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Financial supports to help forge more Indigenous careers

David Prestipino -

A raft of lucrative new scholarships have been announced to encourage more Indigenous leaders in various sectors and First Nations students complete their degrees.

Agriculture students at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga are being offered a financial head-start with a new scholarship initiative announced on Tuesday.

In conjunction with Riverina Oils, CSU will provide $24,000 to help students within its School of Agricultural, Environmental and Veterinary Sciences complete their agricultural studies.

The Riverina Oils First Nations Agricultural Initiative Scholarship will provide the successful applicant with $24,000 over three years to assist with the cost of university.

Successful applicants will also get a chance to squeeze in some work placement at Riverina Oils headquarters in Wagga Wagga.

Financial headstarts have also been announced for Indigenous students at the University of Newcastle, with Squadron Energy's Indigenous Shaping Futures Scholarship in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and Finance focused on providing students with post-grad career opportunities in the renewables sector.

Squadron Energy project officer, Nadine Caff, said the scholarship reflected its commitment to sharing the benefits of renewable energy, through upskilling local communities and First Nations people with in-demand skills for the growing industry.

"This scholarship encourages and supports students through their educational journey, alleviating financial pressures that may have otherwise been a preventative barrier in the pursuit of a career in STEM," Ms Caff said.

UON student Jack Goldspink, 21, graduated with a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science and was the 2023 recipient of the Squadron Energy Indigenous Shaping Futures Scholarship in STEM and Finance.

He said the support was incredibly helpful, particularly when undertaking placement.

"It helps alleviate that financial stress that a lot of people will have, because you know you can put it away for uniforms on placement or rent," he said.

In October, Australia's national science agency, CSIRO, bestowed more than $500,000 to the University of Wollongong to support more First Nations students pursue a future in STEM.

CSIRO's Indigenous STEM Scholarship was first established in 2019 with the help of a $30,000 gift from the organisation to two Indigenous STEM students throughout their studies. It is now awarded in perpetuity after a further $500,000 gift from CSIRO, which contributed more than $5m to Indigenous STEM Scholarships in 2023.

UOW Indigenous Strategy and Engagement vice-president, Jaymee Beveridge, said she was proud to see more financial support for Indigenous students interested in forging careers in the thriving STEM industries.

"I am thrilled these scholarships will ... truly support First Nations students achieve their potential, tackle the big issues of tomorrow, and become the future leaders in the fields of STEM," she said.

In December, the First Nations Economics and First Nations Foundation announced a $120,000 scholarship for women studying finance and business.

The Indigenous-led, Supply Nation non-profit organisations said the Leah Armstrong Scholarship would direct two scholarships of up to $20,000 per year for three years to Indigenous women pursuing full-time education at universities or tertiary institutions.

The University of Sydney Business School's Indigenous Australians Leading in Business MBA Scholarship is considered one of the country's best First Nations scholarships, and aims to accelerate the rate Indigenous Australians move into senior leadership roles within all forms of Australian enterprises, via $60,000 of tuition fees.

The Port of Newcastle Indigenous STEM Scholarship was also announced this week, providing $10,000 to eligible students, while applications for its McNair Foundation Indigenous Scholarship, established in 2019 to support Indigenous students complete undergraduate studies at the University of Newcastle, have also just opened.

A significant step toward bolstering support for First Nations people and enhancing regional higher education access, equity and opportunity was also taken by La Trobe University, with the university pledging more than $1M to establish a thriving partnership with Munarra Limited over the next three years.

This investment includes five new proposals among a total of seven commitments. These include scholarships for all Indigenous students at the Shepparton campus, a fully funded role for student engagement, support, and recruitment, a guaranteed three-year revenue share for Munarra, and Munarra being chosen as the preferred partner for cultural awareness training for La Trobe staff.

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