The area I grew up in carried the stigma of being ‘the worst place to live’. This left me with an ingrained sense of being different and the only place I felt I belonged was home. Unsurprisingly my school attendance was very poor and I struggled to stay engaged. I ended up leaving school all together in Year 8.
After two years at TAFE, I returned to school in Year 10. This time I was there by choice rather than force. For the first time I saw school as a place of learning rather than torture and bullying.
The first in my family to attend university, I was also the first Indigenous Australian in New South Wales to complete a double degree in Maths and Physics. While many see this as a remarkable achievement for me it’s the reverse − I should be the 500th! I want to help lead the way for other Indigenous people and show they can achieve anything.
I am currently working on a theoretical astrophysics research project with ANU and CSIRO. This research aims to understand how stars are formed in our galaxy. Based on current knowledge, the Milky Way is producing more stars than we think it should. I’m trying to explain how by identifying a potential source of gas needed to produce so many stars. This research requires the use of high volumes of data, programming and lots of maths.
The key is to believe in yourself and block out the judgements. It took me a long time to move away from wanting to ‘stick it to’ some of the negative people from my past. Now I set goals for myself, and myself only, and I know I can achieve anything.
Karlie Noon was the first Indigenous Australian in New South Wales to complete a double degree in Maths and Physics. She is currently researching for a Master’s in the field of Astrophysics.