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Isobel is the first recipient of the NYSF x LIYSF Indigenous Scholarship. She will be attending the London International Youth Science Forum in July-August 2024.

Isobel, a young palawa woman and recent alum of the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF), is embarking on a new adventure to the London International Youth Science Forum (LIYSF) in July. She shares her journey and many interests, shedding light on her passion for STEM and her perspective as a young Indigenous woman.

Isobel was initially drawn to medicine and neuroscience, but she found herself at a crossroads in year 11, realising that her true passions are broad. Living in lutruwita/Tasmania presented challenges in accessing a wide range of STEM opportunities, but a pivotal moment came during a presentation by a geospatial scientist at her school. Inspired by this encounter and further exploration during the specialist lectures at NYSF, Isobel discovered a fascination and potential future with aerospace and astrophysics.

“But then I did all the specialist lectures and I was like actually, I'm quite interested in aerospace and astrophysics, so that was really cool. That's something that helped me – was finding that and getting back on track.”

“I wanted to be an astronaut for a long while when I was little, but I thought I couldn't do it. Being Tasmanian and being a woman, I had people tell me that I couldn't. So I kind of lost that. Going away to NYSF in Brisbane reignited that; it made me feel like it was a bit more possible when I learned about the first Australian woman astronaut. I saw that and it strengthened my motivation to go into that field. It's kind of been a twisty path, but it's come back in a nice circle!”

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Isobel (left) visiting SEQ Water and (right) speaking at the NYSF Year 12 Program in Brisbane

Beyond her scientific pursuits, Isobel has many talents. An enthusiastic French hornist, she participates in a band and also devotes time to volunteer work at her local high school, showcasing her artistic talents through murals and winning accolades for her art.

“I'm a very artsy person. I've got a creative side. And then the problem-solving STEM side. So quite a broad spectrum of things!”

Isobel's connection to her Indigenous heritage deeply influences her STEM journey. She highlights the importance of preserving and respecting the land, reflecting on ongoing conservation efforts in Tasmania. Her father, a veteran with a background in defence, instilled early STEM interests in her, nurturing her curiosity and ambition.

“Being Indigenous down here, we have strong connection to country. I do a lot of our cultural dances and we go on a four-day camp just out in the middle of nowhere and we do all our dances and we have mutton bird and abalone and it's really great. I think that was a big thing that I was like, oh, geospatial science, environmental science! So that's another kind of side to me, that pushed me into STEM as well.”

“Country is a really big thing for me. Down here we're doing a lot conservation wise with looking after the kelp forests and managing land and transforming it from farmland with a lot of European grasses and back into natural grasses. I'm on track at the end of this year to help one of the Rangers who is in contact with the college when we do our cultural camp to take a thermoscope and keep track of some of the native Tasmanian Devil populations down here. It's a big part of me. The way that we rely on Country so much is really special.”

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Isobel with red ochre and clap sticks after Welcome to Country. The forehead symbolises venna and the stripes on Isobel's arm symbolise the nine nations of lutruwita.

Isobel's journey is one of determination. As the only NYSF applicant from her high school in many years, she had the full support of her teachers, and she calls out the support of Aboriginal Education Worker Cathy Ransom for her help navigating the application process, leveraging her dyslexia and neurodivergent traits as unique strengths.

“She does so much! She helped me out tremendously because I'm dyslexic and I'm neurodivergent as well. She was just tremendous. I cannot thank her enough for it and it's fantastic. She’s even helped me with everything for London. She gave me all the contacts to e-mail – all these different politicians to ask for funding and she helped me stay grounded in the whole process of applying and getting everything organised. She’s a legend.”

Isobel emphasises the importance of perseverance and support in overcoming personal and financial obstacles. Her journey is marked by a profound sense of determination, buoyed by the belief that no dream is beyond reach. Despite facing barriers, including family responsibilities and health challenges, Isobel's resilience shines through.

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Isobel (left) at the Rosny College Achievers' Afternoon wearing a traditional maireener shell necklace made by Elders, and (right) on a hike to Parsons Knob in Freycinet

Isobel's reflections shed light on the imposter syndrome that can hinder people, particularly Indigenous students, from seeking opportunities. She confronts the notion that success is reserved for a select few, challenging the systemic barriers that perpetuate inequality in educational access.

“Sometimes there's a bit of imposter syndrome, I know just before I went, I got really freaked out and I was like, ‘ohh, you know, these are probably really intelligent people, maybe I'm not at that standard. Maybe I don't deserve the support that's coming.’ I've always struggled with that because my family's background is, you know, you have to work really hard for what you're given and sometimes reaching out for that supports really difficult, especially with London.”

We’re incredibly excited and proud to watch Isobel’s journey as she explores new scientific horizons. Go Issie!

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Apply to the NYSF Year 12 Program 

Apply to the London International Youth Science Forum

Celebrating Isobel’s Journey from NYSF to LIYSF - content image