University of Technology Sydney

Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Empowering through Education

Lead Organization

University of Technology Sydney

Sydney, State of New South Wales, Australia

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Everyday Indigenous families struggle with the issues that plague their communities: marginalisation, poor health, substance abuse, and the world’s worst rates of incarceration and suicide. Something radical must change. This sentiment has been echoed across the Australian landscape and Indigenous and non-Indigenous people have identified higher education as the solution. In 2018, fewer than half of young Indigenous Australians earned a credential after high school, and only 1.5 per cent of all Australian university students were Indigenous.The community has identified what is required to end the status quo: reach and engage younger children nationally, provide a university environment that serves the unique needs of Indigenous students, and support graduates throughout their careers. By empowering Indigenous people through education, the University of Technology Sydney can deliver inter-generational social and economic change and share its journey on the world stage.

Problem Statement

There are 370 million Indigenous people globally. This represents a vast array of cultural and linguistic diversity and heritage. Yet there is a universal history of marginalisation, incarceration and generation after generation of inflicted trauma. Australia has the worst rates of Indigenous incarceration in the world. Youth suicide, drug abuse and systematic removal of children continue, causing intergenerational trauma. Indigenous Australians typically have lower incomes and lower prospects. Australia’s founding population is oppressed. Separated from the economic system. Individuals, families, communities, industry and government are all negatively impacted by the ongoing effects of Australia’s damaging history of conflict within its peoples. The impact of Colonial Assimilation has created a lack of trust in institutions, such as Australia’s education system. These systems still fail to successfully engage with Indigenous people. The Australian Government's Department of Education recorded that in 2018, less than half of young Indigenous Australians attained a qualification after high school. Only 1.5 per cent of University students were Indigenous. University education is the key to empowering all Indigenous communities. Offering attainable pathways from an early age, bespoke environments, and removing barriers throughout and beyond University has proven to significantly close the gap between Indigenous Australians and the broader population. Scaling a model that allows Indigenous Australians to thrive, and non-Indigenous Australians to embrace 2,000 generations of heritage, requires a nuanced understanding of the obstacles of access to higher education. Decades of successful and unsuccessful programs and research have provided the evidence for UTS to deliver a positive change.

Solution Overview

The old model of university education is to remove Indigenous students from their society and culture. The model doesn’t work. UTS is going to re-define it by elevating Indigenous Australian culture, citizenship and academic excellence; valuing Indigenous contribution to society; embedding it into the University’s core. This holistic approach will enable young Indigenous Australians to see themselves at home at university, rather than on the periphery. This project will deliver life-changing education, informed by extensive engagement with the community and by understanding the barriers and enablers to successful educational outcomes for Indigenous students. The project is an expansion of programs that work, broadened to reach the most marginalised of the community.Change will happen by: •Cultivating trust with families and communities: improving access to University, beginning in primary school, motivating a larger student cohort, reaching new states, regions and remote areas right across Australia.•Supporting student’s mental health and well-being through their physical environment by providing an Indigenous-designed and led Residential College and Arts Centre; an environment that connects to Indigenous Country, a space to meaningfully celebrate culture. •Co-designing Indigenous philosophy leadership and excellence programs and working together with industry mentors to support the next generation of global citizens. •Providing an adaptable model of Indigenous education: sharing knowledge and successes internationally, promoting a new approach to self-determined Indigenous education, both within Australia and internationally.The UTS model of Indigenous education will see students enter, thrive and graduate tertiary education, empowering them to become tomorrow’s leaders today.

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Project Funders

  • New South Wales State Government 2019 - 2024
  • University of Technology Sydney

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