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Indigenous program offers introduction to university life

It was a fine, and indeed, progressive aspiration in 1850, and it is one that the University follows today – although now we would say “his or her country”, of course. Despite his remarkable liberalism, Wentworth did not imagine a time when women would be admitted on an equal footing with men, although this was in fact only a few years away.

We do more than just open our doors to those who meet our requirements. The University runs many programs to introduce schoolchildren and others to our campus, so that they may understand how they, too, could become students here one day. We want everyone to feel welcome, and we want all Australian children to feel that they could achieve their dreams by studying at the University of Sydney.

This year is the fifth in which we have run the Wingara Mura-Bunga Barrabugu program, designed to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander schoolchildren a taste of university life. More than 200 high school students from as far afield as Thursday Island, Badu Island, and Karawara spent a week here in January, staying on campus and taking part in a series of academic and cultural events. Ranging from years 9 to 12, they explored different subjects and options for university study and their future careers and learnt useful skills to equip them for their final years at school.

They toured an aerospace laboratory equipped with flight simulators and drones, wrote and recorded music at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, attended a hands-on marine biology workshop at the Institute of Marine Science and observed the operation of the Camden Veterinary Clinic, among many other activities.

Along the way, they had a lot of fun, attending an Indigenous heritage campus tour, spending an evening on an Aboriginal cultural cruise on Sydney Harbour, participating in a talent show hosted by Australian hip hop artist L-FRESH The LION, and enjoying a film under the stars in the Quadrangle.

The Wingara Mura-Bunga Barrabugu program is having considerable success in opening students’ eyes to the possibilities available to them, and to what they need to do in order to secure a place at university. Previous participants have been offered places, not only at the University of Sydney, but also at other tertiary institutions around the country.

It is a real thrill to be able to welcome these young people, who come from all over Australia, and some of whom have never been on a plane or spent a week away from home before. They arrive in the hope of a fun few days, and I know we provide them with that. But they leave taking with them far more than good memories. They leave with goals and aspirations and the understanding that if they work towards them, they can achieve their dreams of studying at university and going on to a fulfilling career.

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