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MIFF TALKS | Stories from The Leadership: Women in STEM (2020)

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An in-depth conversation featuring three of the remarkable scientists featured in Australian documentary The Leadership (Samantha Grover, Fern Hames and Songqiao Yao) about their experiences on the 2016 Homeward Bound voyage, and a discussion of their groundbreaking work in the STEM field. Moderated by Natasha Mitchell (ABC Radio National’s Science Friction).

Presented in partnership with the University of Melbourne.

This free event goes live on Sunday 16 August at 5pm AEST, but is available to watch any time during the Melbourne International Film Festival, then permanently on MIFF's YouTube channel.

Tickets to watch the documentary film The Leadership are available online.


Natasha Mitchell (moderator) is a multi-award-winning journalist, presenter, producer and podcaster with the ABC. She hosts the weekly science, culture and society show Science Friction, awarded Best Science & Medicine Podcast at the 2019 Australian Podcast Awards. She previously presented flagship programs All in the Mind (2002–2012) and Life Matters (2012–2016) on ABC Radio National. Natasha was vice president of the World Federation of Science Journalists and a recipient of the MIT Knight Fellowship. She has an engineering degree from Monash University.

Dr Samantha Grover leads RMIT University’s Soil-Atmosphere-Anthroposphere Lab (SAAL), which focuses on the connection between soils, climate change and people. In her roles as Victorian president of Soil Science Australia, expert reviewer for the IPCC, committee member of the International Mire Conservation Group and Ozflux, Samantha contributes soil-atmosphere expertise to local, national and international policy and decisionmaking. She delights in making science accessible and engaging: for her students in RMIT’s Environmental Science Bachelor and Master’s degrees, via her children’s book Exploring Soils: A Hidden World Underground, as well as to a wide public audience as a ‘Superstar of STEM’.

Fern Hames leads the Communication and Collaboration team at Victoria’s Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, part of Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), which delivers applied biodiversity research and helps government, agencies and communities make better decisions about how we manage our natural environment. Fern is a fellow of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation; fellow of the Rachel Carson Centre, Munich; team winner of the David Ashton Award for Environmental Science 2013; Shire of Murrindindi Citizen of the Year 2018; and part of the VRAN team, which won the United Nations Public Service Award in 2019.

Songqiao Yao is the founder of WildBound, an innovative sustainability and education venture that empowers sustainability leadership through expeditions, advocacy and creative expressions. Prior to founding Wildbound, Songqiao gained interdisciplinary and cross-cultural experience as a researcher, activist and entrepreneur working on global issues such as food, water and climate change. She has worked on China–EU and China–US projects on climate change, and has consulted for agriculture and private-sector development in Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. Songqiao received her MPhil in geography from Cambridge as a Gates Scholar, and her MBA from Oxford as the first Skoll Scholar from China. She graduated summa cum laude from Mount Holyoke College.