Introduction

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Context

The Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People follows on from the 2008 Review of Higher Education (the Bradley Review) by proposing measures that address what is a significant gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians’ higher education outcomes. The Bradley Review recognised, in light of Australia’s growing economic and social policy challenges, the need for specific strategies to increase the participation in higher education of groups currently underrepresented within the system, particularly those from a low socio-economic status ( SES) background. The Bradley Review specifically identified the need to address access and outcomes in higher education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The terms of reference for the Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People (the Review) asked the Review Panel (the Panel) to provide advice and make recommendations in relation to:

  • achieving parity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, researchers, and academic and non-academic staff
  • best practice and opportunities for change inside universities and other higher education providers (spanning both Indigenous-specific units and whole-of-university culture, policies, activities and programs)
  • the effectiveness of existing Commonwealth Government programs that aim to encourage better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in higher education
  • the recognition and equivalence of Indigenous knowledge in the higher education sector. The Panel proposes a collaborative approach be developed involving universities, governments, professional bodies, the business sector and communities working together to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through higher education. Strategies outlined in the report include attracting and retaining more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff, improving academic achievement, simplifying and better focusing university and government support programs and ensuring that graduates are better equipped to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through embedding Indigenous perspectives in teaching, learning and research.

Our approach: empowering communities, Closing the Gap and nation building

Higher education and training has a critical role to play in improving the socio-economic position of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, their families and their communities. It also has an important role to play in driving the nation’s social and economic development.

Both of these transformative processes are consistent with the commitment to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage as the central goal of the Closing the Gap agenda. Closing the Gap is a commitment by all Australian governments to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across six areas relating to health, early childhood development, education and economic participation.

The higher education sector has a vital role to play in raising the health, education and economic outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by making sure they have the skills and capacity they need to drive change from within their communities. Part of this capacity building is preparing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for leadership roles, so they are the ones making the decisions that affect their communities and providing positive examples for the people around them. Seeing parents at work, for example, provides strong role models for children, especially in the university sector where few Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are seen to have ventured.

Making these changes will require a strong commitment from universities to raise enrolment, retention and completion rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, as well as improving employment opportunities within the sector for potential Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff.

Despite significant progress in recent decades, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people remain significantly underrepresented in Australian universities. The important milestones in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher education, such as the first Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander student to receive a degree from an Australian university or the graduation of the first Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander doctor, came nearly a century after other countries with similar colonial histories, such as the United States, Canada and New Zealand (Anderson 2008).

The Panel believes that this disadvantage comes at a cost not only to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but also to the nation in terms of opportunities lost. Underrepresentation in higher education by these communities means that significant and unique perspectives and experiences of Australia’s First Nation peoples are not being shared in classrooms, in lecture theatres or in research output in proportion to other voices from the national community. There are also significant economic and fiscal costs associated with lower higher education outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that come with lower economic participation rates and higher dependency on government services.

Higher education comes with the promises of higher incomes and associated intergenerational health and security benefits, and the promise of greater autonomy with a new generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professionals responding to and meeting the needs of their communities across industry, commerce and government.

Universities are where we educate architects and engineers to build homes and communities, where we train doctors and nurses, teachers, lawyers, social workers and journalists. It is where we educate future leaders and captains of industry. The higher education system is what ultimately builds the prosperity of our nation. And it is also a place where research can help analyse the problems facing the community, where best practice models can be developed by using expertise in particular areas and where Indigenous knowledge and viewpoints can be incorporated into the national knowledge base.

Higher education will become increasingly vital as the nation responds to the social and economic challenges posed by an ageing population and issues like climate change. It is critical that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are engaged as students, teachers, researchers and professionals, bringing their unique experiences, perspectives and methods to addressing these challenges.

Improving higher education outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people comes with significant economic benefits as well. The Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research estimates that ‘if the educational level of the Indigenous population was increased to that of the non-Indigenous population, the value of this hypothetical change [to the nation] is $1.09 billion per annum’ (Taylor et al. 2011, p. viii). Access Economics quantifies economy-wide advantages from improvements in the quality of life of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as more than $10 billion in extra gross domestic product by 2029, increasing government revenue by $4.6 billion and reducing government expenditure by $3.7 billion (Access Economics 2008, p. iv).

In light of broader higher education reform, this is an opportune moment to address disadvantage – empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to gain access to the opportunities and life benefits that higher education affords. This Review recommends that government take the opportunity of broader higher education reform to not only address disadvantage, but to also include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the nation-building agenda of the next decade.

Next steps

The purpose of this report is to make recommendations in relation to what universities, government and other stakeholders need to do to put more effort into improving higher education outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Some submissions to the Review raised the need for the report to also spell out how universities should do this as well. The Panel understands there are differences between universities in terms of their circumstances, their student populations and how far advanced they are in meeting their share of the parity targets. Accordingly, there can be no ‘one size fits all’ approach to how they should implement the report’s recommendations and the Panel cannot prescribe sector-wide actions.

The Panel believes that universities should build from this report, working in partnership with government and other stakeholders (schools, VET providers, employers and professional bodies) to develop individual strategies to implement the recommendations aimed at them. Throughout the report the Panel has used examples and case studies (in the absence of strong empirical evidence) to help universities to identify what is already being done that they can learn from.

Building on existing efforts

The Australian Government and many universities have taken steps in recent years to try to improve the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in higher education. These have mostly taken the form of support programs and financial assistance. While progress has been slow, and the programs have had varying degrees of success, the Panel believes that this Review should build on existing efforts by learning from what is working and making changes targeted at improving what is not working.

This report points to examples of programs that have been identified during consultations as showing signs of promise or success. However, the Panel believes that there is more work to do on rigorous, independent and long-term evaluation of these programs.

Current situation

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people hold a unique place in the fabric of Australian society and culture as First Nation peoples. However, across education, employment and cultural spheres, their participation and influence remain low.

Population

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 2.2% of the Australian working-age population4 in 2006 ( ABS 2012a).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to live in regional and remote areas compared to non-Indigenous people. In 2006, 43.3% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in regional areas and 24.6% in remote (or very remote) areas, compared to 28.9% of non-Indigenous people who lived in regional areas and 1.8% in remote (or very remote) areas ( ABS 2011b).

School

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students’ apparent retention rates5 are lower compared to non-Indigenous students. In 2010, 47.2% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students remained in school from the first year of high school to Year 12, compared to 79.4% of non-Indigenous students (SCRGSP 2011b, p. 4.58).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are less likely to complete Year 12 compared to non-Indigenous students. In 2008, 45.4% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 20- to 24-year-olds reported completing Year 12 or equivalent, compared to 88.1% of non-Indigenous 20- to 24-year-olds (SCRGSP 2011b, p. 4.49).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are less likely to gain a university entrance score compared to non-Indigenous students. In 2008, around 10% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who completed Year 12 gained a university entrance score, compared to around 46% of non-Indigenous students ( DEEWR 2008, pp. xxi, 35).

Vocational education and training

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students made up 4.6% of all enrolments in vocational education and training ( VET) in 2010 ( NCVER 2010).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students aged 15 to 19 years participate in VET and schooling in similar numbers compared to non-Indigenous 15- to 19-year-olds, who have a higher number of students enrolled in school. In 2010, 25,789 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students aged 15 to 19 years enrolled in VET and 27,170 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in full-time school. In comparison, 403,878 non-Indigenous students aged 15 to 19 years enrolled in VET and 752,453 non-Indigenous students enrolled in full-time school ( ABS 2011a; internal DEEWR data derived from NCVER 2010).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are eight times more likely to be enrolled in a VET course than a university course. Non-Indigenous Australians are two times more likely. In 2010, the proportion of working-age Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people enrolled in VET was 23%, compared to 3% in a university (Taylor et al. 2011, p. viii).
  • The majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander VET completions are for Certificate I–III qualifications. In 2010, the overwhelming majority (82.1%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander completions were for Certificate I–III qualifications ( NCVER 2010, Table 4).

Workforce

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are less likely to participate in the labour force compared to non-Indigenous people. In 2008, 64.5% of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander working-age population6 participated in the labour force, compared to 78.9% of the non-Indigenous working-age population (SCRGSP 2011b, p. 4.67, Table 4A.6.6).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to have a lower median income compared to non-Indigenous people. In 2008, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 years and over received a median gross weekly equivalised household (GWEH) income of $445 per week,7 compared to non-Indigenous people aged 18 years and over who received a median GWEH income of $746 per week (SCRGSP 2011b, p. 4.103, Figure 4.9.2).

Higher education – students

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students made up 1.4% of all enrolments in university in 2010 ( DIISRTE 2012a).8
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are less likely to participate in university compared to non-Indigenous people. In 2006, 2.8% of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander working-age population9 attended university, compared to 5.0% of the non-Indigenous working-age population ( ABS 2012a; DIISRTE 2012a).10
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are less likely to be admitted to university on the basis of their prior educational attainment compared to non-Indigenous students. In 2010, 47.3% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students entered university on the basis of their prior educational attainment,11 compared to 83.0% of non-Indigenous students ( DIISRTE 2012a).12
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are more likely to be female compared to non-Indigenous students. In 2010, 66.2% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in university were female, compared to 57.9% of non-Indigenous students ( DIISRTE 2012a).13
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are more likely to be mature-age students (aged 25 years and over) compared to non-Indigenous students. In 2010, 54.4% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in university were aged 25 years and over, compared to 38.2% of non-Indigenous students ( DIISRTE 2012a).14
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are more likely to use an external mode of attendance compared to non-Indigenous students. In 2010, 27.4% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in university used an external mode of attendance, compared to 15.5% of non-Indigenous students ( DIISRTE 2012a).15
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student retention rates are lower compared to non-Indigenous students. In 2010, 63.4% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who were studying in 2009 continued to be enrolled at university,16 compared to 79.8% of non-Indigenous students ( DIISRTE 2012a).17
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have lower completion rates over a five-year period compared to non-Indigenous students. In 2010, 40.8% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who commenced a bachelor course in 2005 had completed their course, compared to 68.6% of non-Indigenous students ( DEEWR n.d.).18

Higher education – staff

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander full-time equivalent ( FTE) staff made up 1.0% of all FTE staff in universities in 2010 ( DIISRTE 2012a).19
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander FTE academic staff made up 0.8% of all FTE academic staff in universities in 2010 ( DIISRTE 2012a).20
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander FTE non-academic staff made up 1.2% of all FTE non-academic staff in universities in 2010 ( DIISRTE 2012a).21
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander FTE staff are more likely to be in non-academic positions compared to non-Indigenous FTE staff. In 2010, 65.8% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander FTE staff were employed in non-academic positions, compared to 56.8% of non-Indigenous FTE staff ( DIISRTE 2012a).22
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander FTE staff are less likely to be in higher-classification academic positions compared to non-Indigenous FTE staff. In 2010, 7.0% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander FTE staff were employed at above the senior lecturer level, and 6.2% at the senior lecturer level (Level C), compared to 11.1% of non-Indigenous FTE staff who were employed at above the senior lecturer level, and 10.1% at the senior lecturer level (Level C) ( DIISRTE 2012a).23
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander FTE staff are less likely to be employed in a research-only function in university, compared to non-Indigenous FTE staff. In 2010, 6.7% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander FTE staff were employed in a research-only function, compared to 14.8% of non-Indigenous FTE staff ( DIISRTE 2012a).24

Higher education – research

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students made up 1.1% of higher degree by research ( HDR) students at university, and 0.8% of all HDR completions in 2010 ( DIISRTE 2012a).25
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HDR student retention rates are slightly lower compared to non-Indigenous students. 80.1% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HDR students who were studying in 2009 continued to be enrolled at university in 2010,26 compared to 83.9% of non-Indigenous students ( DIISRTE 2012a).27

Professions

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 0.8% of the professional occupation workforce in 2006 (Taylor et al. 2011, p. 3).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 0.6% of the managerial occupation workforce in 2006 (Taylor et al. 2011, p. 3).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professionals are less likely to have a degree or higher qualification compared to non-Indigenous professionals. In 2006, 39.5% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professionals had a degree or higher qualification, compared to 69.3% of non-Indigenous professionals (Taylor et al. 2011, p. 5).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander managers are less likely to have a degree or higher qualification compared to non-Indigenous managers. In 2006, 16.9% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander managers had a degree or higher qualification, compared to 28.7% of non-Indigenous managers (Taylor et al. 2011, p. 5).

What are we trying to achieve?

The Panel’s vision is for a future where higher education is a natural pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professionals in decision-making roles across professions, government and industry, and where the higher education sector values the world views and perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

A flexible, responsive and inclusive higher education system is the key to making this happen.

The Bradley Review recommended the establishment of sector-wide targets for participation of the groups that are still underrepresented in higher education, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Building on the Bradley Review’s recommendation of a participation target for low SES undergraduate students of 20% by 2020, the Panel recommends setting targets for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students that are focused on achieving parity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in higher education. The term ‘parity’, referred to in the Review’s terms of reference, generally means achieving ‘equality’ or ‘equivalence’. In this context, the Panel has taken it to mean ‘equality’ or ‘equivalence’ of participation and outcomes in higher education between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians.

Enabling more Indigenous people to gain access to higher education will require a range of strategies. These should include: Widening the focus of the higher education participation agenda [by] including Indigenous people as a distinct group of interest, in addition to and separate from people from low SES backgrounds (submission no. 16, Group of Eight, p. 5).

The Panel recommends that the parity target for student enrolments and staff/researcher numbers should be based on the proportion of the total population aged between 15 and 64 who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This means that the initial parity target for student enrolments and staff/researcher numbers would be 2.2%28 and revised in line with new population data following each national census. For retention and completion rates of students, the Panel has recommended that the parity target be set to match retention and completion rates of non-Indigenous students.

This approach, supported by the Group of Eight, recognises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families face a range of complex challenges that, while often linked to low socio-economic status, also go beyond such status for many Indigenous families.29 As is outlined throughout the report, many submissions pointed to educational disadvantage, lack of history within families of attending university, intergenerational poverty, the remoteness for some families from universities, and the need for higher levels of academic and social support for students once at university as all contributing to current poor participation and higher education outcomes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. In addition, data included later in the report highlights that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have higher dropout rates and are clustered in a limited range of disciplines. Similarly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff are also clustered at lower levels within academic positions.

Achieving parity in enrolments, retention and completions across a broader spread of disciplines will tell us not only that the choice to participate in higher education is the norm for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people but also that the higher education system is supporting their success. At the same time, similar parity targets will need to be set for staff in both academic and general positions and for researchers. The Panel suggests that universities should focus their initial efforts in disciplines where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are underrepresented or in those fields that can contribute to closing the gap.

Achieving parity will be a long-term goal. The Panel explored options for setting a timeframe for the achievement of the sector-wide parity target. In doing so, it took account of the low SES target timeframe, the target of halving the gap in Year 12 (or equivalent) attainment between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous school students by 2020, and also sought some preliminary modelling from the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education ( DIISRTE). This preliminary modelling indicated that the parity target for enrolments may be feasible by 2030. However, the Panel believes that further modelling is required before a realistic and achievable timeframe can be set. It will also be important to monitor the interactions and flow-on effects between the various targets including the Year 12 target, the enrolment target, the retention and completion targets, and the higher degree and academic staffing targets. The Panel suggests that differing and sequenced timeframes are likely to be required for each target to allow the flow-on effects from one to the other and also to take account of the different starting points or current gaps in parity. For example, it would be unrealistic to assume that the sector could achieve 2.2% of all postgraduate students being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students within the same timeframe as lifting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student enrolments for undergraduate degrees to the same level, given that postgraduate degrees require undergraduate completions.

Regular measurement and review of progress of all targets will be critical.

At the same time, the Panel encourages individual universities to consider setting timeframes for their own targets as, arguably, they will be in a better position to track their cohorts and forecast possible scenarios. They will also need to take account of their geographic catchment areas to set appropriate targets reflecting the proportion of the working-age population within their catchment area that is from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.

The Panel believes that achieving parity must be a shared agenda for universities, governments, business and the professions, schools, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. Universities as individual institutions are already taking steps to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in higher education, but they can do more by collaborating with each other and driving sector-wide initiatives, and with the ongoing strong support of government, schools and the professions.

The Panel also believes that to achieve parity, university action must be institution-wide, not just focused on Indigenous Education Units. Universities must work to increase the recruitment of and support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff, with an initial focus on disciplines where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student enrolments are currently lowest and those disciplines that have national priority in meeting the Closing the Gap targets. These might include fields such as early childhood education, health sciences, engineering and accounting.

The challenges faced by the higher education sector in terms of enrolments, retention and completions are far-reaching and affect many non-Indigenous students as well.

Parity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff in the higher education sector

Any significant improvement in outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians’ participation in higher education is going to require new ways of thinking about and acting to improve results. The recommendations set out below are not directed solely at any sector. Rather, they recognise that it must be a shared agenda involving all sectors working in partnership.

Recommendations

Recommendation 1

That the Australian Government:

  • define the population parity rate (parity) as the proportion of the population aged between 15 and 64 years that is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander according to ABS population statistics—this national parity rate is currently 2.2%
  • revise the parity figure each time new census data is available
  • use this parity rate to set national targets for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student and staff enrolments.

Recommendation 2

That universities use the population parity target identified by the Australian Government to set their own targets and timeframes:

  • for the proportion of the total domestic student population to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students, focusing initially on priority disciplines that support the Closing the Gap agenda or where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are currently most underrepresented
  • for the proportion of domestic students undertaking higher degree by research or research training programs to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people
  • for the retention and completion rates by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, matching the rates for those of non-Indigenous students across the disciplines, and at each of the levels of study
  • for the proportion of the university general and academic staff to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people
  • reflecting their geographic and demographic catchments and their own strategies.

Recommendation 3

That the Australian Government engage with universities in discussion of these targets and the universities’ strategies to achieve them in the context of mid-compact discussions and future compacts, and reward universities for achieving and moving beyond these targets through incentive payments.

4 Working-age population includes those aged 15 to 64 years.

5 The apparent retention rate is the percentage of full-time students who continued to Year 12 from respective cohort groups at the commencement of their secondary schooling (Year 7/8) (SCRGSP 2011b, p. 4.58).

6 Working-age population includes those aged 15 to 64 years.

7 Based on 2008 dollars.

8 Based on Table A providers and domestic students only.

9 Working-age population includes those aged 15 to 64 years.

10 Based on Table A providers and domestic students only.

11 Prior educational attainment includes a higher education course, secondary education, or a VET award course.

12 Based on Table A providers and domestic students only.

13 Based on Table A providers and domestic students only.

14 Based on Table A providers and domestic students only.

15 Based on Table A providers and domestic students only.

16 Excluding any students who completed in 2009.

17 Based on Table A providers and domestic students only.

18 Data includes both the student ID and Commonwealth Higher Education Student Support Number components to pick up students who may switch providers during their course.

19 Based on Table A providers and domestic students only.

20 Based on Table A providers and domestic students only.

21 Based on Table A providers and domestic students only.

22 Based on Table A providers and domestic students only.

23 Based on Table A providers and domestic students only.

24 Based on Table A providers and domestic students only.

25 Based on Table A providers and domestic students only.

26 Excluding any students who completed in 2009.

27 Based on Table A providers and domestic students only.

28 Based on the ABS 2006 Census of population and housing ( ABS 2006).

29 The Panel notes that submission no. 54 from the Centre for Independent Studies argued that Indigenous students’ participation in higher education was primarily influenced by their low socio-economic status and that those attending university were mostly from urban middle-class backgrounds. The Panel notes that comparing departmental data against census data indicates that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from low SES backgrounds are less likely to attend university than non-Indigenous students from low SES backgrounds. At the same time there were still nearly one third (31.9%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at university who were from low SES backgrounds compared with just 15% for non-Indigenous students (based on 2006 Census data and 2010 departmental data, which may not be directly comparable). Using the data with some caution, and taking account of other submissions, the Panel concluded that while socio-economic status is an important contributor to higher education participation for all students, there are a range of other factors that contribute not only to the participation but also the success of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students once at university.