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7 – 14 July 2024
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Courtney Burns

Courtney Burns

Youth of the Year

Courtney Burns is a 25 year old Gunaikurnai woman (land and sea country) from South Gippsland, Victoria. Courtney is currently studying Marine Science at James Cook University (JCU) in Townsville, Queensland, and assisting in the shark research lab in Townsville.  

Courtney is deeply passionate about ocean Country health, and interested in the links between elasmobranchs, ocean country and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Elasmobranchii is a class of cartilaginous fishes, including sharks, skates and rays. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been living off sea country since time immemorial, yet there is no evidence in scientific literature of relationships, positive or negative, with sharks.  

Courtney’s goal is to continue her research to be able to change the way the world sees sharks. She aims to promote action in their conservation by understanding the physiological effects of anthropogenic stressors (like climate change) on sharks, and how she can bring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures into scientific literature to further aid this goal. 

Courtney’s recent achievements include: 

  • 2022/2023 – Aurora Internship Program; where she was placed within the ‘Physioshark’ team. Assisting with ‘Epaulette shark’ research projects and husbandry care of ‘Epaulette sharks’ and ‘Cinnamon Clown fish’; whilst tackling a metadata analysis on neonate blacktip reef sharks, focusing on their body condition (health). 
  • Indigenous Academic Achievement Award for Marine Science 2022 at the annual awards ceremony for the Indigenous Education and Research Centre (IERC) at JCU.  
  • Google Future Leaders in STEM Scholarship 2022. 
  • Recognised and acknowledged by CSIRO for Academic Excellence and offered a casual Research Technician position with the Predator Population team in the Environment business unit.  
  • Courtney also recently received a promotion from volunteer to Assistant Lab Manager/Volunteer Coordinator at the Rummer Lab at James Cook University within the Physioshark program. 

In September 2022, Google and Aurora Education Foundation announced their STEM Scholarship recipients. Courtney was one of only three Aboriginal women selected as Google 2022 STEM scholars. This scholarship assists Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university students who aspire to work in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Recipients of the scholarship receive assistance through funding which supports them throughout their studies.  

As a James Cook University Student Ambassador, Courtney inspires other young First Nations people to consider tertiary education as an option for their future. Courtney also assists with University activities including career expos, recruitment events, school visits, campus tours, sponsorship events and more. 

Courtney encourages excellence from fellow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students by co-creating a supportive community via an Indigenous student association focusing on group study sessions, social sports, and gatherings online and in person. 

The links between Ocean Country and our Mob have been known to us for a very long time. However, Courtney, through her research, studies and conservation, aims to bring these relationships to the forefront of mainstream scientific literature and ensure that First Nations knowledge is leading solutions to issues (such as climate change) affecting both our Mob, and the world.

Welcome to NAIDOC.

We acknowledge all First Peoples of the beautiful lands on which we live and celebrate their enduring knowledge and connections to Country. We honour the wisdom of and pay respect to Elders past and present.