Young star’s vision for gender equality in public spaces takes big leap forward
A young girl’s vision to see more outstanding female role models honoured in public spaces has taken another step forward to becoming a reality, after Attorney-General and Minister for Women Shannon Fentiman announced that the Palaszczuk Government is providing $35,000 to Women in Technology (WiT) to install a bronze statue of pioneering Australian geologist and astrobiologist Dr Abigail Allwood outside the Brisbane Planetarium.
The statue would not have become a reality if it wasn’t for Malia Knox, 10, who has become an inspiration in Australia after spending the past two years campaigning for more notable women to be sculptured into statues through her initiative #FemaleFaces4Public Places.
Minister Fentiman believes that having strong representation of female role models is essential in achieving gender equality.
“I always say ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’, and if we can honour women’s achievements and have them on display for young girls everywhere, then we are helping to show young girls that they can do anything,” Minister Fentiman said.
“I am proud to announce that the Palaszczuk Government is providing this funding to Women in Technology (WiT) to install a bronze statue of Dr Abigail Allwood outside the Brisbane Planetarium.”
Dr Allwood is a geologist and astrobiologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, focusing on the detection of life on other planets and the evolution of life on early Earth. Dr Allwood is also the first woman and the first Australian to be a principal investigator on a Mars Mission.
“I couldn’t think of a better role model for the hundreds of girls who visit the Brisbane Planetarium each year on school excursions and visits with their families to look up to,” Minister Fentiman said.
While visiting the Sherwood Arboretum in 2020, then eight-year-old Malia Knox asked her mother Kelley Knox why all the plaques at the central promenade were for men. After further research Malia could only find three statues of women in Brisbane, this sparked her idea to start her project #femalefaces4publicplaces and a Parliamentary Petition which attracted almost 800 signatures.
“I feel really sad that in every park and playground I go to I am only seeing pictures, plaques and statues of men,” Malia said.
“When I am only seeing men, I start to feel like men are more important than women. I know this isn’t true but this is what I’m seeing everyday so it’s hard not to believe it.
“Young girls like me need to be SEEING strong female models when they are playing in the park so that they can learn about them and be inspired by them.
“And I’m so excited that soon other young girls like me will be able to come to the Planetarium and learn about the story of Abigail Allwood.”
After writing to Dr Allwood in April last year to ask if she would like a statue at the Planetarium and receiving a glowing response, Malia has been working with Statues for Equality, Women in Technology and raising $20,000 through her GoFundMe page to make this statue a reality.
Women in Technology invited Malia to present her vision to 840 attendees at the 24th annual WiT Awards in 2021, an event designed to shine alight on high-achieving females working in all fields of STEM and the significant contributions they make to technology, research, policy, economic and social development.
“I would like to have a statue of Abigail Allwood built. She is from Brisbane and was the first female and first Australian to be a principal investigator on a Mars mission. I thought it would be nice to see a statue of Abigail in Brisbane’s planetarium so people can learn more about women in space,” Malia said in her Awards speech.
“It’s important because young girls like me need to see more female role models so they know what they can be when they grow up.”
Women in Technology President Bec Langdon says WiT is thrilled to be working with Malia to bring her vision to life through the statue of Abbigail Allwood at the Brisbane Planetarium.
“Two years ago, at the age of 8, Malia had the ability to look past what the world was showing her and notice that there were not enough statues and plaques of women. In fact, there were more statues of animals than women at the time,” Bec said.
“Now at the young age of 10, Malia has demonstrated that creating highly visible statues of incredible women role models displays the endless possibilities for future generations. With passionate youth like Malia, the future is bright.”