BSc Extended student Kinjia May Munkara-Murray has always loved animals, but it wasn’t until jumping over from a Bachelor of Arts that she realised she could make it her career.
Tiwi and Rembarrnga woman Kinjia was hesitant to go into the Bachelor of Science as she felt that there was a still a stigma around being an Indigenous person and a woman in STEM. However, the hesitation didn’t last long.
“I’d always loved science, and once I changed over to the BSc, I just thrived. I well and truly blossomed into the academic, science world,” she says.
Growing up collecting insects in containers and terrariums, Kinjia loved to study them and watch them grow. “I guess I had always treated my interest in animals as something that could only be a hobby, I never thought I could actually study it or make it my career,” she says.
Kinjia often sees an overlap in Indigenous knowledge and her Natural Sciences subjects. “There was a class… where the lecturer brought up this story from Central Australia about these huge mega-goannas that used to live there. Paleontologists had found fossil remains that were thousands of years old, and the Indigenous people there also had oral records of these mega-goannas.”
“It was just lovely having that brought up in a lecture, like that the oral record was just as valid as the fossil record.”
When it comes to Reconciliation, Kinjia believes more action needs to be done. “If we want to be considered equal, we need to have a parliamentary voice. We need to have the truth be told in history books, and we need treaties.”
Earlier this year Kinjia was awarded the Agilent Indigenous Leadership Award. The award recognises demonstrated leadership in STEM focussed initiatives by Indigenous students.
“This award prompted a lot of self-reflection for me,” Kinjia says. “It made me realise how much I had achieved over the last few years. Being selected for it validated those feelings, it made me realise that yes I have been contributing to the community and it’s a public acknowledgement of those contributions.”
The Agilent Indigenous Leadership 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.
This story is based on an article originally published in the series Humans of BioSciences.