Indigenous teens dip their toes in university life at summer camp

Indigenous teens dip their toes in university life at summer camp

Summer camp aims to increase Indigenous participation in tertiary education and the health workforce. 

Sixty Indigenous teenagers from the Illawarra and New South Wales South Coast visited UOW in December for a four-day summer camp aimed at increasing Indigenous participation in tertiary education and the health workforce. 

The camp, hosted by UOW’s School of Medicine, gave high school students in Years 7 and 8 with an interest in a future health career the opportunity to explore pathways available to them when they graduate from school.

In Australia, only 5 per cent of the Aboriginal population attends university, compared to almost 24 per cent of the non-Aboriginal population.

Scott Winch, Academic Leader of Indigenous Health at UOW, said the program aims to build confidence in Indigenous youth considering university.  

“The previous camps have been evaluated and it was found that students significantly increased their confidence and motivation in attending university. Importantly, they also felt that they had a much greater understanding of what studying at university was about, what opportunities came from studying at university and were more aware of the supports available to address the barriers to attending university.”

Now in its third year at UOW, the camp received an overwhelming response in 2015 and has doubled the intake of participants from last year. Mr Winch said this year’s camp is strongly supported by the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME).

“This year’s camp has a strong partnership with AIME, recruiting through the high schools they engage with on the South Coast. It is anticipated that this program will enhance the pathways for Indigenous students with a continuity of engagement and support through the AIME program into University.”

“These youth are the future leaders of our communities and it’s important they are given the greatest opportunities to succeed despite the inequitable challenges that lay ahead.”

While at the camp, the students – who travelled from as far south as Eden – took part in interactive sessions run by the different schools across the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health and heard from the staff and students at the Woolyungah Indigenous Centre.

The students also heard from local Indigenous health workers about different career paths they have taken, learned how the St George Illawarra Dragons keep fit, and experienced the lifestyle of Wollongong by learning to surf, while staying at UOW’s International House.