There is no doubt that we need to increase the effort to promote engineering to Indigenous students as a real career option and Jabin wants to be involved in that cause. Engineers without Borders are already doing great work in promotion and several universities are seeing the benefits of running Indigenous Engineering Summer Schools. We can build on this.
I must admit I don’t know the actual numbers of Indigenous engineers out there now. What I do know is that there are over 200 Indigenous doctors ready to practice medicine today in Australia. But I can only think of a handful of Indigenous engineers. I mention Indigenous doctors because firstly, it makes me feel really proud especially when I know some of those doctors are from my home town. Secondly, it inspires the sustained effort that can elevate engineering numbers to the same magnitude.
So where should the effort go? I believe we need to educate students about what engineers do and how they impact on the wellness of our communities. Knowing how engineering contributes to our communities is important because our people desire jobs that will allow them to use their skills to give back to our communities. We live in a time when there still remains enormous gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the areas of health, education and incarceration. It is no surprise then, that we are seeing graduates as doctors, nurses, teachers and lawyers all with the desire to return to their communities to give back in some way. But also be role models showcasing the diversity of professions in reach of Indigenous people.
Can engineering satisfy this desire to give back? Absolutely and I speak from direct experience. I left home to complete a civil engineering degree and returned home to be part of a team delivering health infrastructure to every Indigenous communities in Queensland. Engineers are not in the direct line of sight if compared to doctors or teachers. We are behind the scenes constructing and maintaining the infrastructure that supplies fresh water, treats sewage, and drains stormwater. We design the roads and the subdivisions where additional housing alleviates overcrowding. Essential health infrastructure that increases our standard of living. I have been involved in projects like these and have been lucky enough to have worked in every Aboriginal Shire in my home state of Queensland. I would love nothing better than to see Indigenous kids take this same rewarding path.
Written by Dennis Jose