The launch of the new statue of Dr Abigail Allwood

The launch of the Dr Abigail Allwood statue is the culmination of four years of work….

It began when Malia Knox aged 9 and her mother Kelley were visiting Sherwood Arboretum Park reading names engraved on the plaques of each tree commemorating their planting in 1925. With keen insight, Malia questioned why only two trees were planted by women and the other 72 by men. Kelley explained that things were different back in 1925 and women did not have as many opportunities to achieve the things they do today.

Malia responded, “But it is 2020 and I know lots of amazing women who have accomplished so much and done so many remarkable things for our country; where are the trees planted by these women?”

……. And so began the journey……inspired by the Fierce Girls podcast about an extraordinary woman from Brisbane, Abigail Allwood, who never thought she would become a scientist.

When the Queensland planetarium opened its doors to children in 1978, it also opened Abigail’s eyes to a universe of possibilities. There were intriguing images of planets captured by a spacecraft called the Voyager, thanks to the work of American Scientist Carolyn Porco. From that moment, Abigail knew she wanted to explore space. Today Dr Abigail Allwood is an astrobiologist searching for life on Mars and is not only the first Australian, but also the first woman, to lead a team on a NASA Mars Mission. This inspired Malia to campaign for a statue to honour her role model, Dr Abigail Allwood.

Malia launched a campaign called FemaleFaces4PublicPlaces and started rallying, with her mother’s help, to raise funds for a statue to be installed at the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium. The campaign gained the attention of Queensland Minister for Women Shannon Fentiman, who shared Malia’s passion to have more statues in Brisbane commemorating high achieving women.

Women in Technology, Australia’s largest community of women in STEM, stepped in to manage and support the statue project, recognising its importance and contribution to WiT’s mission, which is to advance, connect and empower women across all fields of scientific and technological endeavour.

The Queensland Government agreed to fund construction of the statue and artists Gillie and Marc Shattner from Statues for Equality are an Australian collaborative artist couple known for their animal, human-animal hybrid, and abstract sculptures, which have been exhibited as public works of art around the world. Gillie and Marc were commissioned to design and craft it and cast it out of Bronze. The artwork was shipped from New York to Australia earlier this year and was installed at the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium, with the help of Brisbane City Council’s Public Arts team.

The impressive artwork now stands in the gardens at the entry to the planetarium as a perennial commemoration of the brilliant achievements of Dr Allwood, and other outstanding Queensland women, who are inspirations and role models for our community.

There are many parties involved in the long process but some of the key parties we would like to thank are:

  • Malia and Kelley Knox who had the passion to turn a brilliant idea into reality.
  • The inspiring Dr Abigail Allwood for agreeing to be part of this amazing project.
  • Minister Shannon Fentiman and the Queensland Government Office for Women for embracing the concept and formalising it as part of an ongoing public initiative to increase female recognition in public statues, pictures, and plaques.
  • Brisbane City Council for supporting and funding the installation and providing the perfect home at the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium.
  • The Board, staff and members of Women in Technology who volunteered their time, energy and expertise to manage the project.
  • Gillie and Marc, from Statues for Equality, for their artistry and commitment to creating more diversity in statues around the world.
  • Generous donors to the GoFundMe campaign, particularly SOCO whose contribution was significant.
  • Aecom for donating their time to prepare the engineering drawings.
  • TLC Constructions for their gentle handling and installation of the statue, and the many others who have supported this project along the way