Skip to main content

Service Learning in Indigenous Communities

Students working with Aboriginal communities

Student placements for Service Learning projects are generously supported by the Lazberger Initiative.

2017 Placements

Service Learning in Indigenous Communities (SLIC) is a six credit point earning unit of study that provides exciting interdisciplinary opportunities for students to take the knowledge and capabilities gained in their studies and apply them in real-world settings to complex social, economic, civil, political and cultural issues in Aboriginal communities across Australia.

This program is about interdisciplinary teams of students from The University of Sydney working with Aboriginal communities to tackle real-world problems and together work towards developing joint solutions.

This year more than 140 undergraduate and postgraduate students, across a number of disciplines, have the opportunity to work in Aboriginal communities in far west NSW, Kakadu and on the Tiwi Islands in the Northern Territory, and in the Warburton Ranges WA. 

Locations and Projects

Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly (MPRA) is the peak representative structure that represents the interest of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in 16 communities across Western NSW.

Aged Care Solutions

In September 2016 students commenced work in Bourke and Brewarinna to identify and develop a model for aged care solutions across the MPRA region. The purpose of this project is to provide obtainable and realistic aged care services based on community structures, traditions and remote locations. They began a discussion around the former Aged Care facility and started to investigate other services around Brewarrina. The project has focused on possible Aged Care Solutions for the Brewarrina Community. The former Aged Care Facility is but one way to look at the situation in Brewarrina. Although it is planned to be renovated and refurbished, it still needs to be shown how the facility could interact with the community and other services in the town. Semester 1 2017 continued this conversation. As part of Semester 2 2017, a more detailed scoping of what other Aged Care services are in Brewarrina, or nearby, needs to happen and how these could interact with the facility or around the facility.

Alternative Energy Solutions

In September 2016 students commenced work in Weilmoringle to identify and develop a model for alternative energy across the MPRA region; as well as identify energy delivery mechanisms presently established and operating and what the cost implications are to communities and individuals in the region.

This project is focused on developing and implementing a number of key activities identified by the MPRA as critical to the area, which focus on both short term and long term views. These activities include a tendering and selection approach for the parts and installation of the approved alternative energy solution chosen by the community, power usage data collection and analysis supporting information reporting that will help inform other MPRA communities in approaches and models in reducing energy costs. There is also a requirement to investigate an alternative energy solution that can be applied to the community’s pool area.

Semester 1 2017 Students have collected more data from houses which has now led them to design a solution for each house, the swimming pool area and a solution for the Old Solar Street lights. This model could be easily used across the MPRA Region. The next step to be undertaken by Semester 2 2017 Students will be to develop the tendering and installation roll-out of the solar solutions in stages.

The Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (GAC) is the representative body of the Mirarr Aboriginal people – the traditional owners of much of the north-east of Kakadu National Park and parts of Western Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. It represents the Mirarr's rights and responsibilities and advocates on behalf of the Clan and broader Aboriginal community.

Shared Decisions and Benefits

The objective is to develop and implement a shared decision making model for GAC which will be the cornerstone for future governance, shared decisions, reciprocal learning and the distribution of benefits accruing to Mirarr and other Bininj in the Kakadu region.

A model of operation has been devised and agreed to by Semester 2 2016 Students and local Community. Semester 1 2017 Students began the process of testing the model by commencing the planning and implementation of the initial Mirarr and other local Bininj joint-pilot project (potentially related to Carbon Offsetting) using the GAC approved model/s and activities defined in the earlier phases of this project. This will continue in Semester 2 2017.

We are all working on Country

This project was commenced by students in Semester 1 2017. This project is focused on developing and implementing a number of key activities identified by GAC as critical to the area.  The initial stages of the project are focused on the delivery of equitable, effective and sustainable weed and pest management solutions; in particular relating to introduced plant and animal species, based on community structures, traditions and remote locations of the Mirarr and other Bininj in the Kakadu region.

This Student group has begun the process of weed mapping and control. This will entail investigating and proposing innovative software and solutions to support a way to identify and control weeds found within the area. This will continue in Semester 2 2017.

The Tiwi Islands Regional Council (TIRC) is the representative body of the population living on the Tiwi Islands in the Northern Territory, where their community is structured on three Local Authorities (Milikapiti, Pirlangimpi and Wurrumiyanga) who report into the TIRC. The Service Learning projects will be located on Bathurst Island.

Local Government for the Tiwi Islands

This new project established in 2016 with the TIRC will commence in Semester 2 2017. Its’ objective is to develop a next-generation, sound and integrated approach to statutory, cultural and other responsibilities that capture the role of local government in the Tiwi Islands. Semester 2 2017 Students will undertake the initial investigation of the current state and commence working with the TIRC to identify and determine the type of council they want to be. This includes looking at all possible and appropriate models and proposing a way forward.

Culture and Future Capability and Functioning

The initial phase of the project commenced during Semester 1 2017. Its’ objective is to develop an integrated platform for the transmission and integration of culture, knowledge and practice with a capability functioning framework for Tiwi. The initial stage is to scope what this may mean and what is a good life for the Tiwi people. This project will, with the TIRC, draw out elements such as roles and responsibilities, opportunities, the re-invigoration of culture, cultural authority impacts, understanding and owning tradition. In addition, understanding how this is impacted/influenced when working within the confines of local government.  This will continue into Semester 2 2017.

Warburton Arts Project

The initial phase of this project will commence during Semester 2 2017, and is located in the remote Ngaanyatjarra community of Warburton Ranges, in the Western Desert of WA. The objective of this project is to develop concepts and solutions for expanding the Tjulyuru Regional Gallery and provide artist in residence facilities for the Warburton Arts Project (WAP). WAP is a groundbreaking community-driven organisation that has developed and safeguarded an extraordinary archive of indigenous art; as well as assisting Ngaanyatjarra artists to expand their work into new media such as cast glass.

Key Dates – Semester 2

Expression of Interest (EOI) applications:

  • EOI opens - 12 May 2017
  • EOI closes - 26 May 2017

Student interviews:

  • Interview process starts - 29 May 2017
  • Interview process ends - 7 June 2017
  • Selection decisions by - 9 June 2017

Pre-placement workshops:

Students are required to attend a weekend of pre-placement workshops as per the following schedule.

Service Learning Pre-Placement Workshops Date     Start Time Finish Time   
Pre-Contact History, Project Overviews 



4:30pm 8:00pm
Cultural Competence Sessions, Post-Contact History 5-Aug-17



Logistics and Arrangements 6-Aug-17 9:00am 2:00pm

Assigned project placement:

Students must be available for their assigned project’s first placement dates and, where possible, for the second placement dates when each project team will present their final report to the Community. Please see dates below.

Project Name













Shared Decisions and Benefits 18-Aug-17 27-Aug-17 2-Dec-17 9-Dec-17
We are all working on Country 11-Aug-17 20-Aug-17 25-Nov-17 3-Dec-17
Aged Care Solutions 18-Aug-17 27-Aug-17 4-Dec-17 8-Dec-17
Alternative Energy Solutions 11-Aug-17 20-Aug-17 4-Dec-17 8-Dec-17
Culture and Future Capability and Functioning 9-Aug-17 18-Aug-17 25-Nov-17 2-Dec-17
Local Government for the Tiwi Islands 23-Aug-17 1-Sep-17 25-Nov-17 2-Dec-17
Warburton Arts Project 11-Aug-17 22-Aug-17 TBA TBA

Application Process


  • For Undergraduate and Postgraduate students who are not enrolled in a Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) or University of Sydney Business School degree, you will need to email indicating your interest in Service Learning in Indigenous Communities (SLIC) and include your Name, SID and the degree/s you are enrolled in.
  • The Service Learning team will then check with your relevant faculty/school on the status of your eligibility and inform you of the outcome.

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Students (FASS)

  • This opportunity is only available to Undergraduate FASS students currently enrolled in the following specific disciplines. The unit SLIC 3000 can only count as a Table B elective:

a) Government and International Relations, Sociology and Social Policy, Gender and Cultural Studies (undergraduate and postgraduate), Social Work, Anthropology, Linguistics, History and Indigenous Studies.

  • For details of the application process, deadlines and enquiries relating to SLIC, students are required to email You must provide your Name, SID and the degree/s you are enrolled in. Please include SLIC in the email title.
  • Applications will be assessed for eligibility and interviews will be conducted.

Business School Students

  • This opportunity is available to Undergraduate Business students only. The units (SLIC 2000, 3000, 4000) listed below can only count as one of your Commerce elective units.
  • Business School students who wish to apply or have any questions should email You must provide your Name, SID and the degree/s you are enrolled in. Please include SLIC in the email title.
  • Applications will be assessed for eligibility and you will be notified accordingly so that you can continue to step 2 if you are eligible.
  • Send in your Expression of Interest (EOI): Once you have confirmed your eligibility above, then please email confirmation of this eligibility to the Service Learning team at along with the following EOI information

EOI information required:

a) Name

b) UniKey

c) Student ID

d) Attach a copy of your eligibility confirmation (email/letter) received from your faculty/school

e) Identify the level at which you are requesting to enrol (SLIC 2000, 3000, 4000 or 6000)

f) Identify your Degree/s

g) Identify your Major/s

h) Supply a 500 word EOI explaining why you wish to participate in SLIC

i) List up to three Service Learning Project preferences in order of interest

j) Supply the names and contacts of two referees

k) Driver licence: If you are interested in sharing the driving whilst participating in Service Learning projects, please identify whether or not you have a current "full" Australian driver licence. If currently only holding an International driving licence, provide the licence status and country of issue. 

l) First Aid certification: If you are currently First Aid certified and are happy to act as a First Aid support person whilst participating in Service Learning projects, indicate the level of your certification. 

m) Identify whether there are any health or dietary requirements that the Service Learning team should be aware of. 

  • Application assessment: On receipt of your EOI, the Service Learning team will review and assess your application. 
  • Interview: A 15-minute interview will be arranged for applicants who pass the application assessment stage
  • Notification: All applicants will be notified whether or not they were selected for a Service Learning project
  • Next Steps: Successful applicants will then be provided additional forms that are mandatory and are required to be completed for participation in these Service Learning projects. At a minimum these forms will include:

a.    Fieldwork Disclosure and Acknowledgement Form

b.    Student Deed Poll

Unit of Study Levels

  • SLIC2000
  • SLIC3000
  • SLIC4000
  • SLIC6000

These units of study are designed for outstanding undergraduate students, or those who are undertaking higher degrees, and provides them with the opportunity to work on an interdisciplinary project in one of the University’s Indigenous Service Learning Hubs.

Students will work on real-world projects that have been prioritised and identified by Indigenous communities, applying their expertise and gaining valuable experience in working across disciplinary boundaries.

Students will integrate cultural competence learning and meaningful community service with instruction and reflection through project-based learning. The learning model includes an initial trip to, and accommodation at the Indigenous Service Learning Hub, project work during semester at the University and a return trip to the Service Learning Hub to present the project findings to the Indigenous Community(s) and Service Learning Hub stakeholders.

Note that this unit is selective.

The experience of working with community on country, by way of these Indigenous Service Learning Hubs, will enrich each student’s capabilities upon graduation by:

  • Expanding problem solving capabilities improving creative & critical thinking
  • Intercultural context improving Cultural Competence
  • Real world experiences allowing theoretical learning to be applied
  • Working in interdisciplinary teams facilitating deeper learning experiences
  • Personal growth through experience and self-reflection.

1. Disciplinary Depth

a) Demonstrate disciplinary knowledge and extend to real world settings

2. Broader skills

a) Develop skills in written and oral communication in a range of contacts to non-specialist and specialist audiences.

3. Cultural competence

a) Reflect on own cultural identities and describe how this impacts on interaction with communities and other group members

b) Develop a capacity for active listening and effective community and team engagement

c) Identify factors of the broader social and political context of the project and community.

4. Interdisciplinary effectiveness

a) Contribute to identifying solutions in a team environment incorporating multiple ideas into effective coherent solutions that are responsive to community identified needs.

5. Integrated professional, ethical and personal identity

a) Outline insight into client needs

b) Share responsibility for quality, timeliness and thoroughness of report outcomes

6. Influence

a) Contribute discipline knowledge to relevant areas of report

Assesment Individual or Group Conditions Learning Outcomes Assessed Length (words)
Pre-placement Preparation 20%


Due: Week 2

Compulsory 2,3,5 500
Reflective Essay 20%


Due: Week 5

Compulsory  1,2,3,5 500
Community Engagement 10%


Due: Week 7

Compulsory 1,2,3,4,5,6 Community Assessed
Group Project Report 40%


Due: Week 11

Compulsory 1,2,3,4,5,6 3000
Interdisciplinary Group Work 10%


Due: Week 7



2,3,4,5,6 SLIC Team Assessed

Shane Perdue

Director of Strategic Management
Office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services)
“The opportunity for students and staff to work across disciplines and in very different cultural settings is having a real impact on students and in delivering tangible benefits to communities.”
Shane Perdue, Director of Strategic Management | Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services)