From the Director
As the newly appointed Director of Questacon, it's an honour and privilege to lead this remarkable national institution, which is a vital division of the Department of Industry, Science and Resources. I recognise the outstanding contributions made by Professor Graham Durant, leading Questacon over the past 19 years and Leon Kempler who chaired the Questacon Advisory Council over that time. I also acknowledge Professor Michael Gore who founded Questacon and our long-term partnership with the Australian National University. I extend my thanks to Kate Driver for her excellent contribution as General Manager of Operations at Questacon for the last 9 years.
Questacon’s mission is to excite and motivate people through inspirational learning experiences. I know from personal experience how important it is for young people to have access to fun and engaging learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). I was inspired into science by my Year 11 and 12 science teachers, both remarkable women.
My aim in this role is enable Australians access to Questacon’s experiences, and to particularly engage the next generation with inspirational learning opportunities in STEM. I can’t emphasise enough how important this work is for developing the attributes, skills, knowledge and agency young Australians need to thrive and solve real world problems in the future.
I enjoyed meeting the over 200 Questacon talented staff and volunteers, everyone from science communicators to software developers, learning about all the fabulous work they are doing and from their insights. I’m very confident we will achieve our shared purpose and I’m also excited that Questacon has received additional funding from the Government as part of the October 2022 Federal Budget measures. This investment will help us meet our goals of delivering Questacon’s national programs to engage young Australians and science teachers in STEM.
Our wide range of life-changing activities wouldn’t be possible without our partners, supporters and collaborators. I extend our deep thanks to them and acknowledge in 2022 we finished our long-term partnership with Shell and extended our partnership with the Department of Defence. This is an exciting time at Questacon, and I’m looking forward to working alongside our passionate staff, forging new partnerships and, most importantly, making science fun for everyone.
In 2022 we continued to focus on long-term engagement across Australia. We are measuring our impact across 3 identified ‘Build Regions’ – Central Queensland (Rockhampton & Gladstone), Tasmania and the Northern Territory. We have published baseline ecosystem reports which will enable us to measure how we are building capacity, developing relationships and contributing to local STEM learning ecosystems over time.
As we focus on developing our national presence, we have become more deeply embedded within regional networks at every level. We’ve established valuable long-term connections and have a clearer understanding of how we can make change. This is only the start and we’re excited to continue working with experts and regional stakeholders around Australia to engage people with science, technology, engineering and maths.
In November, we welcomed 16 students and their teachers from the remote Jilkminggan School in Mangarrayi Country (Northern Territory). This pilot program, developed with the Q Australia Foundation, Deadly Science, and cultural institutions and tourist businesses across Canberra, will allow us to support remote Indigenous schools to come to Canberra.
In 2022, we also welcomed two new staff members through the Services Australia Indigenous Apprenticeship Program. We were excited to welcome Corey Tutt OAM as our newest Questacon Fellow. The founder of Deadly Science, Corey is an Aboriginal Mentor and STEM champion.
Engineering is Elementary
Engineering is Elementary workshops focus on ‘learning by doing’, with educators working through practical inquiry and design challenges while engaging in professional discussions about their application in the classroom. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we used a combination of in-person and virtual workshops to enhance ongoing engagement and provide greater exposure for educators in rural and remote areas.
Following a successful 3-year partnership delivering STEM training to 1,181 educators across Australia, Questacon and the Department of Defence continued their partnership for an additional five years. Funding until 2027 will enable us to build on our knowledge and experience to develop the STEM skills needed to build Australia’s future workforce. Our evaluation indicates that 85% of participating educators have implemented Engineering is Elementary in the classroom and nearly half of our attendees have returned for further workshops. This program is supported by Diamond Partner, Department of Defence.
Questacon Science Circus
Presented by Master’s students from the Australian National University, the Questacon Science Circus continued providing regional and remote audiences with engaging STEM activities. The Science Circus adapted to pandemic disruption, delivering both in-school science shows and live virtual workshops across Australia.
In March 2022 we ran the first pop-up science centres since COVID restrictions began. Over thirty hands-on exhibits travelled in their signature semi-trailer to community venues in regional centres across NSW and Victoria, with approximately 3,400 attendees.
Questacon Innovation Programs
Questacon Innovation Programs increased virtual delivery to meet pandemic demand, delivering live workshops and webinars designed to engage participants in the 'think-make-try-refine' process. We reached over 13,000 students through the NSW Department of Education’s Virtual Week in Canberra program.
In partnership with Shell, the team delivered a range of STEM programs to more than 4,400 people in the Western Downs region of Queensland. This included hands-on workshops, pop-up exhibits, professional development for local libraries and walk up activities at agricultural shows.
The team also hosted two Invention Conventions in Ulverstone and Darwin. The Invention Convention in Ulverstone was supported by Supporting Partner, the National Careers Institute, and hosted at Hive Tasmania. These multi-day events were delivered in-person and virtually, and focused on challenging teens to prototype new solutions to real-life problems.
The Cyber Castle Challenge was officially launched on 25 November 2022 at Questacon. The Challenge was developed in collaboration with education consultants, cyber security professionals, educators and students. The game helps students develop problem-solving, critical and creative-thinking skills and an understanding of real-life cyber-security concepts.
Over the year, the Questacon Cyber Program delivered workshops to 282 primary school educators through a mixed model of virtual and in-person delivery. The Cyber program also delivered workshops to preservice educators across the ACT, Central Queensland and the Northern Territory. More than 200 educators across Australia have indicated their intention to deliver the Challenge with their students. This program is supported by the Department of Home Affairs.
National Science Week
The Minister for Industry and Science, the Hon Ed Husic MP, launched National Science Week in August 2022, with attendance by Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Richard Marles MP. We encouraged people hosting events to include the First Peoples of Australia science by providing the ‘Celebrating the First Sciences of These Lands: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Share Their Stories’ resource.
On 3 August 2022 we launched a new Questacon website. This was our most significant website development in 10 years and improves accessibility for all users. The redevelopment includes a new online shop which offers accessible, secure and enjoyable online shopping.
In our Centres
Our mission is to excite and motivate people through inspirational learning experiences. As we moved past the challenges of the pandemic, we saw a return to pre-COVID visitation levels at the Centre in 2022. We were excited to welcome school groups back to the Centre and loved hosting special events for kids (and kids at heart) including Mid-Winter Nights, Sensory Friendly sessions, Q Lab takeovers, SciNight and the Enlighten Festival.
Acknowledgement of Country art
In June 2022, we unveiled the Acknowledgement of Country artwork by Lynnice Letty Church. Lynnice is a Ngunnawal, Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi artist entrusted with permission to represent and share stories about Ngunnawal culture. The artwork represents a Welcome to Country signifying the coming together of people from all walks of life onto Ngunnawal Country. It tells a story of Elders, children and communities playing and learning together at Questacon, connecting past, present and future generations through discovery and shared curiosity. Lynnice has also created artwork elements for the 3 Ngunnawal words that describe the Questacon experience: wagabiliri (play), binyin (discover) and winanggaay (learn), all displayed at Questacon.
Guma Ralu exhibit
In June 2022, we also launched our first exhibit with a First Language title, the Guma Ralu (saltwater bones). The exhibit displays a coral core collected from Woppaburra Country off Bur-ye Bur-ye (Humpy Island, part of the Keppel Island region of Queensland) showcasing a timeline of human impact. It was co-developed with Sonny van Issum, a Woppaburra man and representative of the Traditional Custodians.
We are actively promoting a better understanding of climate science and technology and contributing to a low-carbon future through our QNetZero strategy. In 2022, we completed an inventory and action plan for emission-reduction targets, an offset strategy and a sustainability Community of Practice. We’re also engaging audiences in climate science through the Changing Planet show and the Climate Stripes and Guma Ralu (Coral Core) exhibits.
Over the next few years, we’ll transition from gas to electric heating, increase our use of renewables and low-emission transport, reduce refrigerant emissions, facilitate circular procurement and improve waste management. We’ll also provide opportunities for visitors to reduce and offset emissions.
Questacon Curiosity Rover
In March 2022, Their Excellencies, General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) and Mrs Linda Hurley, launched the Questacon Curiosity Rover and an improved Volunteer Hub. Questacon Volunteers Jenny Wanless and Marion Williams identified the need for a manoeuvrable mobile unit to help engage audiences in STEM, which became the Curiosity Rover. Alongside this project, we also made significant updates to the Volunteer Hub at Questacon to enhance and enrich our volunteer’s experience.
The Curiosity Rover project and refurbishments to the Volunteer Hub were funded through a generous endowment from the Wanless Family to The Q Australia Foundation. Jenny Wanless is a long-term volunteer and her children – David Wanless, Professor Erica Wanless and Professor Ian Wanless – were all Volunteer Explainers at the Ainslie Primary School and later at Questacon.
In 2022 we completed important fire safety, electrical and mechanical upgrades to contribute to the health and safety of visitors and staff, address compliance issues and improve the accessibility and sustainability of our building. We also started the process of investigating, designing and planning major works to address terrace leaks and to transition the building from gas to electric services.
With thanks to our generous supporters
Department of Defence
In 2019, the Department of Defence and Questacon entered into a partnership to deliver Engineering is Elementary, a professional learning program for primary school educators in Australia. Over 3 years of this partnership, these workshops have been delivered to 1,181 educators and resource kits to 1,200 educators from 421 schools across Australia. In November 2022, the Department of Defence continued the partnership with Questacon for an additional 5 years to support delivery of programs to support educators from 2023-2027.
Australian National University
The Australian National University, through the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, is the Founding Partner of the Questacon Science Circus, which has inspired Australians for 37 years through inspirational STEM learning experiences. Since 1985, Questacon and The Australian National University have seen more than 500 students graduate through this program. From 2023, the Questacon Science Circus will continue to deliver inspirational STEM experiences across Australia, and we also look forward to welcoming ANU Masters students into work placements in various areas across Questacon.
In 2019, INPEX and Questacon joined in partnership to engage young Australians in conversations about energy, including how energy is used and created, why it is important and what role it plays in sustainable development. This partnership has delivered a suite of engaging activities, including the Your Energy shows and Questacon and the Questacon STEM Futures teacher workshops. In 2023, we will travel to Japan to deliver Energy Exhibits and Capacity and Skill building workshops.
National Careers Institute
The National Careers Institute and Questacon partnered to engage young people in innovation, technology, engineering and design thinking. Delivered over 2021-22, activities included 2 regional Questacon Invention Conventions and a Questacon Smart Skills tour. This partnership created a strong relationship between 2 federal government departments and provided participants from remote and regional areas a chance to explore real-world applications of STEM.
Shell is Questacon’s longest-standing corporate partner. We have worked together since 1985 to deliver inspirational and engaging programs across Australia. Over 2021-22, Questacon and Shell worked together to build STEM capacity and inspiration in priority regions. In 2022 we delivered community science experiences, professional learning workshops and high-school workshops to empower and inspire audiences in Gladstone-Rockhampton and the Western Downs in Queensland.