Demystifying university life

The Wingara Mura – Bunga Barrabugu Summer Program gives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students first-hand insights into the university experience.

Written by Louisa Di Bartolomeo

The Wingara Mura – Bunga Barrabugu Summer Program

IN JANUARY 2015, SYDNEY LAW SCHOOL COLLABORATED WITH THE FACULTY OF ARTS AND SOCIAL SCIENCES TO CREATE AND FACILITATE A FIVE-DAY INTENSIVE ON-CAMPUS PROGRAM FOR ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER STUDENTS IN YEARS 11 AND 12 WHO ARE INTERESTED IN STUDYING ARTS AND LAW.

The principal focus of the Bunga Barrabugu program is building motivation and confidence for participation in higher education, in conjunction with making links between professional careers and higher education. It also builds knowledge and awareness of access and pathways, and introduces students to the University community and experience.

Our law program sessions included information on degrees and studying at university, an academic panel presentation, tutorial sessions, skills-based workshops and site visits.

Workshops included a research session in the library and an interactive mock trial facilitated by current law students. Students visited the Downing Centre Local Court, where they met with Deputy Chief Magistrates Chris O’Brien and Jane Mottley, and with Joanne Selfe, Project Officer of the Judicial Commission of New South Wales’ Ngara Yura Program.

We also ran a short program for students in years 9 and 10 in collaboration with the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Education and Social Work.

The Wingara Mura program focuses on promoting social inclusion and tertiary study and demystifying universities. Students nominated three faculty-based ‘streams of enquiry’ that are designed to be practical, informative and incorporate both university pathway and careers components.

Our sessions included information on studying and degree structures, an observation hunt around the University, museum visit and hands-on activity, and a mock trial facilitated by our law students.

It was a privilege to share these experiences with the students, who provided excellent feedback on both programs. We acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of staff members Louise Boon-Kuo and Garner Clancey, law librarian Patrick O’Mara, and students Carolyn McKay, Oscar Monaghan, James Higgins, Melissa Chen, Kate Bombell, Lucy Zhang, Michael Peng, Mark Smith and Patrick Hall.

We also acknowledge the support of the Chief Magistrate and Deputy Chief Magistrates of the NSW Local Court, and Joanne Selfe of the Judicial Commission. Additionally, we thank Irene Baghoomians, who provided valuable information from her experience in coordinating the 2014 Summer Program; and the Compass team for their hard work regarding central content and program administration.

Our faculty’s contribution continued with the Bunga Barrabugu Winter Program in July. This was an invitation-only, week-long academic intensive workshop to prepare Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Year 12 students for their end-of-school exams. It provided the opportunity to experience university life and understand enrolment opportunities.

If you are interested in being involved in future programs please contact me at