Meet the 2018 CSIRO Indigenous STEM Early Career Award Winner

30 Mar 2018

The $20k prize will give a much needed boost to ‘Barayamal’,  Foley’s charity which aims to inspire, engage and educate Indigenous youth and budding entrepreneurs within the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) field.

The $20k prize will give a much needed boost to ‘Barayamal’,  Foley’s charity which aims to inspire, engage and educate Indigenous youth and budding entrepreneurs within the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) field.

After serving for five years in the Royal Australian Air Force, Foley, a proud Kamilaroi man from Gunnedah, was given a book about entrepreneurship by a friend and was immediately inspired to create a platform where he could create positive change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities by helping to accelerate their learning and businesses.

Foley’s vision was to start engaging youth and creating programs that would help to close the gap in disparity and employment rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the fastest growing area of the employment market, the technology fields.

The decision to start Barayamal also came from Foley’s own negative experiences in dealing with Government organisations that often didn’t have the best interest of communities in mind.  “The reason why I reluctantly started Barayamal was because previously I didn’t have the best experiences with some Government organisations and corporates, and I personally didn’t feel they had the best interest of my community and were not really helping to close the disparity gap.”

“Despite having limited resources and time, I feel if we can inspire and support a couple of First Nations entrepreneurs who have the tenacity to achieve their business aspirations and have the community values to give back and help where they can, it will go a long way to create self-sustainable communities that third party organisations have no control or influence of.” says Foley.

Alisha Geary, founder of Faebella, at Barayamal’s first Indigenous Startup Weekend.

After seeing the data around Indigenous students studying STEM fields, at a very small number, the need to inspire more to get involved was very clear to Foley. “There were only 170 Indigenous people enrolled in STEM subjects in University which is crazy when you consider all the jobs that are available in the area and becoming more automated. When you look at the jobs in STEM in Australia they are outpacing every other industry so the reason I think it’s really important is to help close the disparity and opportunity gap especially in employment which is still below 50% to try and give the people the right skills so they can excel in the future and achieve their aspirations and also take care of their families and communities.”

Foley says that the projected massive growth in the areas of STEM jobs and employment within Australia presents an ideal opportunity for First Nations communities to take back some power from the Government through de-centralisation technologies such as block chain. “Some of these technologies are in the early stages of development but I’m excited to see what happens in the future if more First Nations people are in STEM and programming.”

After officially launching Barayamal in April 2017, Foley says that it’s been quite a challenge to secure funding and that the natural response is to find ways to become self-sustainable, without having to rely on a hand up, which doesn’t always come easily.

“One of our plans is to try and raise one million dollars from philanthropists overseas on our First Nations Startup Tour – so what we’ll do is pitch some of the world’s biggest philanthropic funds (overseas) to raise the money and avoid Australian politics and parochialism.” Foley says. “If successful, the fund will be managed by two First Nations stock investors from Western Australia, who have an impressive record of making money via trading. Approximately 50% of the profits will be used for our programs and 50% will be reinvested into the fund to keep everything sustainable.”

Murray Sailor, founder of Tagai Management Consultants, on Barayamal’s First Nations Founders Series podcast

The CSIRO Award will help Barayamal by providing a national platform to help inspire First Nations youth and promote their programs and take inspiration from some of the global big hitters in the technology space. It also helps to raise the visibility of those working in the STEM area and provide role models for youth.

“The $20,000 cash prize will provide our organisation with the funding to take approximately eight up-and-coming entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley for our First Nations Startup Tour. This trip will take First Nations people to startup and technology hubs around the world to inspire them to “think big”, gain new skills and grow their professional networks with the aim of building the future leaders of tomorrow who have the capability to give back and help build sustainable First Nations communities.

“The CSIRO Award will help substantially with the above (tangible) examples but it will also add more credibility to our programs moving forward and once again prove the “haters” they we can run world-class programs without the funding they receive.”

Find out more about Barayamal here and for the full list of CSIRO Indigenous STEM Award  winners head here.

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