Professor Alex Brown has been appointed to the CSIRO board of directors, becoming the first Indigenous scientist to serve on the national science agency’s board and the Albanese government’s first appointment to it.
A leader in Aboriginal health and public health services, Professor Brown commenced in the role on March 16 and will serve on a part-time basis for five years.
A member of the Yuin Nation, he is also Professor of Indigenous Genomics at the Telethon Kids Institute and was recently appointed as the director of the National Centre for Indigenous Genomics at the Australian National University.
His research has centred on health inequalities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, particularly with chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
Industry and Science minister Ed Husic announced the appointment during his address to the National Press Club on Wednesday.
“Alex, you’re the first appointment, but I know you won’t be the last. And I know that your own journey in science has been guided by inspiring Indigenous scientists and mentors,” Mr Husic said.
“You’ve mentioned the influence your sister’s career had on your decision to embark on research in health. Your sister, Professor Ngiare Brown was one of the first Indigenous medical graduates in Australia and is now the first female and first Indigenous Chancellor of James Cook University. Quite a family.”
Mr Husic also thanked Professor Brown for “the path you are setting, for all the Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers and scientists who will follow you”.
With the appointment of Professor Brown, there are two unfilled CSIRO board positions.
When asked about the vacancies by InnovationAus.com in February, Mr Husic said “processes are well advanced to fill current vacancies” on the CSIRO Board, Industry, Innovation and Science Australia Board, and the government’s board spot at Silicon Quantum Computing.
Consultation on the government’s Pathway to Diversity in STEM Review formally began earlier this month. Work to refresh the federal government’s national science priorities is also underway, with “elevating and investing in First Nations perspectives on science, technology and innovation” already suggested in the terms of reference.
On Tuesday, Australia’s National Indigenous Space Academy launched. The program is run out of Monash University, with funding support from the Australian Space Agency, and will enable five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university students to participate in a 10-week summer internship program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
In October 2022, the Australian National University launched Gandaywarra, its First Nations Innovation Hub and is currently establishing a multi-million dollar ‘proof of concept’ grants program.
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