A recent Charles Sturt University graduate is already making an impact in her chosen field, and as a First Nations woman trying to break down barriers, which has earned her a Charles Sturt University 2023 Alumni Award.
Charles Sturt University alumna Ms Teresa Cochrane is fusing her passion for ecological conservation with her First Nations heritage for research that breaks down the barrier between Western and First Nations scientific methodologies.
Teresa is a Dunghutti Gumbaynggirr woman living and working in Bunjalung Country with strong cultural connections to the Birpai/Birripi and Bunjalung Country on the east coast of Australia.
She graduated from Charles Sturt in Port Macquarie in 2022 with a Bachelor of Environmental Science and Management (First Class Honours).
Teresa won a First Nations Student Academic Award while studying at Charles Sturt. Also, while studying at Charles Sturt, Teresa conducted research that garnered her an invitation to speak at the third National Koala Conference, which then resulted in the opportunity to create educational resources for primary school children.
“I spoke to a room of 270 people who are all experts from both Australia and internationally, with all things to do with koala biology, conservation, veterinary science, and science communication,” she said.
“I was privileged to be asked to speak on the contribution I was having in the koala ecology community.”
Teresa won the ‘Scientific Poster Competition’ at Charles Sturt’s DocFest, which detailed her approach to research, its aims, objectives and expected outcomes.
“This work will create a framework for how Higher Degrees by Research can be conducted that do not fit into the traditional ‘dissertation or thesis’ structure,” she said.
She began studying a Doctor of Philosophy in Arts and Education in 2023 with the Charles Sturt School of Indigenous Australian Studies on the topic of ‘koala dreaming’. Her research will explore the ecological conservation of her personal totem the koala through the investigation of First Nations and Western methodologies to create a holistic management process.
“This work will contribute to ongoing conservation and preservation of the koala, through the incorporation of both Indigenous and Western methodologies,” she said.
Charles Sturt University announced the winners of its 2023 Alumni Awards on Foundation Day, Wednesday 19 July, celebrating 34 years since the University’s inception.
Since Teresa graduated she has already earned herself the Charles Sturt University Indigenous Alumni of the Year award for the impacts she is making through her chosen field.
Teresa has been accepted to study a Master of Philosophy in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management at the University of Oxford in 2023, where she will continue to build her skills and understanding of interdisciplinary approaches to scientific research.
Since graduating from Charles Sturt, Teresa has been working at CSIRO as an Academic Coordinator within the Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy. She is responsible for assisting 30 young First Nations women in Year 11 with educational support and personal development so they can graduate from high school and move into tertiary education pathways in STEM.
“This work is empowering and helps break deficit statistics about Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Women in STEM where we have the lowest representation in Australia,” she said.
Teresa said being named a winner in the Charles Sturt Alumni Awards was a great honour.
“Receiving this award and representing my mob means a lot to me and it is amazing to know that First Nations peoples are being recognised for the work that we are doing after we have graduated,” she said.
“I put so much of my heart and soul into studying at Charles Sturt University and since leaving as well. It’s nice to see it get noticed, especially as a strong proud First Nations person.
“I believe it is important to showcase black excellence to mob so they can be motivated through our stories to know that they can achieve and be successful, especially in education.”