Student profiles

By 2016, it will be 50 years since Charles Perkins became the first Aboriginal man to graduate from an Australian university, the University of Sydney. By 2016, our aim is to welcome an additional 600 talented and passionate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into our diverse university community.

Photo of Alicia and Emily Johnson
Alicia and Emily Johnson have got big plans, with the passion and drive to match.

Emily has just joined the University of Sydney through the Cadigal Alternative Entry Program and is two weeks into her Bachelor of Arts degree, following in the footsteps of her big sister, second-year Arts student Alicia, who had told her about the strength of support she had experienced on campus.

However, they're not the first in their family to study here. Their mother, Priscilla, graduated with a Bachelor of Health Sciences (Aboriginal Health and Community Development) in 2008.

"Mum was over the moon when she found out I got into Sydney Uni because she knew I would be with Alicia at the University she studied at," says Emily.

"The Cadigal Program not only helped me get an offer but gave me a head start in academic skills," she adds. "It really got me familiar with the University community before my studies began."

Originally from Wilcannia in far-western New South Wales, Emily and Alicia were both amazed at the difference in writing and learning style between high school and university. The Cadigal program's orientation and academic skills workshops helped them learn how to write essays and other assignments to University standards, and also provided an opportunity to explore the University and meet other students before semester began.

During their high school studies, the sisters were keen participants in the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Program (AIME), which helped to cement their decision to apply to the University of Sydney. The sisters both chose an Arts degree for the wide variety of study and career options it offered. In the future, Alicia hopes to move on to postgraduate law, while Emily would like to study medicine.

However the multitalented pair have another passion they will share throughout their uni days: music. Performing together as 'Ngaratya', described as "Missy Higgins meets Aretha Franklin, meets classic Australian roots/folk with loads of soul".

For information about the Cadigal Program:
Tanya Griffiths
Indigenous Australia Student Support Officer
P 02 8627 8619
E