Four members of reNEW Melbourne participated in the 2023 Science and Technology Australia premier event, Science Meets Parliament.
Science Meets Parliament (SMP) is Australia’s most powerful vehicle for deep engagement between the STEM sector and policymakers.
Drs Adam Piers and Beth Stout from the MCRI Heart Regeneration and Heart Disease Labs, and Ritika Saxena from the MCRI Blood Development and Blood Disease Labs were supported by reNEW’s training and capacity building program to attend SMP. Ritika was also supported by the Australasian Society for Stem Cell Research (ASSCR). Dr Sara Howden, Facility Manager of the iPSC Derivation & Gene Editing Facility attended with support from Phenomics Australia.
The program began with a three-day online refresher on civics, including how to influence decision-makers, work with Parliamentarians and advocate for critical policy changes. On reflection, Beth notes that “we learnt the significance of making your message into a story, and ensuring that the narrative is clear, concise and has a call to action”.
During the in-person event ‘SMP on the Hill’ which took place at Parliament House in Canberra, these tips on presenting a compelling opening hook were put to use. Ritika met with Kate Chaney MP and says “We got to see witness how politicians want to do the best for the people they represent and are willing to know more and learn more in order to accurately and responsibly respond to tricky questions from their communities.”
Whilst in Canberra, the group were treated to addresses from Dr Cathy Foley, Australia’s Chief Scientist, and Prof. Brian Schmidt AC, FRS, FAA, Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University, as well as visits to National Press Club and the House of Representatives.
At the National Press Club, the group were lucky enough to hear speeches by both the Hon Ed Husic MP, the Minister for Industry and Science of Australia, and Jaala Pulford, the newly minted chair of the MedTech and Pharma Growth Centre (MTPConnect).
In between the expected political sparring of Parliamentary Question time, remarks by the Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles to the house about the importance of science in parliamentary decision making resonated with Adam.
Overall, attending SMP gave Adam, Beth and Ritika real-life experience in elevating visibility, awareness and understanding of stem cell research within Federal Parliament and building relationships to bring STEM expertise even more deeply into the service of the nation.