT Centre of Excellence, and $15 million in equity commercialisation funds, ANU Connect Ventures and the Canberra Business Development Fund.

$15 million has gone into innovation capability building grants to SMEs, and more than $5 million towards business support services.

We also support the Inspiring Australia strategy, a national strategy for science engagement, which aims to build a strong, open relationship between science and society.

Our Inspiring Australia officer will support the operations of National Science Week in the ACT as well as other science engagement programs, events, and partnerships, ensuring a more connected and collaborative approach to engaging the community on science, innovation and entrepreneurship.

We are also committed to inspiring the ACT’s next generation when it comes to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (or STEM).

STEM education and skills are vital to our future social and economic well-being. 

It’s estimated that 75 per cent of our fastest growing occupations now require STEM skills and knowledge.

And the ACT Labor Government will continue to increase our community’s engagement in STEM through a range of initiatives, including National Science Week, Inspiring Australia, Digital Careers and STEM 4 Business Internship Program.

We are also working with the CBR Innovation Network to engage the community, encourage the uptake of STEM skills in industry and create local demand for these skills.

In another initiative, the ACT Government has invited Canberra scientists to nominate this year for the inaugural ACT Scientist of the Year Award.

We have had 16 applications from local scientists, and the winner will become a science ambassador for the ACT by talking about the benefits of science careers to students, and promoting the ACT as a centre of knowledge, and scientific research and innovation.

The first ever recipient of this award will be announced next week during Science Week celebrations and I know we’ll all look forward to this announcement.

The career opportunities available to those who continue to study science, technology and maths are remarkable.

And many of the events during National Science Week offer a window into such careers.

Indeed, tomorrow’s Science in ACTion event, taking place at the Old Bus Depot in Kingston, will showcase the many career opportunities in STEM.

One of the great things about National Science Week is that it practically demonstrates applications of science, engineering, technology and maths in many different fields.

I have three primary school age children and I know how true it is that when kids experience some of the wonders of science for the first time, it really draws them in.

As a parent you start to re-discover some of the incredible basics of science. Recently my 7 year old daughter had to make a mixture. She loved mixing Cajun spice mix with dirt, toothpaste and tomato sauce. After smelling it and touching it she did resist the urge to taste it. Their class had a great discussion about everyone’s curious mixtures. Science in action.

Finally, National Science Week would not be what it is without the support of volunteers around the country.

The coordinating committees and event holders give their time and enthusiasm to create the many engaging science experiences on offer this week in Canberra.

Without you all, National Science Week would not be possible. So please join me in thanking the volunteers who help stage National Science Week locally and around the country by giving them all a round of applause.

Thank you for the opportunity to launch National Science Week in the ACT tonight.

I hope you all have a wonderful Science Week, make new discoveries yourselves and for those from out of town, I encourage you all to take advantage of what’s on offer here in Canberra.