IY2019 – Aboriginal physicist reaching for the stars
During National Science Week we celebrate the contribution of young scientists like Gamilaraay woman Karlie Noon for advancing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge sharing, language and research.
Karlie is the first Indigenous woman in Australia to graduate with a double degree in maths and physics. A leader in her field, she is a 2019 Young Australian of the Year Finalist and 2019 3M’s Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science.
Karlie is undertaking a Masters of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University (ANU) and the CSIRO. Her achievements so far include:
first in her immediate family to finish high school
first in her extended family to obtain a university degree
first Indigenous student to attend the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the ANU
one of the first recipients of CSIRO's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Postgraduate Scholarships.
In addition to her master's research, she is an advocate for Indigenous scientific knowledge and the importance of multiple knowledge systems. Her advocacy has highlighted the links between culture and astronomy – using science to identify knowledge embedded in dreamtime stories.
She regularly mentors and tutors students particularly from low socio-economic and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.
Karlie also has a strong interest in maintaining and reviving languages. She has worked alongside Dr John Giacon and community members to produce a Gamilaraay language phrase book.
‘That is something that I’m really proud off as it is so important that we preserve languages,’ Karlie said.
‘Language is at the core of our culture and knowledge systems, which includes our traditional scientific knowledge. You need language to be able to express things appropriately and correctly. It is also a way to connect us back to our communities.’
Karlie believes the International Year of Indigenous Languages is critical for reviving at risk languages and ‘reclaiming agency’.
‘It comes at such a turning point for our culture and our people. Shining the light on Indigenous languages is so important for this country as we go forward with reconciliation.’