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Service Learning in Indigenous Communities

Our Service Learning in Indigenous Communities program provides exciting interdisciplinary opportunities to listen, learn and apply your knowledge to help address priority challenges with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

What is Service Learning?

Service Learning draws together genuine community aspiration with the planning and provision of services. It fosters meaningful connections between people and place. The program centres around listening and sharing knowledge for mutually beneficial outcomes.

The Service Learning in Indigenous Communities (SLIC) program allows you to work on essential projects co-designed and directed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. As a participant in the program, you will be able to extend your cultural competency.

Working directly with leading voices of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, the SLIC program is a model for what is possible through open dialogue and cooperation.

What's involved

The SLIC program is an Industry and Community Project which provides credit towards your degree. Entry is now available to undergraduate students as an Industry and Community Project (ICPU) 3000 level unit of study.

You’ll work on real-world projects that have been prioritised and identified by Indigenous communities and apply your academic perspective, while gaining valuable experience working across disciplinary boundaries.

Ideal candidates will have strong communication skills, empathy, agility and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

As part of the SLIC program, you’ll:

  • deepen your understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's history, values and perspectives and the ‘causes of the causes’ of inequality in housing and social outcomes
  • develop skills in working in strengths-based, culturally competent and empowering ways as you plan, prepare and engage with your SLIC team and community
  • learn about the community with the community
  • design interviews with cultural sensitivity
  • engage with and visit a host community (17 – 27 September)
  • attend 3 hours a week of scheduled class time
  • participate in an Aboriginal personal development and cultural competency program
  • submit individual and collaborative assessments.

Benefits of the program

Service Learning in Indigenous Communities is a flagship project of the Office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor Indigenous Strategy and Services. SLIC embodies the University’s commitment to embedding Aboriginal world views beyond the boundaries of the University campus.

In this program, you will use active listening to gain an understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of being, knowing, and doing and challenge your assumptions about the ownership and nature of knowledge.

As each project is led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, you will be actively engaged in an authentic process of collaboration.

“Our group varies across a huge number of disciplines from linguistics to media to philosophy to law (even students who are on exchange) and beyond, all brought together with a common passion to learn more about Indigenous Australia. Even though we are working remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions we were still given the great honour of working with some amazing local Indigenous community organisations, guided by truly passionate academics, on some really important real-world projects throughout the semester. So if you’re a little bit hesitant about the application process, my biggest advice would be - apply anyway for a truly valuable experience!”

- Genevieve Neich, undergraduate student

Watch this video to hear from students who participated in the Semester 1, 2021 SLIC program about what SLIC is like.

North Coast Aboriginal Development Alliance: Listening to Aboriginal Community Voices

The 2023 SLIC will be delivered as an Industry and Community Projects Unit (ICPU). Please read the ICPU website to gain a clear understanding of these units and how to apply for the SLIC project.

Students will be working in Aboriginal communities on the north coast of NSW with University and Community supervisors and the North Coast Aboriginal Development Alliance (NCADA). The project builds upon a SLIC/NCADA project in which students conducted interviews with Aboriginal service providers and NCADA partners working across housing, youth and women’s wellbeing and services to small communities in the region. The students documented many complex challenges for NCADA.

NCADA and its member organisations across the NSW North Coast recognise that housing is critically important to the health and wellbeing of families. This year NCADA has asked the SLIC Program to support their effectiveness in finding and arguing for innovative solutions through enhanced understanding of the complex issues governing funding, housing stock and maintenance among key stakeholders at regional and local levels.

Semester 1 SLIC students focused mainly on regional level challenges and heard from stakeholders across the Clarence Valley. In Semester 2, students will venture more widely and produce group reports that detail what they learned from yarning to local housing providers and community leaders across the whole North Coast region. This information will help NCADA to enhance their strategic planning, resource allocation and decision making to provide the best possible support for effective recovery and resilience-building against future disasters for Aboriginal people.

This collaboration between the University of Sydney and NCADA provides opportunities for SLIC students to support the agency and capability of communities and their leaders in identifying and implementing innovations and adaptations that respond, repair and build better to protect their residents and their most valued assets.

Project mode: CC on campus only

Timetable: Mondays 10 am – 1 pm

For any questions regarding the SLIC ICPU please contact

What is expected: We ask all students interested in SLIC to recognise that the material we cover and the things you hear and learn about the impacts of colonisation, trans-generational trauma and the experience of extreme weather events and climate change generally, can be confronting. The SLIC Team acknowledges this and seeks to prepare you as a team to be empowering, agile, resilient and trusting of the processes we use. SLIC applies ways of working that are like those that have enabled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to survive despite centuries of adversity.

Aboriginal Family Wellbeing Empowerment Program: You will experience topics from the first stage of the highly respected and researched Aboriginal Family Wellbeing Empowerment Program during your unit of study. This includes personal exploration and helps build your understandings on how to work cohesively and successfully as a student group and with your host community.

Weekly sessions: Each week you will be provided with a pre-recorded lecture (one hour) and readings covering key topic areas to give you a broad understanding of the structural and climate change challenges that Aboriginal people face in attaining good housing, health, education and employment. The Monday morning 10 am – 1 pm sessions will allow you to work with your colleagues in the planning of your project and to analyse and report your findings.

The NSW north coast field trip: This semester’s project will require you to travel as a group to the north coast of NSW from 17 – 27 September for final preparations and to conduct your community project. The cost of flights, ground transport and accommodation will be arranged and covered by the SLIC program. You will need to make a small contribution to help cover expenses. A letter regarding your absence from the University will be provided for you to share with your other unit of study coordinators to allow any arrangements and considerations to be applied.


SLIC is delivered in partnership with the ICPU program, so please check the shell units that are listed on the ICPU website and make sure that you are eligible to undertake one of the listed shell units.

If you think that you may be interested and would like more information, email

How to apply

Students will be working directly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; therefore students are required to complete an interview process to partake in this ICPU.

  1. Check your eligibility to enrol in a 3000 level ICPU shell unit.
  2. Read the information carefully on this page to ensure you understand what is required from participants of this project
  3. Send the following to the Office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor Indigenous Strategy and Services (
    • Your CV and Academic Transcript
    • One page statement detailing the reasons why you’re interested in being part of the program.
  4. Once you have lodged your EOI, the SLIC team will email you to arrange an interview prior to project commencement
  5. After interview, the SLIC team will advise if you have gained a place in the program
  6. Successful applicants will need to enrol in a 3000 level ICPU shell unit as per instructions on the ICPU website
  7. Once enrolled, please notify the SLIC team so that they can organise registration for you in Sydney Student

For any questions regarding the SLIC ICPU please contact

Last updated: 02 June 2023

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