Exciton Science Meets Parliament
Alison Goldingay was one of three Exciton Science representatives at Science Meets Parliament in 2023.
In this blog, the University of Sydney PhD student recounts her excitement and enthusiasm at entering into dialogue with elected officials and policymakers as part of this annual initiative by Science & Technology Australia.
We were privileged to have the opportunity to meet with parliamentarians in small groups in order to build relationships and learn from each other - for us to learn about what the parliamentarians are trying to do to effect positive change, what they care most about and how they are representing their people, and for us to share about the Centre and the science that we work on.
I met with Senator Cox, an inspiring First Nations Senator for the Greens from WA, who is passionate about climate change solutions. I was able to leave her with a prototype OPV solar panel which she was very excited about and leave an Exciton Science luminescent solar concentator keyring with her advisor.
I was honoured to share the floor with Courtney-Jay Williams and Toni Hay, both inspiring First Nations women working for ICC (Indigenous Climate Change), an organisation which seeks to map the effects of climate change on Indigenous people, who are often the most severely affected by it, and plan for their adaptation and survival. They were very grateful to Exciton Science for the opportunity to attend as well. The meeting was cut short by a senate vote but this is often the nature of parliament and we were grateful for the time we were able to have with Senator Cox before she had to leave.
In the afternoon I met with MP Luke Gosling, member for Solomon (Darwin), who is also now another proud owner of an OPV solar panel and Exciton Science keyring. Again, I had the honour to share the floor with AIP president and distinguished dark matter physicist Prof Nicole Bell as well as the inspirational Tiahni Adamson from CH4 global, who is working on a seaweed supplement for cows which can reduce their methane emissions by up to 90%. Luke was in and out for voting but we were able to have some great discussions about the scientific research occurring in the country and build some relationships around that.
Alison (centre) with Courtney-Jay Williams (right) and Toni Hay (top right)
Tackling the issues
I had a lovely lunch at the National Press Club, where we heard from Minister for Science Ed Husic about what he deems is the future of the nation's investment in science. I was quite inspired by his recollection of the different Indigenous knowledge systems present in Australia way ahead of the global curve and his celebration of Indigenous people as the first scientists and engineers of Australia - from astronomy (cf. Karlie Noon and Krystal de Napoli's book Sky Country) to ancient fish trapping systems in Queensland and concentric circles carved in rockfaces for timekeeping.
I learnt so much about Indigenous knowledge preparing and attending SMP. The minister discussed topical issues such as AUKUS and the National Reconstruction Fund and how the government plans to build up sovereign capability in Australia. It was interesting to hear the questions from the journalists and observe how he tackled those.
Looking to the future
In between all these events we had the opportunity to hear from visionaries such as Dr Cathy Foley and Prof Brian Schmidt in dialogue about science leadership, network with incredible scientists and generally enjoy the atmosphere (and constant bell-ringing) of Parliament House. In the afternoon I attended question time while my colleagues Harini and Josh attended the popular geology tour, which I am sure involved less political bickering. We also met Dr Jordan Pitt in the afternoon, who was another grateful and well-deserved recipient of Exciton Science's sponsorship.
The highlight of the day for me was the gala dinner. Over 400 guests were there including some number of parliamentarians representing more than 40% of the entire parliament. It was fantastic to see how they all supported and celebrated the science community in speeches as well as by setting aside the time to attend the event in a very busy sitting week. I couldn't believe that I was able to network with such visionary leaders, everywhere I turned I was starstruck!
Jordan and I also managed to get a selfie with Minister Husic himself, who was the third and final excited recipient of a solar panel prototype! I didn't manage to give him a keyring because he was running out the door, thus is the nature of these brief interactions. I felt so honoured to be there in the room with all these incredible people and I have a refreshed hope for the future of science in this great country.