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By  Jessica Hildyard 4 July 2023 3 min read

Key points

  • This year's NAIDOC week theme is ‘For our Elders’. Here are two intertwined stories sharing the strength and power that comes from generational support.
  • Student Petra and her family have seen immediate impact from participating in the Young Indigenous Women's STEM Academy.
  • Academic Coordinator Melissa draws on family connections for inspiration in her art and work with community and students.

Fifteen-year-old student Petra from Mparntwe (Alice Springs) geared up for an exciting opportunity! She was one of the CoolDrive V8 Supercar team at the recent Indigenous Round V8 Supercars races in Darwin.

Petra poses with the CoolDrive V8 Supercar.

Petra, a member of our Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy, secured a vocational education and training work placement with the CoolDrive team and joined the ground pit crew at the race.

Petra is currently studying a Certificate II in Automotive at school. She races her car in the MotorSports NT championships in the under-17 section.

Young Indigenous Women's STEM Academy

The Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy supports young Indigenous women through secondary school, university and into graduate employment with partners, CareerTrackers. The 10-year funded program provides support and mentoring to young Indigenous women interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The Academy gives young Indigenous women exciting opportunities to develop their STEM skills while allowing them to explore their potential passions.

Petra's placement came after a Triple Crown grid walk and pit tour with her Northern Territory Academic Coordinator, Melissa Yaram Tipo, in 2022. Impressed by Petra’s passion to pursue a career in motorsport, the CoolDrive Team initially offered Petra sponsorship for her race car.

Petra thought she would like to be a mechanic like her father. But after exploring the engineer’s station with CoolDrive CEO John Blanchard at the V8 Supercar events, Petra now aspires to become a mechanical engineer. A dream her father wholeheartedly supports.

Petra joined the CoolDrive ground pit crew at the recent Indigenous Round races in Darwin.

Petra’s mum, Nina, has been more than impressed with the Academy. Nina said after attending the V8s and the Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy camp, Petra immediately improved at school.

"Petra has become more engaged at school and her self-confidence has increased. Her Cs became Bs, and her Bs became A grades in the space of just one school term," Nina said.

Of her opportunity to be on the ground and in the pit crew Petra said: “This is my dream come true.”

She sees it as a starting point to one day being the first Indigenous female driver on the track, and racing at her own Indigenous Round in Darwin.

Leading from place

Melissa's artwork was featured on the CoolDrive racing car for the recent V8 Supercars Indigenous Round.

Melissa, Petra’s Academy Coordinator and Djerait artist, also has a special place in Team Blanchard’s CoolDrive squad. Her artwork was featured on their racing car for the recent V8 Supercars Indigenous Round. Melissa's artwork is entitled: Three Generations.

This artwork also celebrates this year's NAIDOC theme, For Our Elders, and the strength and wisdom passed down with each generation.

“The saltwater crocodile represents strength and power. It is also the totem of the Larrakia People on whose lands the race takes place,” Melissa said.

“The three crocodiles represent the three generations of Blanchards who have passed their knowledge down with each generation.

"The dots around the crocodile motifs represent the generations of people who came before us, and continue to look over and guide the community in modern times."

Melissa's artwork, 'Three Generations'.

In Melissa’s artwork, the five large circular dot formations represent the five core values of CoolDrive: Embrace Change, Aim to Inspire, Act Fairly, Show You Care and Work Together. Fittingly, the supercar is a Gen3!

“Also, my name given to me by my grandmother, 'Yaram', means generation after generation,” said Melissa.

Melissa's family are from the Litchfield and Darwin area. She is proud to be a mentor as part of the Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy, sharing her own knowledge and creating inspiring experiences for the next generation of STEM students.

The Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy is delivered in partnership with Career Trackers and the National Indigenous Australians Agency.

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