David Unaipon

“As a full blooded member of my race I think I may claim to be the first, but I hope not the last – to produce an enduring record of our customs, beliefs and imagining.”

David Unaipon 1872 - 1967, Ngarrindjer Aboriginal inventor, engineer, author and activist

STEM.I.AM. takes it’s inspiration from the man on our $50 note, Australia’s very own Leonardo Da Vinci, Aboriginal inventor, engineer, author and activitist, David Unaipon. A Ngarrindjeri man born on a mission in Point McLeay, South Australia in 1871, David is most famous for the modified shearing sheers that changed the once circular blade to a straight one, revolutionizing the wool industry and incredibly still used today. His list of achievements are long and worth celebrating -

  • He was a polymath with encyclopaedic knowledge.
  • He was Australia’s first published Aboriginal author – writing newspaper articles from perpetual motion to helicopter flight.
  • He pioneered ideas such as centrifugal motors, multi-radial wheels, and mechanical propulsion.
  • He even advised government on Indigenous policy, lecturing on Aboriginal customs, legends and social conditions.

As a significant contributor to science and literature in Australia and the world, David Unaipon makes the perfect STEM.I.AM. role model and hero to help inspire Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth to be innovators in their own right and to follow their dreams.

coding + robotics = (black & deadly);


"Scientists, mathematicians, engineers, programmers – that is the new rock and roll."

Time warp to 2016, on the other side of the world in Los Angeles, is another STEM.I.AM. hero (and from whom the initiative name gives a cheeky nod) - uber talented entertainer and creative innovator, will.i.am or as his Mum calls him, William Adams. Not only does will.i.am write, compose and produce award winning hip hop music but he also has a deep passion for science and innovation and with it a philanthropic drive to keep kids and teens at school, so they too can be all that they can be. Raised by his Mum, as one of the few African American families living in a tough Hispanic neighbourhood, will.i.am was encouraged to be an individual and not conform with social expectations. He did just that and is, amongst others, STEM.I.AM.’s modern day inspiration!

Carbon Media

In 2006, Wayne Denning, Managing Director and proud Birri Gubba man left a successful career in Federal Government to form Carbon Media, an award winning Indigenous creative agency. Determined to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders a positive voice, Wayne set about creating engaging content for both the corporate arena and children’s television and hasn’t looked back.

A decade on, Carbon Media, now Carbon Creative, develops and produces innovative and exciting advertising campaigns and marketing and communications strategies for a diverse client portfolio, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike across all media platforms. All with one thing in common – a strong desire to achieve positive social change.

From little things big things grow

In July 2015 Wayne had the privilege of delivering a keynote oration to the University of Melbourne National Indigenous Engineering Summit, whose goal is to create sustained growth in Indigenous participation, with the aim of achieving parity in engineering graduates by 2030.

Attendance at the summit was an eye-opener, and while lots of great work is underway to address the lack of Indigenous engineers and female engineers alike, the stats remain confronting. At the heart of the issue is the low volume of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students learning science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A problem, given science and technology is ever increasingly at the crux of just about every industry on the planet, with a recent report citing jobs in the sector growing one and a half times faster than any other occupation.

Serendipitously, sitting in the audience that night was Sally-Ann from Google, a passionate STEM advocate with an effervescent energy and unwavering remit to turn these stats on their head. It was a no brainer…. a commitment to collaborate was born.

Since then Carbon Media has been working with Advance Queensland, FIRST Australia, universities and other corporate organisations such as Google to develop STEM.I.AM. There is much work to do! Watch this space!

STEM.I.AM was inspired by David Unaipon. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this website may contain names, images and voices of deceased people.