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Indigenous high school students get the university experience


31 May 2012

The Indigenous Students Experience Day allowed students to get hands-on with university life.
The Indigenous Students Experience Day allowed students to get hands-on with university life.

Think back to your first day at university - did it involve an elite Olympic wrestler, a glass blower, a rugby league star, a guided tour of a celebrated art collection, climbing a rock wall or making and eating ice cream?

That's been the experience for 230 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students who this week visited the University of Sydney for Indigenous Students Experience Day and Reconciliation Week events.

More than 200 year 7 and 8 students yesterday attended the largest ever Indigenous Students Experience Day, which aims to promote university to young people who may never have considered higher education as a possibility.

On Monday, a further 30 year 11 and 12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students also visited the University to celebrate the opening of Reconciliation Week.

"It has been terrific to have so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander school students on campus this week," says Annette Cairnduff, Director of Social Inclusion at the University of Sydney.

"Hopefully they have walked away inspired by the opportunities and support services available.

"It was also fantastic to meet many of their parents. These events forge valuable connections for us all," she said.

Indigenous Students Experience Day gave students the chance to take part in hands-on tutorials, presentations and tours of the campus, as well as meeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students currently studying at Sydney.

Planting a hand in the Sea of Hands for Reconciliation Week 2012.
Planting a hand in the Sea of Hands for Reconciliation Week 2012.

Former Rabbitohs rugby league player and Queensland State of Origin representative Rhys Wesser, Olympic freestyle wrestling champion and current student Blake Barden, and winner of the 2012 Sea of Hands design competition Jessica Leffley were also on hand to chat with students about life after school.

All areas of interest were catered for in the day's hands-on activities, which allowed students to learn about the origin and production of chocolate, find out how glass sculptures are made, keep fit with rock climbing, extract DNA from a strawberry and handle real ancient artefacts from the University's intriguing Macleay Museum collection.

Parents were also invited for the first time in the four-year history of the event, with students travelling from as far as the Central Coast to attend the day.

On Monday, the year 11 and 12 students were given a guided tour of the Winds of Change exhibition from the Boomali Aboriginal Artists Cooperative at the Seymour Centre before watching a performance of theatrical work Bindjareb Pinjarra.

They then joined in the University's flag raising ceremony and community barbecue with Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney, and Professor Shane Houston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services), as well as the Hon Victor Dominello MP, NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Citizenship and Communities.

Both Indigenous Students Experience Day and the year 11 and 12 day are initiatives offered to a wide range of schools across Sydney, and are organised in partnership with the Smith Family and the University's Social Inclusion Unit and Koori Centre.


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Media enquiries: Katie Szittner, 02 9351 2261, 0478 316 809, katie.szittner@sydney.edu.au