Hedland High alumna Karla returns to inspire others

22/05/2023 | 4 mins

Hedland Senior High School graduate Karla Ivkovic has returned to her alma mater hoping to encourage a new generation of students to pursue higher education and dream big when it comes to careers in science and engineering.

“Our ongoing partnership with the program helps motivate and encourage our aspiring university students to follow their chosen pathway into further study beyond school."

Ms Claire Roberts, Hedland Senior High Rise Up Program Coordinator

The third year Bachelor of Science (Software Engineering) student at The University of Western Australia was one of three Girls in Engineering  ambassadors from the University who volunteered their time to deliver a series of workshops at the Pilbara high school as part of the longstanding partnership with Aspire UWA.

The collaborative tour saw staff from Aspire UWA, the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research and Girls in Engineering visit Hedland High as part of a two-week roadshow across the West Kimberley and Pilbara regions. 

During her return visit, Karla shared her personal journey and experience relocating from Port Hedland to Perth to inspire other regional students and young women in particular to pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“I moved to Port Hedland from Croatia when I was nine years old, and although it was a culture shock at first, my family and I settled in pretty quickly,” Karla, now 22, said.

“At Baler Primary School, I made friends who were able to help me learn English and make me feel at home in only a few weeks.”

After primary school, Karla moved on to Hedland Senior High School.

“In high school, I really enjoyed chemistry and applied information technology but I still wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do after graduating,” she said.

“At the end of year 12, I applied to do pharmacology at UWA but after taking a gap year, I changed my mind, and signed up for software engineering instead – and I haven’t looked back.”

Now an active member of clubs at UWA and a Girls in Engineering student ambassador, Karla still remembers being the recipient of her own visit from Aspire UWA ambassadors while at school.

“The ambassadors told us stories about their high school experiences and what it was like for them at uni – it was reassuring to know that they once had the same doubts as us but were able to find something they were really passionate about and pursue it at university,” she said.

While in Port Hedland, the Girls in Engineering UWA student ambassadors engage with industry partner Monadelphous, visiting their new Hedland workshop. 

UWA Engineering students Grace, Ulani and Karla visit Monadelphous project site in Port Hedland

Girls in Engineer student ambassador travel on regional tours made possible by industry partners like Monadelphous and foundational partner Rio Tinto. 

Dean and Head of UWA’s School of Engineering Professor Tim Sercombe said the school is proud of its industry connections, with the Girls in Engineering outreach program testament to the effectiveness of its collaboration.

“Since beginning the joint initiative in 2014, the program has significantly contributed to an increase in female enrolments and enriched our student experience, supporting women in STEM, through the Student Ambassador program,” Professor Sercombe said.

“We look forward to continuing to work with our invaluable industry partners to build inclusion and equality in engineering.”

Hedland Senior High Rise Up Program Coordinator Ms Claire Roberts said Aspire UWA’s Northwest tour was a highlight on the school’s calendar. 

“Our ongoing partnership with the program helps motivate and encourage our aspiring university students to follow their chosen pathway into further study beyond school,” Ms Roberts said.

“This year our students participated in hands-on workshops also delivered by the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research and UWA Girls in Engineering. 

“The workshops which are facilitated by UWA staff, and supported by current university students, are always positively received by our students and we look forward to continuing working with UWA.” 

Caption for photograph at top of page: UWA Engineering students Karla Ivkovic, Ulani Hayter Otaola and Grace Kok visit Hedland Senior High School.

Media references

Liz McGrath, UWA Media Advisor, 08 6488 6876

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