Spotlight on National Reconciliation Week

By Dee Lotrian May 26th, 2020

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is celebrated across Australia each year between 27 May and 3 June. This year’s theme is – In this together – which is a good reminder in our current climate that whether in a crisis or in reconciliation we are all #InThisTogether. 

Reconciliation is a journey for all Australians, and at the heart of this journey are relationships between the broader Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We all have a role to play when it comes to reconciliation, and in playing our part we collectively build relationships and communities that value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures.  

There are a number of strategic initiatives that guide the work that CSIRO undertakes to improve engagement and partnerships with, and outcomes for, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

One such initiative is the Indigenous Cadetship Program which aims to improve employment, education and training of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in CSIRO. The cadetship is available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who are enrolled full-time in their first undergraduate degree course. Cadetships offer a combination of full-time study and work placements within CSIRO and provide a study allowance and financial assistance as well as 12-week paid work placement during each year of the cadetship.  

Shanae Burns is an Indigenous woman, with a Butchulla man father (the Traditional Owners of K’gari [Fraser Island]) and an English Australian mother. She took part in the Indigenous Cadetship Program through CSIRO, while studying a Bachelor of Science (m. Psychology and Human Physiology) through USQ 

Shanae is now part of the Knowledge, Discovery and Management group within Data61. She tells us more about her story and her experience with the Indigenous Cadetship Program. 

Shanae Burns

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background

I began my journey in 2016 working within Data61 as a Social Sciences Research Technician with Dr Claire Mason as my mentor. Prior to this, I had completed a few research related subjects as part of my course and quickly gained an interest in working within the field. I was eager to learn more so when the opportunity arose, I applied for the program through my university. 

Tell us about your experience with the indigenous cadetship program

The Cadetship offered me invaluable experience and the ability to build on my personal and professional skills. I was able to grow as a researcher and work alongside some very supportive and great scientific minds. I found that the most interesting part was translating what I had learned at university and applying it to real-world projects. My knowledge of ethics, research methods, and statistics tied into the variety of social science projects I was tasked to work on.  

I graduated from my undergraduate degree in 2018 and transitioned to full-time employment within CSIRO. Since then, I have had the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects exploring how the demand for workers and skills are changing as a result of an increased reliance on technology. I am very grateful for all that CSIRO has offered me and would recommend this program to any university students who are keen to work with great mentors, get real-world experience and grow their research career.  

What do you think is important for others to know about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history?

NRW highlights two significant milestones in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history (the successful 1967 referendum and the High court Mabo decision). I believe it is incredibly important for all Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian’s to be aware of these milestones and understand what they mean for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  

NRW offers a fantastic opportunity to understand and acknowledge our shared histories, cultures, and achievements. This understanding is important to continue to strengthen the relationships and respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and show support for the continued reconciliation in Australia. In order to do this, it is important to have open and honest conversations about our history and get involved where we can to acknowledge NRW.  

This year’s theme for National Reconciliation week is ‘In This Together’. What does this mean for you?

For me, the theme this year ‘In This Together’ highlights the importance that every one of us has a role to play in order to collectively contribute to the reconciliation of Australia. So, during NRW, attend a virtual event, reach out to someone to respectfully learn more about their story, or support a local Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander owned business to show your support. 


Calling all Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander undergraduate students! Take on a paid cadetship in an exciting and stimulating workplace with real life projects, excellent career development opportunities, study support and access to the latest research and state-of-the-art technology.