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Igniting the Ambition

Indigenous students from across Australia are embracing the opportunity to experience life at University during NAIDOC Week 2012. A decade ago, just 6 students participated in the Nura Gili Winter School Program at the University of New South Wales. Now, in 2012, 150 students were selected from a competitive pool of almost 450 students, all hoping for the chance to experience a glimpse of life on campus.

Indigenous people are under represented in the higher education system, with only 1.3 per cent of  857,384 students nationally identify as Indigenous according to Universities Australia. Programs like the Nura Gili winter school are shifting the statistics, by helping more Indigenous Australians achieve tertiary qualifications, something that was simply not an option for previous generations of Indigenous people.

 Student Services Manager at the Nura Gili centre, Michael Peachey, knows first hand the value of education, “My parents didn’t have an education but they both pushed me into education.  I finished in year 10 but then I went back to university later.”

 Tori De Bosch, a year 12 student from Cairns spent the week visiting law firms, engaging in mock trials and visiting the law faculty.  Tori is part of a generation of ambitious students and dreams of completing double degree in Law and Political Science. 

 “I am hoping to do a dual degree of Law and Political Science, because I love everything that revolves around Indigenous peoples and human rights, as well as being highly into politics,” she says.

 Another program participant Dean Wright is from Plumpton High School in Sydney’s Western Suburbs.  He too is well on his way to achieving his dream of studying Architecture at UNSW. 

 “We had to do architecture as part of a subject and it just clicked with me,” he says. 

 With a little more study and hard work, Dean said his marks are on track to get into university.  If successful, he will be the first child in his family to go to university.  “My Mum dropped out in her third year nursing, family commitments, she was pregnant with my eldest brother, but other than that I will be the first child in my family to go to university, so its pretty big and I’m looking forward to the challenge if I get accepted,” he says.

 Michael Peachey has seen the success of the program.  After working at Nura Gili for 6 years he is now starting to see some of the Indigenous students graduate from law and medicine.

 “It’s even better when you get to the other end and they are graduating….

I am just starting to see the first medicine students finish– that’s rewarding in itself.”

 “I get emotional about it because I just love and want Indigenous Australia to move forward in education” said the proud Mr Peachey.

 “As Aboriginal people, we now have the choice. If we want to go to University and study medicine, accounting, criminology, engineering, nursing or dentistry - we can do that” said Tania Major, GenerationOne spokesperson.

 “I congratulate Nura Gili Winter School Program for igniting the ambitions of young Indigenous people. Importantly, I congratulate those students, their families and their schools who are working hard and applying themselves, and using education to achieve their dreams” said Tania Major.

 Directed by Professor Martin Nakata, the Nura Gili Winter School Program is part of a much bigger plan to increase the number of Indigenous students who attend the university.  UNSW currently has 279 Indigenous students and it is hoping to almost double enrolments by 2015.

 During their week long stay the students worked in a range of faculties – from Engineering, Business, Law, Medicine, Science, Indigenous Studies, Social Work, Education, Built Environment, Visual Arts and Performing Arts.

 The participants are chosen based on their community involvement, commitment to education, future aspirations and school recommendation.

 For more information on the Nura Gili programs you can visit the Nura Gili website at http://www.nuragili.unsw.edu.au/

 

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