UniSA is proudly supporting a landmark national strategy to lift the university enrolment and completion rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
Under the plan being launched in Canberra today, universities across Australia will work together as they strive to grow the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled by 50 per cent above the growth rate of non-Indigenous students.
The Universities Australia’s Indigenous Strategy 2017-2020 also sets a target of equal success and completion rates for Indigenous students to non-Indigenous students in the same fields of study over the next decade.
UniSA Vice Chancellor Professor David Lloyd says the national strategy complements existing plans and actions at the University of South Australia designed to improve participation but also to build respect for the enormous breadth of knowledge carried by people from one of the world’s oldest living cultures.
“An important aspect of Closing the Gap, in all settings, is to build an environment of respect, support and welcome for Aboriginal people, which is something we strive to do at UniSA,” Prof Lloyd says.
“This strategy will complement the achievements we have made through our Reconciliation Action Plan and through our strategic plan, Crossing the Horizon.
“Our focus is to build a culture of achievement and success for Aboriginal students which is underpinned through culturally appropriate supports such as Wirringka student services, our partnership in initiatives such as the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience, through the creation of the role of Pro Vice Chancellor for Aboriginal Leadership and Strategy and through new traditions that honour Australia’s first people.”
Prof Lloyd says UniSA has achieved steady growth in Indigenous enrolments in recent years.
“We’ve had more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students attending university in the past few years but we need to do even better,” he says.
“Our goal is to lift those numbers substantially and to become a university of choice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
Nationally there is still a gap to close. Indigenous people comprise 2.7 per cent of Australia’s working age population but only 1.6 per cent of university domestic student enrolments nationally – up from 1.2 per cent a decade ago.
Universities Australia says achieving the targets will rely on strong partnerships between universities, Indigenous communities and Government – with everyone contributing to the shared goal.
Continued funding for the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program will also be crucial.
The strategy was developed in close consultation with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium (NATSIHEC).
The consortium’s Chair, Professor Peter Buckskin – a Narungga man from South Australia – says he sees the strategy as a way to make Indigenous success, core business in higher education.
“Aspiration and substance are crucial to this endeavour,” Prof Buckskin says.
“We will work together to ensure that the promise of the Indigenous Strategy has tangible outcomes.”
The strategy will be launched at the Universities Australia Higher Education Conference dinner at the Great Hall in Parliament House tonight.
Speakers at the event include Kungarakan Elder and University of Canberra Chancellor Dr Tom Calma, acclaimed film director and Arrernte woman Rachel Perkins, and Gumbaynggirr woman and Melbourne University PhD student, Lilly Brown.
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