Breaking stereotypes and calling for change: meet engineer Renee Wootton

Renee Wootton dreamed of becoming a pilot all her life. When she reached this milestone, her next quest quickly turned into an astronaut.

Proud wife of Tharawal, Renee is passionate about aviation, as well as fighting climate change and empowering more women in STEM careers; plea which led to his appointment as STEM Superstar in 2020. She is also passionate about drawing attention to the desperate need to do more for the country, culture and environment.

As an aerospace engineer and commercial pilot, Renee has completed and led Australian aviation projects for the past nine years. Currently she is managing the technical milestones project of an Australian military aircraft upgrade and is on the verge of joining the Western Sydney Airport Infrastructure Development Project, which will be one of the most major aeronautical projects that Australia has known for years.

For Renee, a self-proclaimed “aviation geek” or “avgeek”, everything aligns with her interests and expertise in aviation, space, engineering and infrastructure technology, which she says can all be used to improve the world around us.

And the best? “I can break stereotypes and tackle challenges that matter to local communities and to the world. ”

We spoke to Renee as part of this year’s NAIDOC week, especially around the topic of “Healing the Country” and her perspectives as a woman in STEM.

She says Healing Country can only happen if the right leadership is in place to make decisions for Australia and internationally that lead to a renewed culture, connection with the country, truth and Environmental protection. Which in Australia, she says, means giving an indigenous voice to parliament.

“Indigenous voices and the healing country have never been more important than they are today,” she says.

“The land doesn’t belong to us, we belong to the land and until the Australian government and communities truly appreciate this connection, there will be many more mistakes before our environment and our country can heal.

“To Heal Country means that all Australians work actively to respect and defend the fundamental beliefs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.” She highlights how the events of the past year show just how much better Australia can do.

“We learned that our sacred sites were destroyed in the Pilbara by BHP, a year after Rio Tinto was condemned by the international community for the destruction of the Juukan Gorge, artefacts were thrown away as garbage, the eight of the Torres Strait fight climate change Inaction at the United Nations, access to the country has been denied and the Australian government recently criticized the United Nations for its decision to include the Great Barrier Reef on the “En danger ”of World Heritage sites.

In particular, she notes that the summer bushfires of 2019/20 underscore how critical the indigenous wisdom of the land is, especially with regard to the fire management techniques that indigenous people used long before the country is invaded and colonized by Europeans. She says “cultural burn-off” techniques were used to rid the environment of varying levels of fodder.

Australia is vast, with many different microclimates, regions and weather patterns – making it essential to have an intimate knowledge of the land, seasons, plans, animals and weather patterns to seize these small windows of opportunity. to reduce burns. she says.

“The deep interdependence that Aboriginal people have with each other and with the world around them gives them a sense of how to care for this country and when to burn; thus, consultation with local communities and Elders is essential as they know the land best.

She urges everyone to consider how we can stand in solidarity with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to continue the struggle to protect the country and the culture, and to ensure that business and the economy can be sustained in a sustainable manner, “with culture, truth and the environment at the heart of our decision-making.

In 2018, Renee was recognized as one of New South Wales’ Top 30 Indigenous Leaders and a finalist for the NSW / ACT Young Achiever Awards

In addition to Renee’s advocacy and engineering work, she also serves on the board of directors of Shalom College’s Gamarada program, supporting higher education for Indigenous university students and participation in the Superstars of STEM program.

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