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University of Queensland launches $250million education access initiative

Joseph Guenzler -

The University of Queensland has announced a pledge of $250million towards fostering equitable access to education.

UQ said the commitment reflects the university's dedication to addressing the underrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in higher education.

UQ unveiled the Queensland Commitment Roadmap, a plan outlining 58 actions spanning various student life phases, this week. It includes engaging with schools, sporting groups, and community organisations to encourage Indigenous youth to pursue higher education opportunities.

Ngugi and Wakka Wakka woman and Indigenous Education Professor Tracey Bunda said UQ's pledge signifies a crucial step towards supporting Indigenous students in accessing quality education.

"Our target is for the proportion of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students in the domestic student population to reflect the representation of people identifying as Indigenous in Queensland," she said.

"Based on current Census data, this is about 4.4 per cent, while the 2023 figure for the UQ cohort was 1.5 per cent."

The initiative, guided by community input, aims to create "lasting change" for Indigenous peoples in Queensland.

UQ Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry AC said conversations with communities across the state had helped to inform the roadmap and the immediate focus was on students from low socio-economic backgrounds, regional or remote areas, and those identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.

Professor Bunda noted the need for comprehensive support systems tailored to Indigenous students' needs, including addressing barriers such as racism, discrimination, and the challenges of being the first in their family to attend university.

"The Roadmap also includes specific Indigenous equity principles addressing the greater likelihood of multiple factors of underrepresentation including being from regional or remote areas and low SES backgrounds," she said.

"This means Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples face considerably more barriers such, as a higher likelihood to experience racism and discrimination and a likelihood that the student will be the First in Family to come to university.

"To support First Nations students, The Queensland Commitment Roadmap outline specific actions and targets to expand outreach to prospective Indigenous students, through schools, sporting groups and community organisations and grow and extend the proven InspireU pathways program."

The roadmap emphasises the expansion and extension of proven pathways programs like InspireU, designed to provide Indigenous high school students with early exposure to university life and support services.

"InspireU is specifically designed to give Indigenous high school students an early taste of university, to develop familiarity with the campus and to navigate application and subject selection processes and to connect with the Indigenous students and services already at UQ," Professor Bunda said.

"One of the targets of our Roadmap is to double the number of students enrolling in our successful pathway programs by 2032."

By doubling the enrollment in these programs by 2032, UQ aims to empower more Indigenous students to fulfill their academic aspirations and succeed in higher education.

"The Student Success Team at ATSISU (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit) are laser-focused on ensuring a positive experience, from the moment the moment the students start at UQ through to graduation," Professor Bunda said.

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