Blog icon

By  Jessica Hildyard We-Anda Currie-Luglio 30 May 2024 4 min read

Key points

  • Melissa Tipo from the Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy also runs her family’s cattle property using her STEM knowledge.
  • When she was growing up, our scientists came to her family's property to study a weed, which sparked a passion for science in her.
  • Melissa now encourages other young Indigenous women to get involved in STEM.

Melissa's family has lived in the NT area for many generations, and she is a part of the Goanna clan. She's also proud of her Larrakia, Kungarakan, Cornish and Chinese heritage.

Melissa Tipo sits cross legged holding up her traditional weaving craft.

Ever since Melissa was young, she loved learning about science and technology. In fact, when she was growing up, some of our scientists came to her family's property to study a plant that was taking over the land.

“More than 40 years ago, CSIRO conducted research at our family cattle station on Mimosa pigra, an invasive weed from South America. I remember as a child looking at the sign and listening to my parents talk to the scientists about the different ways they would try to eliminate Mimosa from our property.”

Mimosa is a native weed of tropical, Central and South America. According to Department of Primary Industries NSW, Mimosa was introduced to the Darwin Botanic Gardens in the late 1800s. By the 1970s, the weed spread and is widespread in river systems across the Northern Territory.

Melissa was so interested in what they were doing that it sparked an enduring passion for science.

“I have always been interested in science, technology, engineering, and maths and CSIRO,” Melissa says.

Since then, Melissa has become an inspiration to others, because she's done so many different things in her life and she’s found plenty of maths and science in everything she’s done.

As well as farming and working for CSIRO, Melissa has been an elite athlete, and represented Australia in taekwondo. She's an artist who had her own art gallery and in 2023 had her artwork displayed on the CoolDrive V8 Supercars.

Melissa Tipo smiles at the camera in front of an aged CSIRO biosecurity sign on her family’s property in the Northern Territory, the same sign she used to look at as a child.

Melissa's work in STEM Education

As Academic Coordinator and Team Leader of our Young Indigenous Women's STEM Academy, Melissa helps young Indigenous women. She helps in supporting them to learn about STEM and become scientists, engineers and more. She also connects students with STEM mentors and companies. Melissa even won the Promoting Women and Girls in STEM representation NT Science Award in 2023.

Melissa also seeks industry partners to sponsor meaningful work placements and other STEM activity of the young women. Melissa wants to make sure that young Indigenous women across Australia have the same opportunities as everyone else. She helps them believe that they can achieve anything they set their minds to.

The award-winning Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy is delivered by a team made up of 97 per cent Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women including Melissa.

A group of smiling Indigenous women from the Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy team sit and stand together outside as group.

"Facing challenges and imposter syndrome is a common experience,” Melissa says.

“But I've learned that with the support of strong and empowering women, it's possible to overcome these obstacles. Every hurdle we face is a chance to become stronger and more resilient, and I'm grateful for the lessons they've taught me."

Melissa loves art and farming. But what she loves most is helping Indigenous girls find their passion in STEM.

“While I have always been passionate about STEM,” Melissa says.

"My diverse background and experiences have shown me the importance of providing continued support for Indigenous youth in pursuing education and careers."

Advice to young Indigenous students

“Embrace your Indigenous heritage, overcome imposter syndrome and believe in yourself!” Melissa says.

“Remember, you are the legacy of Australia's first scientists. Seek supportive networks, explore STEM fields and never be afraid to reach out for help."

Discovering science

If you live in the city, you might not realise how much science is required in running a farm. Melissa doses out medicine to cattle, predicts the weather and sets controlled fires. Her maths skills get a workout too, managing budgets and ensuring that the farm and art gallery stay in business.

"I've learned that science is woven into every aspect of our lives,” she says.

“It's not confined to laboratories and classrooms. It's all around us, waiting to be discovered in the smallest of details and the grandest of phenomena."

Smiling Melissa Tipo stands proudly in her STEM Academy uniform.

About the STEM Academy

The Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy supports young Indigenous women through secondary school, university and into graduate employment. It provides support and mentoring to young Indigenous women with exciting opportunities to develop STEM skills while allowing them to explore their interests.

If you are or know a Young Indigenous woman with a passion for STEM, check out our expression of interest form to apply the STEM Academy.

The Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy is funded by the National Indigenous Australians Agency.

This article was originally published in Double Helix magazine.

Contact us

Find out how we can help you and your business. Get in touch using the form below and our experts will get in contact soon!

CSIRO will handle your personal information in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) and our Privacy Policy.

First name must be filled in

Surname must be filled in

I am representing *

Please choose an option

Please provide a subject for the enquriy

0 / 100

We'll need to know what you want to contact us about so we can give you an answer

0 / 1900

You shouldn't be able to see this field. Please try again and leave the field blank.