“It was fate that I went through all this trauma and I need to own it and wear it. Which I do.”
Corey Tutt epitomises strength of character and success to me.
He had a bloody tough upbringing and young life but he’s risen over and above what anyone ever expected of him to become 2019 and 2020 CSIRO Indigenous STEM* Champion, 2019 AMP tomorrow maker, 2019 ABC Trailblazer and now- Young Australian of the Year 2020.
He’s only 27. And he’s a self confessed ‘tough bugger’.
Corey is the founder and CEO of Deadly Science, an initiative that provides science books and early reading material to remote schools in Australia.
His path to this point wasn’t easy.
He is indigenous of Kamilaroi origin but was born of Yuin Nation on the south coast of NSW. Due to domestic violence he moved around with his older sister. Tumby Bay (SA), and Bungonia, Bulli and Dapto (all in NSW) were all home to him.
Corey states his young life wasn’t easy. At 8 he witnessed his classmate and friend in a fatal car accident. An intense grieving process led to a huge focus on his passion for ‘all things science’ and a love for animals.
His Pop was a huge influence on him and couldn’t provide for much. At least- all the materialistic toys we ‘need’ nowadays. Corey fondly remembers being barefoot with his sister, who looked after him, running around Tumby Bay. They made the most out of a tough situation. Local flora and fauna made for fantastic and interesting toys for a day of play. No hashtag required! Just questions and answers if you knew where to look!
At school, aged 16, a careers advisor ‘advised’ Corey that the most he could hope for after school was a trade or jail. Sadly Corey thought this approach was simply realistic.
He travelled to Boyupbrook in Western Australia where he was the youngest interstate volunteer at Roo Gully Wildlife Sanctuary. Here he shook things up a little and let snakes live! You can hear more about this experience on the podcast Corey did with Will Anderson at Wilosophy https://www.podbean.com/media/share/dir-vqk5r-7f0be2f?utm_campaign=w_share_ep&utm_medium=dlink&utm_source=w_share
He returned to New South Wales and Nowra Wildlife Park (now Shoalhaven Zoo) where he became a popular member of staff. Enjoyment and comfort amongst animals allowed Corey to enjoy life.
But this ‘good place’ was only temporary and when he was 18, Corey’s best mate committed suicide. It broke him . The shine of science and working within the zoo lost its lustre. He was lost and he was grieving.
After seeing an ad in the paper, Corey put on a suit and had an interview for a new job.
“Stupid me” he says . He was the only candidate for the position and would start Monday.
He was going to be an alpaca shearer!
His first ‘client’ was Pikachu who promptly head butted him during the shearing, resulting in a broken cheekbone and black eye (Corey, not the alpaca).
Tenacious as ever, Corey continued and for four years he travelled Australia with renowned, professional alpaca shearer James Dixon https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-05/alpaca-fleece-season-clicks-into-gear-for-globe-trotting-shearer/7814174 who became a close father figure to him- something he had never had.
After finishing shearing one day, Corey realised his healing and grieving over losing his mate to suicide had reached a point where he could move on.
Corey’s next stepping stone was working as an animal tech in Animal Welfare in New South Wales. His love for science began to rekindle by ‘yarning about science with kids in Redfern’ and Deadly Science was created.
The yarns with Redfern kids escalated to sending books and resources to Aboriginal communities, Skyping and ’empowering other First Nation kids to believe in themselves and grow.’
Corey’s hope for his Deadly Science project is to provide science books and early reading material to remote schools in Australia.
“We know from personal experiences that books & resources change lives, and these kids deserve nothing but the best. Deadly Science wants to make sure each of these schools has a copy of Bruce Pascoe’s book “Dark Emu”. It is time that people knew the real history of Australia.”
If you would like to donate to Deadly Science to help his dream happen and to benefit remote schools to have resources encouraging children to learn please go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/deadly-science
Corey affirms children of all backgrounds should believe in the notion “you can’t be what you can’t see”. Furthermore, his aim is to lead by example and show them the way- to dodge some of life’s barriers, smash through some walls, to become bigger, to become stronger.
Corey really does believe the children are the future.
Let’s arm them with the tools and resources they need to make the world a better place. Let’s create an environment to allow them to reach their full potential.
Corey has started this ball rolling. Let’s help him roll.
The world needs more like Corey. Through his traumatic childhood, depressive and grief-filled teens to where he is today, he’s risen to become a pillar of hope and strength. Young Australian of the Year.
Thank you Corey for your time. I wish you all the best with Deadly Science and your dreams of a better and brighter future for indigenous youth.
PS- I’d like to ask you to spread the word for Corey and his team at Deadly Science. Donate what you can. Follow along on Instagram. Be a legend like him.
*STEM- a term used to group together the academic streams of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.