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Seven talented Young Indigenous Women's STEM Academy students took part in the James Cook University (JCU) Winter camp in Townsville over the recent June/July school holidays.

Charlie Smith, Young Indigenous Women's STEM Academy and JCU Winter camp participant.

The JCU Winter Camp is a one-week residential program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students in years 10, 11 and 12. The camp offers a range of educational activities to give the students the chance to experience University while building a network of friends and forming connections with JCU mentors, lecturers, and ambassadors.

During the week, students chose of the areas study they would like to pursue and attended lectures, workshops, and field trips within that field.

One student who attended the camp is Charlie Smith from the Jagera Nation in South East Queensland. Charlie currently attends Marist Catholic College in Emerald.

Charlie joined the Young Indigenous Women's STEM Academy because she was eager to connect with other like-minded Indigenous young women.

"At the time, I was physically distanced from my family and felt disconnected from culture. The Academy has given me an incredible opportunity to connect closely with my culture," Charlie said.

Charlie's Mum, Jaala Smith, has seen certain character traits such as confidence, leadership and teamwork further develop and accentuated in Charlie as a result of her involvement in the Academy.

Since joining the Academy, Charlie has made incredible connections with young Indigenous women who go through the same challenges, prejudice, and biases she faces.

"As a professional Murri woman in STEM, I respect and support the work and ethos behind these initiatives and deeply appreciate the support not just of my daughter but for all of the young Murri ones coming up," Jaala said.

The Academy strives to find opportunities outside of the program to allow the students to experience other educational programs, such as the JCU Winter Camp.

Carl Brough, Head of Department Science at Charters Towers State High School, said his students have benefited from the program by linking with Indigenous women working in industry and learning from them and their experiences.

"They met new role models and worked with experts in their fields, to learn about their personal journey and how they overcame challenges," Carl said.

Natasha Taylor is the Indigenous Education Liaison Officer at Marist Catholic College and says the JCU winter camp was a revitalising experience for her students.

"It was an opportunity to learn new things, be around like-minded people but will also give students the chance to reconnect and regather," Natasha said.

Wendy Bode, Deputy Principal at Thuringowa State High School for the Global Tropics Future Project says the JCU Winter camp will make the transition to University smoother and more comfortable for the students as they lived and studied on campus.

The JCU Winter camp has seen its success through increased student enrolment and a decrease in transition challenges students face when they begin their university studies (James Cook University, 2019).

Charlie and fellow Academy students attended the JCU Winter camp and are excited about future opportunities.

The Young Indigenous Women's STEM Academy is delivered by CSIRO in partnership with Indigenous employment organisation CareerTrackers, who will work with the students to ensure their STEM path is tailored to their personal goals and their social and emotional wellbeing supported.

The Academy is proudly funded by the National Indigenous Australians Agency.

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