Profile – Anna-Maria Arabia, Questacon

Interview with Anna-Maria Arabia, General Manager, Strategy and Partnerships, Questacon
Words: Sally Miles

Anna-Maria Arabia has recently taken on the role of General Manager, Strategy and Partnerships, at Questacon. She has hit the ground running and is using her passion for science education to build on Questacon’s world class science engagement activities.

While Questacon’s science centre is aimed mainly at primary and early secondary students, the approach to make science fun and interesting appeals to all ages. In fact, staff pay close attention to ensuring each exhibit can be enjoyed by all. The exhibits are produced and delivered by a team of very talented, creative people who are responsive to feedback from everyone who interacts with the exhibits.

But Questacon is a lot more than one great science centre.  From national initiatives as part of the Inspiring Australia strategy, to on-tour programs and exhibitions, the organisation does its fair share of community outreach.

This even extends to international partnerships with science centres around the world. Questacon engages with many countries by sharing ideas, developing skills and overall capacity building. This includes training their staff in science communication and even bringing exhibits across the seas.

Domestically, Questacon maintains relationships with both the public and private sectors.  Anna-Maria emphasises the benefits of strategies such as those of Inspiring Australia.

Inspiring Australia is a bridge to many initiatives. It is a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts”. Inspiring Australia offers many things, including national leadership, partnership opportunities across the country, and a great array of activities to get involved in.

Anna-Maria recognises science centres as an important part of our overall science education. Informal out-of-school science learning at Questacon complements formal education that happens in the classroom.

“Science Centres play a critical role in engaging children in science education.” Anna-Maria says. Questacon, one of Canberra’s most popular tourist attractions, uses hands-on interactive exhibits and a philosophy of ‘science by doing’ to motivate and inspire many thousands of students every year.

Questacon is a great vehicle to switch people on to science. It will continue to play an important role in the future of science education, and Anna-Maria looks forward to contributing towards a future of greater science engagement and inspiration.

Thank you, Anna-Maria, for taking the time out of an already hectic schedule to talk about science communication. We look forward to hearing more about the fantastic initiatives at Questacon. 

Inspiring Australia update: Science communication summit, 6-7 June 2013 at UNSW

Want to add your two cents to science communication? Inspiring Australia has announced a two day meeting where everyone’s contributions can add up to a big deposit for Australia’s science communication future.

The BIG science communication summit – pathways to inspiring Australia

Inspiring Australia, TechNyou and ScienceRewired are excited to announce a 2-day hands-on summit to map out the next challenges for science communications in Australia and to collaboratively address best-practice solutions.

Bringing the country’s leading science communicators, innovators, science journalists, decision makers and educators together, the summit is an opportunity for participants to individually and collectively compare, shape and influence their science communications directions and activities.

Register your interest to attend


6th & 7th June
University of New South Wales
Scientia Conference and Events Centre

Produced in partnership with

Inspiring Australia update: Poo Power! is ready to light the world

The range of projects funded by Inspiring Australia’s Unlocking Australia’s Potential program is breathtaking, with a spread across animal, vegetable and mineral topics. Here’s news about one project that combines at least two of the three.





While cleaning up after your dog, have you ever thought, ‘What a waste of perfectly good dog waste!’? Probably not, but Duncan Chew has.

Self-described ‘dog poo entrepreneur’ Duncan Chew was among the recipients of an Inspiring Australia grant in 2012. His project, Poo Power!, uses science to address the issues of how can our cities and communities live more sustainably, and further what do we do with the 1,350 tonnes of dog waste produced in Australia annually?

The answer is to light the world (or at least urban parks of Melbourne) with Poo Power! The project will see a series of biogas generators turn dog waste into energy for lighting up Melbourne parks, at the same time as engaging audiences on the issue of ‘what is waste?’, and the potential opportunities posed by reassessing waste management practices.

So, as part of the Sustainable Living Festival, Duncan Chew and Melbourne filmmaker James Boldiston will be presenting on the project and its various arms at noon on Saturday 16 February 2013 in ‘The Big Tent’ at Federation Square.

And as part of the wider State of Sustainability program, a second Poo Power! event will be held at Village Rivoli Cinemas on Thursday 21 February 2013 at 6:30pm, where James Boldiston’s humorous documentary, Dog Poo: The Truth at Last, will receive its Melbourne premiere.

Full event details and ticketing are available at . For more information about Poo Power! or for media requests, contact the team at .

This Inspiring Australia initiative is supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education in partnership with the Yarra Energy Foundation.

Inspiring Australia update: Nominations Open for 2013 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

The 2012 awards event for the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science was outstanding. A number of ASC members are involved with the Prizes and it would be good to hear their views on what the program means to them. Here’s the first announcement from Inspiring Australia about the 2013 prizes.

Inspiring Australia is pleased to announce that first-stage nominations for the 2013 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science are now open.

The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science is a core component of the Inspiring Australia program designed to inspire a sense of national pride by promoting activities that recognise and reward the achievements and successes of Australians in the science and science teaching.

The five prizes are:

  • The Prime Minister’s Prize for Science (A$300,000);
  • The Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year (A$50,000);
  • The Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year (A$50,000);
  • The Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools; (A$50,000); and
  • The Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools (A$50,000).

In addition to the prize monies, each recipient will also receive an award certificate and a medallion with lapel pin, presented at a black-tie dinner in the Great Hall of Parliament House.

Updates to Selection and Nomination Guidelines

For 2013, a number of updates of the selection and nomination guidelines have taken effect, to the effect that:

  • Past recipients of the Malcolm McIntosh and Science Minister’s Prizes are eligible to be nominated and considered for Prime Minister’s Prize for Science award, subject to eligibility criteria being met.
  • For the Malcolm McIntosh and Science Minister’s Prizes, nominees must have achieved outstanding research results within a full-time equivalent research career of ten years, including research conducted as part of studies for a Master’s degree or PhD.
  • In recognition for the schools associated with the winning science teachers, the A$50,000 cash component of the Science Teaching Prizes will be share equally between the prize recipient and the school in which the prize recipient was teaching at the time of nomination.  The school’s share of the monies must be used to finance a project or projects that will improve the school’s capacity to teach science.
  • Nominations for all five Prizes will be conducted in two stages, a first stage simplified submission with those shortlisted nominees then invited to submit a detailed nomination as part of the second stage.

Nominations for the 2013 Prizes close 14 March. See or email for further details.


Inspiring Australia update: Grant round announced – Inspired to communicate science in Tasmania?

Inspired to communicate science in Tasmania? Here’s your chance to make it happen.

Was your New Years’ resolution for 2013 to make things happen? Here’s an opportunity to take those great ideas and turn them into reality.

If you have considered running an event, workshop, lecture, or film night (or any other fantastic type of event) which communicates science to the public, but just haven’t had the means to do it, then this announcement is for you.

Inspiring Australia together with the Tasmanian Government and the University of Tasmania has announced a grant round for Tasmania-based science engagement activities.

Here’s the notice from the Inspiring Australia Initiative here …

Events get a boost in Tasmanian Grant Round Announcement

As part of the Inspiring Australia national initiative, the Tasmanian government, in conjunction with University of Tasmania, has announced a grant round for Tasmania-based science engagement activities in 2013.

Grants of up to $2000 are available, and individuals, organisations and businesses are all invited to apply. Activities must be held in Tasmania during 2013.

Details available at or by contacting the inspiring Australia Officer for Tasmania, Sarah Bayne, at

Applications close 21 February 2013.

Please note: this grant round is administered by the Tasmanian Inspiring Australia Officer. All enquiries should be directed to Sarah Bayne at the address provided.

This Inspiring Australia initiative is supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education in partnership with the Australian Science Communicators.

Inspiring Australia update: stirring up interest in engineering

Australia needs engineers but where will they come from? Inspiring Australia is looking for answers by funding programs which aim to attract the interest of Australian students. Here is an update about two of these programs.



It is well-known that Australia is experiencing a skill shortage in relation to engineers, and that Australian industry, and the economy as a whole, are and will continue to be affected by this shortage unless the trend is reversed. Establishing pathways to tertiary careers in engineering is fundamental in addressing the skills shortage.

Inspiring Australia, the national strategy for science engagement, is playing a part in addressing this issue through awarding $710 000 through its Unlocking Australia’s Potential grants for projects working to promote engineering as a career path. With partnering organisations contributing a similar amount, the projects are providing over $1.4 million dollars towards encouraging engagement with engineering science.

Two examples of the Inspiring Australia-funded engineering projects include Science Rocks on the Road and Robogals:

  • Science Rocks on the Road is an outreach project which provides hands-on demonstrations and activities to improve awareness, understanding and interest in mining-related science. The project has been developed, with assistance from educators and input from volunteers across all science disciplines, and conducted workshops and events focusing on engaging school students in science.
  • Robogals conducts robotics workshops in high schools with the aim of promoting engineering careers, particularly to female students. The activities engage students in a range of engineering topics in a fun and creative way. Additionally the workshops include a brief introduction to the different types of engineering, and how engineers impact our daily lives.

Through these and other projects, Inspiring Australia is working towards not only to address one of the key issues of the Australian economy, but at the same time is ensuring that even those who choose not to pursue a career in engineering have a level of appreciation and understanding of the contribution science makes to the Australian economy and to everyday life.

This update from Inspiring Australia is initiative is supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education in partnership with the Australian Science Communicators.


Inspiring Australia Update: Redmap Australia launches 13 December 2012

Redmap started as a citizen fishers and divers science driven project in 2009 to map the distribution of fish species, and to track any changes, in the waters around Tasmania. Started by the University of Tasmania, the web-based project and has grown quickly. With support from Inspiring Australia and many new partners it has now has launched itself Australia-wide. The new states haven’t recorded sightings yet but you can explore the website for images of species being sought in each region.

I wonder how many ASC members are fishers and divers and whether they have comments about this or related projects.

The media release from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) via Inspiring Australia follows:



With today’s launch of the Redmap Australia website, and support from ‘Inspiring Australia’, the community is being asked to be on the lookout for unusual occurrences of species in the seas around Australia.

Redmap encourages fishers and divers to report sightings and upload photos of marine life that aren’t usually found at their local fishing, diving and swimming spots.  These community sightings will help reveal whether fish are ‘shifting their range’ in search of cooler waters, as seas become warmer with a changing climate.

The website, also known as the ‘Range Extension Database and Mapping’ project, started in Tasmania in 2009.  Already Tasmanian fishers and divers have logged hundreds of unusual sightings including eastern rock lobster, southern Maori wrasse and King George whiting, all spotted further south than their usual home turf.

Redmap Australia takes this concept national, with a large collaborative project led by the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania.  Considering some 3-4 million Australians go fishing or diving at least once a year, Redmap will tap into the observations of potentially thousands of ‘citizen scientists’.

“Redmap is the ultimate in crowd sourcing,” said Redmap founder Dr Gretta Pecl, a senior marine scientist from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania. “It taps into the knowledge – and eyes – of thousands of fishers, divers and swimmers to track changes in fish distributions in Australia’s vast coastal waters.”

Redmap is interested in reports of any marine life deemed uncommon along your particular stretch of the coast; and not just fish but also turtles, rays, lobsters, corals, seaweeds, urchins and prawns.  Photos are reviewed by a network of marine scientists around the country to verify the species identity and ensure high-quality data. Redmap aims to become a continental-scale monitoring program along Australia’s vast coastline to help track marine range shifts; but also to engage Australians with marine issues using their own data.

“We hope to create a network of fishers and divers that are driven to finding out how fish are impacted by changing conditions, like ocean warming, by contributing to this knowledge,” said Dr Pecl.

The Redmap website encourages members to share photos and anecdotes.  It also has information and news on fishing, diving and the marine environment.  Everyone can comment on the latest sightings of critters spotted away from their usual marine postcode and a smart phone application will be up and running in 2013 to make logging an unusual fish that much easier.

Redmap supports the Australian Government’s Inspiring Australia strategy, which aims to boost science literacy and teach the value of science in caring for our environment.  For marine ecosystems, this encourages the healthy use of our seas so we may all continue to enjoy the marine environment and marine recreational activities.

Each Redmap sighting is a piece in a puzzle that over time will reveal to the community, scientists and industry which species or regions may be experiencing greater changes in marine distributions. And the sooner Australian fishers, divers and the public help gather this information, the better.  Some seas along the coast of Australia are warming at 3 to 4 times the global average.  Turning up the heat tends to stress marine ecosystems and species, and can impact fish growth, reproduction and behaviour.

Associate Professor Natalie Moltschaniwskyj is a marine ecologist in the School of Environmental & Life Sciences at the University of Newcastle and is the coordinator of Redmap NSW.

“We’re predicting a mixed reaction to warming seas,” Associate Professor Moltschaniwskyj said. “While some species may adapt to the balmy new conditions, others will shift into new areas in search of their preferred marine climate or may dissappear from an area.”

Already anecdotal evidence from fishers and divers have pointed to some range shifts.  Associate Professor Moltschaniwskyj said they’re hearing about more tropical fish venturing into Sydney like damsel fish and angelfish species. Her team will track some 60 species through the Redmap project including butterfly fish, painted crayfish and tropical wrasses.

“Gathering many sightings over time will show if these fish are here to stay, one-off visitors or just seasonal migrants,” she said.

Professor Colin Buxton, Director of the IMAS Fisheries, Aquaculture and Coasts Centre, said Redmap was a wonderful example of how the community and scientists can work together to understand how climate change is affecting our oceans and to help manage this uncertain future.

“This information will allow some communities to take advantage of new fish arrivals and will help others  minimise risks such as the introduction of pest species for those fisheries or regions that may be more impacted by species on the move,” Professor Buxton said.

All Australians can get involved by becoming a Redmap member, signing up for our quarterly newsletter, liking us on Facebook, and logging unusual marine animals at

Who is Redmap Australia?

Redmap is a large collaborative project led by the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania, and involves the University of Newscastle, James Cook University, Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA), Museum Victoria, Department of Fisheries Western Australia, the University of Adelaide and the South East Australia Program (SEAP).  The expansion of Redmap nationally was made possible with generous funding from an Australian Government Inspiring Australia grant, the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) . Redmap also receives support from Mures Tasmania and many fishing, diving and community groups around the country.

If you have any further questions or require an interview, please contact:

Dr Gretta Pecl, Redmap Australia’s principal investigator, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania on 0408 626 792 or email

If you would like information about Redmap in your region, including an interview, please contact:

Redmap NSW
Associate Prof Natalie Moltschaniwskyj, marine biologist, School of Environmental & Life Sciences at the University of Newcastle, on 0417 509 463 or email:

Redmap QLD
Martha Brians, Research Officer at tropWATER, School of Marine & Tropical Biology, James Cook University
on (07) 4781 5739 or 0447662570 or email:

Redmap SA
Keith Rowling, Senior Research Officer, PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture on 0437 675 573 or email:

Redmap TAS
Dr Gretta Pecl, Redmap Australia’s Principal Investigator, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania on 0408 626 792 or email:

Redmap VIC (not available until December 17)
Dianne Bray, Museum Victoria’s Fish Collection Manager on (03) 8341 7448 or email

Redmap WA
Dr Gary Jackson, Principal Research Scientist, WA Fisheries and Marine Research Laboratories on (08) 9203 0191 or email

This update from Inspiring Australia is initiative is supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education in partnership with the Australian Science Communicators.


Inspiring Australia update: Museum Victoria Launches Field Guide app

Developing purpose-built apps is potentially a very powerful tool for science communication. But the apps arena is still new to us and apps can be very expensive to create, test, promote and/or market. Are any ASCers working on apps that they can talk about? Here’s news of a new science related app and a teaser for an upcoming app partially funded by Unlocking Australia’s Potential grant round earlier this year.

For those divers and snorkelers amongst you, Museum Victoria today launched the Bunurong Marine National Park Field Guide app in conjunction with Parks Victoria.

The app documents over 300 species found in and around Bunurong Marine National Park, a park comprising over 2,000 hectares spread out along six kilometres of Victorian coastline. Museum Victoria has also previously released the Field Guide to Victorian Fauna, which provided images and details of over 700 species found throughout the state.

In combining new media with their existing resources, Museum Victoria is expanding its audience reach at the same time as making its content accessible anywhere, anytime, to Australians with a dedicated or just cursory interest in our native environment. It is envisaged that the app will be used not just by individual users, but by other educative institutions such as aquaria, schools and wilderness groups, helping to inspire a love of science and nature in more Australians.

Those of you who are interested in the app should also keep an eye out for Museum Victoria’s next mobile device app – the Field Guide app to Australian Fauna. In partnership with other state and national institutions, and with the support of federal government Inspiring Australia initiative, the app will provide images and details of over 800 species found across Australia.

The Bunurong Marine National Park Field Guide app is available for free download from iTunes and Google Play.