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18 February 2018 Speech

I would like to begin by acknowledging the Kulin people as the Traditional Owners of the land that we're meeting on today, and pay my respect to their Elders past and present.

I'd also like to thank the BHP Billiton Foundation for another fantastic year supporting our STEM leaders of the future.

This partnership not only provides our students with an outstanding opportunity to hone their skills and fuel their passions, but showcases the power of collaboration between science and industry.

That special relationship when science solves a real world problem, and industry can take it to market as a product and put it in the hands of real people to make their lives better.

Let me acknowledge and thank the most special group of people here today: our teachers.

My high school physics teacher Sally Kerwin was one of the most influential people in my life – the selfless gift of teaching changes lives.

Thank you for all you do to inspire and nurture our leaders of tomorrow, we all owe you a debt of gratitude.

So congratulations to all our students here today, your curiosity and commitment and passion are a credit to you, and will ensure our future is in safe hands.

So let's talk about that future for a minute – what kinds of jobs will be available for bright, STEM-literate young people like you?

As the head of the CSIRO, I get asked this question a lot. And like many areas of science, I can tell you that we don't really know! But like in science, we can also make some educated guesses based on what we see around us.

A couple of weeks ago I was in the US, visiting the CSIRO team in our new office in Silicon Valley.

You probably know Silicon Valley for today's mega tech-companies like Apple.

Interestingly, when we survey Australians, Apple is the only organisation that is more associated with the word 'innovation' than CSIRO.

But we're working on beating them to the top spot!

What you might not realise is that the tech they're famous for came out of science research in organisations just like CSIRO – a lot of it from Stanford University, which is just around the corner in the Valley.

Some of it even comes from Australia – anyone know where the WiFi on their phones was invented?

What we're trying to do in the Valley, and in the US more broadly, is get more of our Australian science into the US market, which is the biggest consumer market in the world.

We know Australian science has a lot more than WiFi to offer the world, and we're not the only ones who think that.

Just last week Professor Michelle Simmons from the University of NSW became our newest Australian of the Year.

Michelle wasn't born in Australia, and she didn't even go to university here – she moved here after finishing her studies in the UK because, as she said in her acceptance speech, she thinks Australia is one of the best places to do science in the world.

Here's how she describes what she's working on now:

"Today, there is an international race to build a quantum computer and the field is highly competitive – nicknamed the space race of the computing era.

"Australia has established a unique approach with a globally competitive edge that has been described by our US funding agencies as having a two- to three-year lead over the rest of the world."

Coincidentally, Australia's unique approach involves using silicon to build the quantum computer, the same material that made Silicon Valley so famous when Intel commercialised the silicon chip that's in all electronics today.

So what does that mean for your future?

It means you're starting your careers in one of the best places in the world, and you can build an international career without having to leave.

The world today is flat – we've never been more connected than we are today, and if you have the right skills, you can do anything, from anywhere, with anyone.

As I look around today, I see the same kinds of minds at work as the ones that invented WiFi before we had mobile phones – who knows what you will invent that could have the same profound effect on our world?

I hope you will come and invent it at CSIRO so I can see it first-hand!

Life, the world, and a job is what you make it – from what you have put into your projects I can see you will get a lot out of life. So to close on the question of jobs of the future – you won't care, because you'll create your own jobs, your own companies, and your own future – a better future, I think, for all of us – thank you.

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