Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island school students taste university life

13 January 2014

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students from as far as Darwin and the Torres Strait's Thursday Island are in Sydney this week for the University of Sydney's inaugural Wingara Mura - Bunga Barrabugu Summer Program.

The Wingara Mura (A thinking path) - Bunga Barrabugu (To make tomorrow) Summer Program will bring 250 students to the University to learn more about disciplines such as health, humanities and social science, architecture and the creative arts, music, natural science, and business. They will receive guidance on subject selection and how to prepare for academic life.

The Federal Government would like to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island enrolments in higher education to 2.2 percent, up from the current 1 percent. "To achieve parity, university action must be institution wide, not just focused on Indigenous Education Units," states the Department of Industry.

Wingara Mura- Bunga Barrabugu is unique in bringing students from Australia's far reaches to investigate study options across the university's disciplines. It is also the only interdisciplinary program targeting students in Year 9, when many are streamed into vocational training rendering them ineligible for an Australian Tertiary Admissions Rating (ATAR).

"Students shouldn't necessarily accept streaming into vocational training in Year 9," said the University's Deputy Vice Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) Professor Shane Houston.

"We need to do a better job of telling students to keep their options open by aiming for the Higher School Certificate (HSC) and gaining an ATAR. That's why almost a quarter of the students participating in our program will be in Year 9 this year."

The Wingara Mura program for Year 9 and 10 students will give participants the chance to try their hand in five study streams from a range of faculties. Those attending the Bunga Barrabugu program for Year 11 and 12 students will elect to study one stream.
Activities have been modelled on the highly successful Indigenous Australian Engineering Summer School held annually at the University of Sydney for the last three years.
Planned activities include:

• creative art and architectural design challenges where students will create scale models of buildings that incorporate the natural and built environment around it;

• hands-on workshops, lectures and laboratory tours for science students in Camden and Chowder Bay; and

• an introduction to the Cumberland Campus and what it's like to study physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, and exercise and sports science for health students.

The Health stream proved the most popular in the 2014 Bunga Barrabugu program. Among the 30 students who elected this program is Phoebe Hall from Dubbo, a year 12 student with a passion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and youth leadership.

"I am hoping to pursue a career in health education," she said. "I am an athlete and have a great interest in sport and fitness. The chance to combine the two would be a career I'm interested in."

The Wingara Mura program runs from 14-16 January 2014 and the Bunga Barrabugu program goes from 13-17 January 2014. Both are funded by Bridges to Higher Education, a $21.2m initiative, funded by the Commonwealth Government's Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP), to improve the participation rates of students from communities under-represented in higher education.

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Media enquiries:
Jocelyn Prasad,, 0434 605018, 02 91141382; Victoria Hollick, 0401 711 361(15-24 January).