10.3 Financial support

The costs of living away from home can create a significant barrier for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students wishing to access higher education, and to their successful completion of study. Some universities attempt to alleviate this burden by providing accommodation or scholarships to cover living expenses.

10.3.1 Critical success factors

Critical success factors include:

  • financial support that is substantial enough to make an impact on real costs faced by students, particularly those studying in high-cost locations and those with dependants
  • supply of funding is secure and available for the duration of study.

10.3.2 Key challenges

Key challenges include:

  • securing sufficient funding from various sources, including professional and philanthropic organisations, to cover student living costs for the duration of their studies.

10.3.3 Examples

The University of New South Wales – Shalom College Gamarada Scholarship Program

The Shalom College Gamarada Scholarship Program was established in 2005 with the aim of increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical doctors graduating in New South Wales. The program supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students of medicine by providing an on-campus accommodation scholarship for the duration of their program. The program was established by Shalom College and the Muru Marri Indigenous Health Unit within the Faculty of Medicine.

In 2012, 24 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students will be studying and living at the college as part of the program. Students receive a college experience that sustains academic achievement by providing academic and peer support, and engagement in college community and university life. It has now been extended to students from other faculties including law, arts and engineering.

Each scholarship covers full board and tutoring support. Students make a nominal contribution towards the costs and must maintain successful academic progress. The scholarships are funded by corporate donors, private donors and funds raised annually from the Shalom Gamarada Art Exhibition. The Australian Indigenous Education Foundation also provides funding.

The program graduated its first doctor in 2009 and the first Indigenous optometrist in New South Wales. The third graduate completed their studies in 2011.

University of South Australia – Division of Business Indigenous Scholarships

The University of South Australia makes provision to award at least three living allowance scholarships each year to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students studying with the Division of Business. Five scholarships were awarded in 2009 and seven in 2010, but only two were awarded in 2011 due to a fall in the number of applications. The scholarship has been in place since 2005. It is offered to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students commencing a full-time undergraduate degree program with the Division of Business. Eligible students are identified by the university and invited to apply. Selection is based on merit. Continuing students with a grade point average above 4.0 are also considered if there are insufficient suitable commencing students.

Scholarship recipients receive the funding for the equivalent of three years of full-time study; however, students undertaking a four-year program receive payments for the equivalent of four years of full-time study. The scholarship is $12,000 for three years. The recipient’s performance is reviewed annually. If a recipient loses the scholarship due to poor academic performance, they may reapply if their performance improves. The university is considering removing the requirement for students to be enrolled full-time and changing the payment structure from $4,000 per annum to $500 per course enrolled (up to a maximum of $4,000 per annum) to accommodate students studying at different loads.

Since inception, 24 students have received the scholarship, five have graduated (including one who has continued on to honours), eight have withdrawn from study with the university, and one has transferred to another program within the university.