Outdoor cinema in the Quadrangle at University of Sydney during the WMBB Summer Program 2016.

Summer school inspires Indigenous teens to pursue university

15 January 2018
Over 150 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students will attend the University of Sydney this summer, as faculties collaborate to provide a week-long program encouraging participation in higher education.
A photo of a large group of young people wearing academic caps.

2017 WMBB Summer Program graduates celebrate their achievements.

Year 10, 11 and 12 students from across the country will take part in a week-long academic residential program designed to help them understand how their study choices could influence their future, and the possibilities offered by higher education.

The Wingara Mura-Bunga Barrabugu (WMBB) Summer Program is the University’s flagship event for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students. Now in its fifth year, the initiative will be followed by a Winter Program in June, where Year 12 attendees at the Summer Program will be invited back to prepare for their final exams.

“The WMBB Summer Program is the culmination of the University’s work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students that begins in early high school and ends when our proud graduates leave to join the workforce,” acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) Professor Juanita Sherwood explained.

“The whole University supports the program – from academic staff sharing passion for their subject, to student leaders accompanying and providing personal support to attendees throughout the week – and it works,” Professor Sherwood added.

Twenty-one alumni from the Summer and Winter programs are currently studying with us, with many more indicating a preference to study at other higher education institutions – a demonstration of the program’s impact.
Professor Juanita Sherwood, acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor

Hands-on learning 

According to their interests, students will take part a wide range of learning experiences including:

  • exploring the Reserve Bank of Australia to learn about the economy
  • writing and recording music at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with Aboriginal hip hop artist Ziggy Ramo and musicians Rainbow Chan and Paul Mac
  • attending NSW Local Court at the Downing Centre
  • a marine biology workshop at the Institute of Marine Science
  • creating artworks inspired by Australian artists at Sydney College of the Arts.

Michael Mossman, raised in Cairns and descendant of Kuku Yalanji and Warungu country, teaches and researches at the University’s School of Architecture, Design and Planning. He will work with the students to build a shelter using found objects and photos from students’ homes that will be installed in the University’s Great Hall during the graduation dinner event.

“I’m looking forward to welcoming these students and seeing what they bring to the project; to working with them to help them develop, believe in and realise their ideas,” Mr Mossman said.

“Architecture can tell a story – one that reflects culture and history, as well as the present and our ideas for the future."

This collaborative work will serve as a visual display of diversity, difference, and new ways of being together – and hopefully open the students’ eyes to their potential for creative and academic achievement.
Michael Mossman, School of Architecture, Design and Planning

Student leader mentors

Current Bachelor of Arts student and 2016 WMBB Summer Program alumna Dhani Coe said the residency provided a taste of university life and what is on offer at the University of Sydney.

“Leaving school and pursing higher education is a big milestone,” she said.

“When I was part of the program, the help and support of the student leaders played an important role in forming my decision. I’m really excited to now be a student leader myself, and hope I can help students with these important decisions and feel comfortable about the choices they make.”

Our work with schools

The Wingara Mura-Bunga Barrabugu Summer Program is a key component of Widening Participation and Outreach at the University, supported by the office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services).

Last year Widening Participation and Outreach worked with nearly 1,500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait schools students across NSW and Australia including the Torres Strait Islands, with over 6,700 individual student engagements. 

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