9.7 Access to information

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Lack of information can present a barrier to higher education participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In a demand-driven system, universities are expected to meet the information needs of disparate communities across diverse topics. Prospective students and their families and advisers must navigate a complex landscape to arrive at significant decisions about future study and employment. Web-based resources can facilitate decision making by providing essential information, including what subjects and study modes exist in the student’s area of interest, what costs are involved, what financial and other support is available, and what career outcomes they might expect upon graduation.

9.7.1 Critical success factors

Critical success factors include:

  • prospective students, and their families and advisers, can make informed choices regarding study and employment opportunities
  • information is comprehensive and current and can be retrieved in a form that suits individual interests and circumstances.

9.7.2 Key challenges

Key challenges include:

  • accurately assessing the information needs of a diverse student market
  • finding the right balance between comprehensiveness and information overload

9.7.3 Examples

Aurora Project and the Charlie Perkins Trust – website and guidebooks

The Aurora Project and the Charlie Perkins Trust for Children & Students have collaborated to provide information about financial assistance available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians for undergraduate and postgraduate study in Australia and overseas. The information is targeted at school students and their parents, carers and advisers, and others considering university study.

In 2011, the Indigenous Scholarships website was launched to provide access to a database of over 300 scholarships offered by government and non-government organisations. The online database is searchable by keyword, level of study, institution, duration and area of study. Details provided for each scholarship include costs covered, value and frequency of payments, eligibility criteria, closing dates, selection criteria and contacts for further information.

Scholarships featured on the site range in value from $500 as a one-off payment to $100,000 during the student’s time studying. Overall, these scholarships are potentially worth over $40 million. They include scholarships for which only Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are eligible, as well as broader equity and merit-based scholarships for which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are encouraged to apply. Scholarships cover a range of study-related costs, including university fees, accommodation and the purchase of books and equipment.

The website also provides news and resources for prospective students, including guidance on making the decision to commit to study, the costs involved and alternative entry pathways, as well as inspirational stories from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university graduates.

Two companion volumes have been published in paperback and distributed free of charge via university Indigenous Education Units. They are the Indigenous students’ guide to postgraduate scholarships in Australia and overseas, published in 2009, and the Indigenous students’ guide to undergraduate scholarships in Australia, published in 2011. These guidebooks include personal reflections from successful graduates and current students about their experiences at university, information on alternative entry schemes and preparatory programs, and information to assist high school students and prospective mature-age students to decide whether study is for them. The postgraduate guide also includes information on general scholarships for study overseas and a number of scholarships that are only open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (including the Charlie Perkins Scholarships for study at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge and various Roberta Sykes Scholarships for study at Harvard University and other overseas universities).

In addition, the Aurora Project produces a monthly newsletter delivered via email to over 600 recipients that contains news, profiles and featured scholarships.