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Two aspiring Indigenous leaders gain scholarships to Oxford University

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Two Indigenous scholars will be attending Oxford University later this year through a scholarship which provides them the opportunity to realise their academic potential.

The Charlie Perkins Scholarship, named after one of the first Indigenous students in Australia to graduate from university, is a postgraduate scholarship for aspiring Indigenous leaders in their field of study.

Warumungu and Warlmanpa man Ethan Taylor faced intergenerational trauma, discrimination, and social exclusion in his youth, which at times hindered his ability to engage in his education.

Since completing year 12, he established a non-profit representative body for undergraduate Indigenous students, and recently worked with GetUP on their First Nations justice team.

Having also completed a degree at the University of Melbourne, Mr Taylor will undertake a master of philosophy in politics and political theory at Oxford later this year.

Mr Taylor said he wanted to examine Australia's justice system and address the absence of professional Aboriginal philosophers.

"I will use these opportunities to become the kind of scholar that can change things for my people, and use the skills I gain at Oxford to re-cast the project of Aboriginal justice in Australia by interrogating some of our most foundational assumptions in Aboriginal affairs," he said.

Kuku Yalanji woman Rebecca Beutel was a participant in Aurora's International study tour to build networks at some of the world's best universities.

Ms Beutel will be studying philosophy in development studies at Oxford.

"For too long, development has been a mechanism of cultural homogenisation and the exploitation of (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) communities for the benefit of a select few," she said.

"We need more First Nations practitioners defining and designing development programs, but we also need to enable our broader communities to lead and determine their own development agendas.

"Australia's existing governance structure is founded within colonial power hierarchies, that to this day continue to marginalise First Nations communities in all facets of life"

Ms Beutel said First Nations knowledge could hold the key to addressing crises facing the world.

"I believe that the big challenges of our time, the current climate crisis being one, can be addressed through the holistic embedment of First Nations knowledges and a decolonial governance system of equity," she said.

Aurora Education Foundation chief executive Leila Smith said the scholatships encouraged Indigenous students into higher education.

"These scholars are validating what many younger Indigenous scholars already know, that black excellence is not about a predetermined path," she said.

"It's about defining our own version of success - whether that's cultural or academic, or something completely different.

"By dismantling the false deficit narrative of what it means to be an Indigenous student and proving that the options are limitless, we're helping to shape a new narrative of high expectations and possibilities so young Indigenous scholars can move seamlessly into a spaces with high goals and big dreams and do things their way."

British High Commissioner to Australia Victoria Treadwell will present the 2022 Charlie Perkins Scholarships in Canberra.

Story by James Italia-Prasad

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