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Scholarship program triples completion rates for Aboriginal TAFE students

19 March 2019
Teaching model yields 96 percent completion rate
A unique teaching approach has more than tripled Aboriginal students' completion rates at TAFE, new research from the University of Sydney has found.
Rachel Williams is a clinician at the Armajun Aboriginal Medical Service in Inverell.

Rachel Williams is a clinician at the Armajun Aboriginal Medical Service in Inverell.


The research, published in the Australian Health Review, analysed a customised model of learning support developed by the University’s Poche Centre for Indigenous Health.

Under the model, 380 qualifications have been awarded to Aboriginal students in oral health, allied health, counselling and heath assistance through TAFE. The training model has yielded a 96 per cent completion rate, the paper’s lead researcher and Poche Centre research director Dr Kylie Gwynne found.

Dr Gwynne’s paper scrutinised the first cohort of students who enrolled under the Poche Centre’s training model. Her analysis proves the effectiveness of seven key factors which improve outcomes for Aboriginal students.

The enabling factors discussed in Dr Gwynne’s paper were varied and include:

  • Ensuring enrolling students were motivated and had strong community support
  • Ensuring Aboriginal support staff were involved in all aspects of the program
  • Ensuring training took into account students’ financial needs, academic requirements and family commitments
  • Fostering connections and relationships between students

“Vocational training is an important pathway into the health professions for Aboriginal people but completion rates for Aboriginal students are typically poor,” said Dr Gwynne.

“It is possible to improve completion rates if vocational training is designed to meet the cultural and familial needs of Aboriginal students.

“We’ve called this initiative Project5000, as we ultimately want 5000 Aboriginal people to be qualified and in local secure jobs. We are eager to offer the program to more communities and more scholars.

“Preliminary economic analysis undertaken by the Australian Social Investment Trust estimates a cost-benefit of more than $27,000 for every job secured. This is largely attributed to a decrease in welfare and increase in tax, ” she concluded.

About Project5000

  • Project5000 expands on the Poche Centre’s current program found to have delivered oral health care to Aboriginal communities in NSW at half the cost and twice the effectiveness of the NSW government’s model at the same time.
  • The model uses a localised approach, delivering services almost entirely in local communities with local community partnerships and accountability, employing both dentist and oral health therapists with new graduate clinicians.
  • It involves training and qualifying local Aboriginal people to enable them to deliver services to their own communities.
  • Project5000 is expected to include industries such as aged care, disability services, community health and hospitality – and could extend to construction and other industries depending on where local skills shortages are identified with local communities.
  • Over four years the project intends to work with 20 communities, over 1,300 participants, working in 1,000 jobs at a cost of $2.5m per year.
  • The Poche Centre will work with local industries to identify skills gaps, negotiate qualification type and level and agree paid work experience arrangements that are directly linked to the qualification being undertaken.

Jocelyn Prasad

Media and Public Relations Advisor

Luisa Low

Media and PR Adviser (Engineering & IT)

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