Jo White has done a lot of listening in her first year as Director of Questacon. She’s consulting widely and in setting the future direction for the National Science and Technology Centre, Jo says Questacon will always be about making science fun, but there is a greater responsibility behind its purpose.  

Image of Director JO White in a listening session

“The world has some very big, global challenges and technology presents new opportunities. I want to inspire the next generations to take up this important work. I know that a deep love and understanding of science and technology is part of the answer and I see Questacon playing a big role in that. 

“Questacon aims to reach every age so that all Australians are drawn into science. Mini Q delights infants aged zero to the under sixes, our galleries engage primary and secondary school children, and we also run night-time and adults-only events to make sure the grown-ups are getting a science lesson at their level with a serving of fun,” Jo said. 

“I’ve seen the genius of Questacon work even within my own family. My two sons are both at university studying science, and the younger one, in his first year, is passionate about Earth and environmental science. That passion came from his year 11 and 12 science teacher at school, and that teacher was inspired into that profession from a visit to Questacon.” 

Original Questacon team sitting on the steps of Ainsle primary school

Founded by ANU Professor Mike Gore 43 years ago, Questacon operated out of the local Ainslie primary school for eight years until its distinctive iconic building - based on a plan of cubes, cylinders and a continuous ramp, opened its doors on 23 November, 1988.  

A bicentennial project for the nation in Canberra’s Parliamentary Triangle, the Centre was born of the efforts of Professor Gore and then Science Minister, Barry Jones and opened by former Prime Minister Bob Hawke. It was made possible through the generous support of the Australian and Japanese Governments and the private sector in both countries.   

Image of scaffolding of Questacon Building

“It’s right that Questacon is nested in the Parliamentary Triangle,” says Jo, “symbolizing the importance of science and technology to all Australians, and the 35th anniversary is a good time to look back and acknowledge our achievements, honour that history and everything that's got us to this point. That includes former directors and I thank them, including my predecessor Professor Graham Durant for his 19 years of leadership.  

“There are so many heart-warming, dedicated, unique and quirky stories to Questacon’s history, so we’ll be telling these stories as part of our anniversary celebrations.    

“This anniversary is about giving back to the community and everyone who has embraced Questacon, so we’re bringing the best of the Centre outdoors where people can come and get a taste of science and experience Questacon for free. We’re also offering half-priced family tickets across our anniversary weekend.  

Image of Questacon Volunteers around an exhibit

“Of course, we go beyond Canberra sending our Science Circus out to criss-cross the country reaching children, schools and teachers in rural and more remote areas. Many people won’t know that Questacon holds workshops for teachers across the nation, instilling them with the confidence to teach STEM subjects and embed STEM into all their teaching. 

“I’ve been struck by the passion of the staff and volunteers at Questacon. They universally speak about the importance of the work we do, and we all want to increase diversity, inclusion and accessibility of STEM. The quality of their work and what they produce is something very special and they are all driven to make a difference,” she said with pride.

Image of Director JO White looking at the periodic table exhibit

“Following my listening tours with staff and others, we’re doing the thinking and planning around the decades ahead, and as we look to the future, there are some constants: Questacon will always keep abreast of the rapid advancements - such as in artificial intelligence and cyber security - so we remain relevant for people. 

“Questacon will keep presenting the science in an engaging, fun accessible way, teaching the foundations, and leading people to a depth of inquiry. Good science is always about asking good questions.”