Indigenous disadvantage took generations to create, and it will take as great an effort to undo.
“There wasn’t a plan to create Indigenous disadvantage,” says Professor Michael McDaniel, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Leadership and Engagement) at UTS. “It happened through tens of thousands of small actions by people knowingly and unknowingly for generations, often just using everyday power and decision-making they might have with an Indigenous person or an Indigenous opportunity.”
I think the challenges that Indigenous students face are about having aspirations to go to university.
One of UTS’s most prominent advocates for Indigenous students, Professor McDaniel is tasked with executing a whole-of-university strategy to ensure that all UTS graduates will have a professional capacity to work with and for Indigenous people; a strategy that inspires more Indigenous students to take up tertiary education. Collectively, it involves more than 60 initiatives across the university.
“I think the challenges that Indigenous students face are about having aspirations to go to university. It’s very hard to think of being something or being somewhere if you’ve never seen it, or if it’s not in your vocabulary, or not in your family conversations. We have to widen the doors of the university and get as many students as possible, and develop around them a supportive set of programs that will encourage them to be successful.”
This year, the UTS Annual Appeal asked the donor community to help close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage by helping more Indigenous students achieve a life-changing degree from UTS. Most donors are UTS alumni, who also offered career advice, internships, and even employment to our student callers. Over 190 Alumni made gifts in support of Indigenous outcomes and other programs in 2018.
While Indigenous Australians make up three per cent of the population, they make up just one per cent of the student population at UTS. Indigenous student numbers at UTS have grown by 400 per cent since 2011, but there remains a lot of work to do. Professor McDaniel is hopeful that, “on the present trajectory, it’s quite possible we could see the gap close entirely by 2025.”
How can non-Indigenous people help? “Be informed,” he says. “And whenever an opportunity comes your way to make a difference, no matter how small, always be on the side of generosity, flexibility, creativity. See if you can do that, and I think by tens of thousands of small acts of deliberate kindness, we’ll see us move out of this situation.”
“Thank you to everyone who has helped to make difference this year with our Annual Appeal.”
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