BSc Extended student and member of the Yorta Yorta people, Jessie Ferrari, reflects on their place as an Indigenous person in science.
“I’ve always adored science, particularly as a keen animal lover,” they say. "I was very much that child out in the garden overturning logs and looking at the insects underneath.”
Jessie recalls being in high school when one of the outreach officers from Murrup Barak came to talk about studying the Extended programs at the University of Melbourne. “I wanted to accept this challenge to go to university and make a space for myself and other indigenous students, particularly in science where we’re quite underrepresented.”
Majoring in Ecology, Jessie says they are lucky that there’s an overlap in their area of science and Indigenous cultural knowledge of the environment. “Indigenous people have this knowledge of the intricate moving parts of the world that helped them to understand the seasons. When we look at the seasons, it’s not just a temperature thing; it’s the behaviour of animals, the behaviour of plants, the movements of stars and constellations. We look and observe everything. That knowledge tells us when is the best time to harvest, the best time to start building, the best time to be migrating to another area.”
Jessie is currently working on a research project with the Australian Indigenous Astronomy Society, funded by the School of Physics. The project looks at the links between Indigenous Koorie seasonal and ecological knowledge paired with Koorie astronomical knowledge. They are also exploring how climate change is causing these patterns to go out of sync.
Jessie is hoping to continue pursuing science after completing a Bachelor of Science and then a Masters degree. They hope that by being unapologetically themself in science, they can inspire other Indigenous students.
“Indigenous students have so much potential and so much ahead of them. Don’t doubt yourself. There are heaps of people that are so excited for them, and desperately want them pursuing science.”
Jessie was a recipient of the 2020 Agilent Indigenous STEM Leadership Award. The Award recognises demonstrated leadership in STEM focussed initiatives by Indigenous students. The award is supported by Agilent Technologies Foundation (USA) as part of a broader program of opportunities aimed at increasing the pool of talented young Indigenous Australians who are capable of becoming future leaders in STEM.