Australia spent a million dollars to train me

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After a rigorous peer review process at the Australian Research Council, six grants were vetoed last Christmas by the Acting Minister for Education on political grounds. This means that several jobs have been lost in the research sector on the whim of a politician.

In any other sector, working conditions would be unacceptable. For my research, I performed decades of calculations to investigate the root cause of cystic fibrosis, in hopes of improving patient access to lifesaving drugs. Yet, as a PhD student, my paycheck shows $19 an hour and my contract ends in September. If I needed more time to complete my research, I would have to continue without being paid, unless my supervisor found money to support me.

The search sector is broken in Australia.Credit:iStock

Throughout the pandemic, these factors compounded in my decision to leave Australia, like many of my colleagues. We may not be back.

At least once a week, I sit down with my friend’s five-year-old nephew, Ben. We talk about numbers, planets and cells. Fun stuff. When I told my friend about my move, he looked at me and said, “Who’s going to teach Ben all this?” I think that’s a good question. What are we going to do when we send all the passionate and creative people to other countries? How can a government claim to be managing the economy well when it is investing a million dollars to train someone, while slashing the sector in which it is trained?

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The research sector may be small, but I am deeply concerned about what it means for the country if it continues to be stripped. The situation is so much worse in the arts than in the sciences. This is a real problem for the country and I urge readers to consider the brain drain that is happening across Australia when voting in the next election.

Miro Astore is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney.

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