A student dancing at the Gadalung Program

Indigenous school students head to uni to explore their futures

29 January 2024
More than 100 students attended this year's Gadalung Program
Students from around Australia have spent a week living at the University of Sydney experiencing what higher education has to offer.

More than 100 students, some from as far away as Banana in Far North Queensland, this month travelled to the University of Sydney to participate in the Gadalung Program, a week-long residential initiative that aims to increase the motivation and participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island students in higher education. 

Students spent the week experiencing university life, living near campus and learning about their future study options. The program includes mentorships from current students and aims to help students feel like they have a place at the University of Sydney. Students participated in tailored faculty activities, workshops on scholarships and admission pathways, tours of student accommodation and learnt about support services such as the Gadigal Centre, which provides academic, cultural and pastoral support to Indigenous students at the University of Sydney.

Students who joined us on campus go home with new friends and a knowledge of the opportunities that await them in higher education, and at the University of Sydney.
Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy & Services)

Gadalung alumni Daisy Grady, in her second year of a Bachelor of Veterinary Biology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, is testament to the program’s success. She moved from Newcastle to attend the University of Sydney and credits the program’s student mentorships with increasing her confidence in applying to university. 

“The uni seemed so big and scary, but it was really fun having Indigenous Student Ambassadors saying, ‘hey, we’re only second year’ or, ‘we were you last year’.

“You always hear all these resources are available, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to find them, or that you feel encouraged to use them. Having the older students say they’d love to see you made going to uni feel so much easier."

Daisy Grady

Daisy Grady, Student Ambassador. Photo by Abril Felman. 

The Gadalung Program supports the University’s commitment to achieving population parity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student participation by 2030.

Along with peer support and academic and social activities, students are also introduced to the University of Sydney’s entry pathways. These include our Gadigal Program where eligible students receive a lower minimum ATAR requirement, our Extended Bachelor’s Program where students commencing the Extended Bachelor’s Programs are automatically awarded a scholarship worth up to $20,000 a year, and our MySydney Entry and Scholarship Scheme for students from low socio-economic areas. 

“We are so proud to have welcomed the next generation of proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to Sydney. We look forward to engaging with them during their journey with us" said Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Strategy and Services. 

“The Gadalung Program is an opportunity for all mob to connect and bring cultural knowledge and perspectives to the University, for the betterment of all students, staff, and our wider communities.

“The students who joined us on campus will go home with new friends and a knowledge of the opportunities that await them in higher education, and at the University of Sydney.”

Aurielle Smith singing into a microphone in a recording student

Newtown High School of the Performing Arts student Aurielle Smith. Photo by Abril Felman.

For 16-year-old Aurielle Smith, the Gadalung program was an opportunity to learn more about university and the options available to students. It was also an opportunity to make new friends.

“The program highlight for me was going to the Conservatorium of Music and experiencing being a student there, and having student mentors show us around,” she says.

“We got to write a song and record it in just three hours. I’m now really interested in the Contemporary Music course and producing and writing my own original music.”

The Gadalung Program ran from 15 – 19 January and included program highlights

  • Welcome to country and smoking ceremony
  • Faculty activities such as legal debating in the Moot Courts and recording music at the Conservatorium of Music
  • Performance by Malyangapa and Barkindji musician, BARKAA
  • Cruise on Sydney Harbour with Tribal Warrior, learning about Sydney’s cultural heritage.
  • Indigenous history and cultural activities, learning Aboriginal songs, dances, and storytelling.
  • Graduation ceremony

Juliet Rayner

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