History of SSF Australia
The concept of Scientifiques Sans Frontières was born in December 2005 during the International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies (Pacifichem 2005), in the tranquil surrounds of the Sheraton Waikiki, Hawaii. Two of the founders, James Hutchison and Colin Scholes, observed that researchers from developing countries in the Asia Pacific region were under represented. This stimulated a discussion on the inequality of science in the world and what could be done to help, galvanizing into the idea behind SSF. Initially, it was believed the only option was to go through one of the various scientific institutions already established in Australia. However, it was quickly realized that these organizations have aims quite different from SSF, and the level of support needed could not be obtained. Indeed, it came as a surprise just how novel the concept of SSF was too many established scientists. Therefore, a new science-based not-for-profit organization was founded. Part of the inspiration came from the achievements of Engineers without Borders Australia, with the desire to reproduce what the engineers were attempting to do for their profession; for SSF this is to create a paradigm shift within the science disciplines to enable scientists to become directly linked with communities in need, so their expertise will make a positive contribution towards diminishing suffering and assisting development.
Towards Diamond Head, Honolulu, USA
Initially the ideal was for an organization that encompassed all sciences. However, the initial members soon came across ‘Chemists without Borders’, which had been started in the USA in 2004. Being chemists themselves, they became the founders of the Australian chapter of the Chemists without Borders. Our initial beginnings generated considerable interest, with much consultation taking place with various leading scientists in Australia. Of particular benefit in the beginning was the discussions had with both academics and students at the Australia Colloid and Surface Student Conference, Beechworth 2006. For the next few months ideas and possible programs were discussed, but it took the addition of Glenna Drisko to provide much needed motivation for the organisation to truly begin. Chemists without Borders Australia was officially launched in June 2006, presided over by Greg Hunt from Waterkeepers Australia.
As a young organisation, Chemists without Borders Australia had strong links to Chemists without Borders in the USA, and for that we are thankful, both for the resources and advice they provided. As we grew, in both membership and projects undertaken, the name ‘Chemists’ became a restriction in promoting ourselves to the wider scientific community. This generated much discussion in the organisation and it was decided in April 2007 to look at returning to the original concept of encompassing all sciences. The idea was to become ‘Scientists without Borders Australia’, but with reflection it was decided that it would be appropriate to follow convention in Australia, linking the organisation with the sans frontières ‘brand’. In June 2007, Scientifiques Sans Frontières Australia (Scientists without Borders Australia) came into existence.
SSF’s first full Australian project was with Waterkeepers Australia, with our involvement aimed at teaching secondary students about their waterways, and providing water monitoring and hydrological studies of important river systems in the greater Melbourne area for local communities. Our first international project was a textbook and education resource drive grown out of our brief involvement in a similar scheme organized by Engineers without Borders Australia.
Glenna Drisko and Colin Scholes
To the future, Scientifques Sans Frontières Australia is a young organisation made up of a range of Australian scientists dedicated to achieving the aims set out in our Charter. To achieve these goals we are always looking for dedicated people to join our team, to assist us where there is need, and their skills match appropriately. We also welcome suggestions and interest from other organizations that wish to work together to make the future better and brighter for all people of this planet.