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University of Sydney program sees future Indigenous scholars explore tertiary life

Callan Morse -

More than 100 Indigenous students from around Australia have spent a week living at the University of Sydney preparing for a potential future in higher education.

The University's residential initiative, known as the Gadalung Program, provides a week-long experience that aims to increase the motivation and participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island students in tertiary studies.

Students from as far away as Banana in Far North Queensland spent the week experiencing university life, living near campus and learning about their future study options.

They included 16-year-old Aurielle Smith, who said the Gadalung Program was an opportunity to learn more about university and the options available to students, as well as make new friends.

"The program highlight for me was going to the Conservatorium of Music and experiencing being a student there, and having student mentors show us around," she said.

"We got to write a song and record it in just three hours. I'm now really interested in the Contemporary Music course and producing and writing my own original music."

The Gudalung Program saw students tour the University of Sydney campus. (Image: University of Sydney)

Throughout the week, students participated in a variety of tailored faculty activities and workshops, on scholarships and admission pathways and tours of student accommodation.

Indigenous culture and history was also at the forefront, with students cruising on Sydney Harbour with Tribal Warrior, learning about the city's cultural heritage and participating in Indigenous history and cultural activities, learning Aboriginal songs, dances and storytelling.

Gadalung alumni Daisy Grady, originally from Newcastle, is testament to the program's success.

Currently in her second year of a Bachelor of Veterinary Biology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Ms Grady credits the Gudalung Program's student mentorships with increasing her confidence in applying to university.

"The uni seemed so big and scary, but it was really fun having Indigenous Student Ambassadors saying, 'hey, we're only second year' or, 'we were you last year,'" she said.

"You always hear all these resources are available, but it doesn't necessarily mean you know how to find them, or that you feel encouraged to use them.

Gadalung Student Ambassador, Daisy Grady. (Image: Abril Felman)

"Having the older students say they'd love to see you made going to uni feel so much easier."

The Gadalung Program supports the University of Sydney's commitment to achieving population parity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student participation by 2030.

University of Sydney Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy & Services), Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver, said the university was proud to welcome the next generation of Indigenous students to the institution.

"The Gadalung Program is an opportunity for all mob to connect and bring cultural knowledge and perspectives to the University, for the betterment of all students, staff, and our wider communities," Prof Jackson Pulver said.

"The students who joined us on campus will go home with new friends and a knowledge of the opportunities that await them in higher education, and at the University of Sydney."

As part of the initiative, Gadalung Program participants were also introduced to the University of Sydney's entry pathways including the Gagigal Program, Extended Bachelor's Program and MySydney Entry and Scholarship Scheme.

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