Imagine your first day at university...

1 June 2012

Imagine your first day at university…would it involve an elite Olympic wrestler, a glass blower, an NRL star, climbing a rock wall or making ice cream? That was the experience for almost 200 Year 7 and 8 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who visited the University of Sydney today, many for the first time, as part of 2012 National Reconciliation Week.

Students, teachers, and parents travelled to be a part of this day from all over Sydney and the Central Coast. Arriving on buses early in the morning, guests were escorted into the Great Hall to be welcomed by Annette Cairnduff, Director of the Social Inclusion Unit.

The visitors were addressed by three special guests:
• Jessica Leffley, a student of the Sydney College of the Arts and 2012 winner of the Sea of Hands design, described her 'open eye' design as a representation of the importance of awareness and the equality that can be exchanged by looking into another's eyes.
• Blake Barden, a student of the Faculty of Education and current Olympic Freestyle Champion, spoke of his journey to University and the importance of education in his life.
• Former NRL star Rhys Wesser then captured attention with his tales of far north Queensland, reconstructed shoulders and of course, the many tries scored during his career. Rhys also touched on his passion for giving back to his community and encouraged the students to do the same. Like bees to the honey pot, children swarmed around Rhys for their special autograph once outside.

And if that was not excitement enough, students were then invited to participate in a range of activities offered by eleven of the University's Faculties. Some chose to join the Faculty of Dentistry to learn about oral health and make impressions of teeth, while others joined the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning to build a free-standing structure of spaghetti. Some elected to discover the intriguing collection of insects, animals, birds and reptiles in the Macleay Museum, while others took part in a mock trial at the Faculty of Law or learnt about the world of chocolate with the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment.

Student Ambassadors escorted parents to the Koori Centre to meet Senior Lecturer and Academic Coordinator Lynette Riley, who gave a brief overview on the academic pathways and support services available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at the University. The parents then had a full tour of the campus and its facilities.

Everyone enjoyed lunch on the front lawns in the sunshine and each of the children placed their signatures into the Sea of Hands. Marcus Corowa sang to the children and Trevor Coolwell played the didge, while red, yellow, and black balloons floated overhead.

After a second session of activities, students and parents departed having experienced just a glimpse, in just a day, of the exciting opportunities offered by the University of Sydney.

See photos and our video from the day.