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Australian of the Year: Corey Tutt, fundraising for science in schools #AOTY2020

Australian of the Year: Corey Tutt, fundraising for science in schools #AOTY2020


My love of science grew really as a kid. My mum had a pretty traumatic life and she pretty much raised my sister
and I on her own until my step dad came along. We didn’t have a
lot so I found joy in animals and reptiles. My first book was Reptiles in Colour by Harold Cogger
and it was 1989. It was from an op shop and it had another little
boy’s signature in it and I learned every single page. I still remember page six is eastern water
dragons, and they can hold their breath underwater for an hour. I was often told that I couldn’t do things. I
left school at 16 and I went to Western Australia and worked in
a wildlife sanctuary. Then I came back and started working as a
zookeeper. And then I saw an ad in the paper for an alpaca
shearer. I started shearing alpacas around Australia
and New Zealand and I saw a lot of the country, I saw a lot of
the people that I normally wouldn’t get access to. I was
always empowered by their stories. I started Deadly Science three and a half years ago
when I started chatting to Indigenous kids in Redfern and we would talk to them and we would ask them, you know, we look at the sky and say ‘there’s a space station out there and there’s astronauts’ and they’d go ‘no way, that’s not even like
possible’ and you would show them a photo and then it’s like ‘well how do they have water up
there? Or how do they have oxygen up there?’ And those questions just flow on, and then you
take it back and tie it back to our history. 65,000 years of science, the way we manage the
animals, the fish traps, the astronomy. It’s all in Bruce Pascoe’s book Dark Emu and
Australia’s First Naturalists by Lynette Russell. Those lessons I was tieing back into the science
and the magic and I saw how intrigued they were and how the magic of science was opening up their
eyes to a new world. So I went home and I googled the most remote
school in Australia because I felt that if these kids in the city were so
intrigued that the kids in the bush and in remote areas would be even more crazy about
science. So I rang up a school and I found out a school
only had 15 books in it. And then I realised how greatly under-resourced
these remote schools were. And I had to do something about it. There was no option. So I packed up all the books I owned and I sent
them out there. Now almost 18 months later we’ve sent 5,000 books, 90 telescopes, smart
garden stuff that’s just going to spark the mind. Every kid should have the ability to believe in
themselves and experience the magic that is science.

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