UTS plans Australia's first Indigenous Residential College
The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) has announced a ground-breaking plan to build Australia's first Indigenous Residential College.
Once completed the college is expected to be one of the most significant of its type in the world.
The evidence is clear that higher education is one of the greatest ways to close the gap on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage.
The estimated $100 million world-class facility will offer a comprehensive range of services above and beyond accommodation and have the celebration of Indigenous identity and culture at its core. The majority of students will be Indigenous but there will also be places for non-Indigenous students.
UTS staff, students, Indigenous leaders and community members gathered today for the launch of the plan, as the university called on partners to join in to help realise the vision.
UTS was joined in its commitment to funding the Indigenous College by both the NSW Government and the Federal Labor Opposition.
UTS to build Australia’s first Indigenous residential college
Professor Michael McDaniel: At UTS we’ve found models that work in relation to every single area of Indigenous interest and we’re committed to sharing those across the sector. I think in that way UTS is perfectly positioned to have a national impact in relation to Indigenous higher education.
The majority of Aboriginal people at the moment don’t have a history of a university education and the idea of a career as such, doesn’t often exist.
We’re particularly excited about the concept of UTS establishing Australia’s first university Indigenous residential college. So for the first time in Australian history, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be able to choose a College that has a celebration of their own identity, their own culture, their own traditions at its heart.
Marlee Silva: We’re really privilege here because UTS already does a great job of interacting Indigenous perspectives into our curriculum. I think the College though will take it that next step further. To have a space that’s really your own, and where we’re the hosts to everyone else.
Professor Attila Brungs: At this college we'll have Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians coming together in an environment of absolute excellence; mentored by the community around them. And for the first time ever in Australia, and one of the few times in the world, this hothouse of talent will be connected right across Australia and overtime we’ll have thousands of graduates making a real difference in our society.
Adam Goodes: The students that are going to be coming to this college and having the benefit of getting a university degree; they’re going to be role models. Whether they know it or not, they're leaders, they’re showing to their siblings back home that going to university is the normal thing we do in our family.
Marlee Silva: As a society we're at a point in history where we need to make a decision about what our future looks like. And in this instance, and I think more and more people are realising everyday, that in order for us to have a successful future and to have a strong national identity that unites all people, we need to start with our first people.
Adam Goodes: Higher education can increase the life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It increases the money that they can earn in their career, and most importantly that connection to identity and culture.
Marlee Silva: The greatest honour of my life is to be able to say I’m an Aboriginal woman and I think that’s what this college is going to exude in every fibre.
This space is going to be so important because it’s not only for Aboriginal people but it’s a meeting place for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia. And we can all celebrate the founding culture of this nation together.
Attila Brungs: The whole focus of the college is around a strengths-based approach. But in doing so, it will absolutely close some of the gaps we have. We know, we have proven that higher education and access to higher education erases disadvantage.
Adam Goodes: We need those classroom educators that are going out there and studying law, studying engineering, all the courses that traditionally Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples haven’t gone into. We’re now breaking down those barriers for those students in creating environments like the college we’re creating here at UTS.
Attila Brungs: The college is not a building, it’s a community and it will be a lifelong community for a social purpose.
The NSW Premier the Hon Gladys Berejiklian, the NSW Treasurer the Hon. Dominic Perrottet, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Education the Hon. Tanya Plibersek joined with the community in support of the project.
UTS Vice-Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs praised the commitment of leaders from across the nation’s parliaments to this transformational project, which will have inter-generational benefits for communities right across Australia.
“The evidence is clear that higher education is one of the greatest ways to close the gap on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage. We need bold ideas to ensure we maximise the transformative benefits of further education,” Professor Brungs said.
“The UTS Indigenous Residential College is a transformative, strengths-based initiative that will both inspire more Indigenous people to enter higher education and, importantly, celebrate the richness of Indigenous heritage and culture and help forge a more inclusive society,” Professor Brungs said.
Key features of the college will include:
- Accommodation for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, with 250 beds envisaged
- Architect-designed landmark building and contemporary interior design, informed by Indigenous designers with Indigenous culture and identity at its core
- Publicly accessibly cultural, arts and community spaces: celebrating Indigenous traditions and heritage
- Program of events and opportunities in collaboration with a range of education, cultural, community, industry and government partners
- Scholarships and cost-covered accommodation for Indigenous students
- Ongoing mentoring and leadership development.
The college will also build connections with schools and employers, creating a pipeline of leaders of the future.
Professor Brungs said the vision for the college had been developed by UTS’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous Leadership and Engagement, Professor Michael McDaniel in close consultation with UTS Indigenous leaders, staff and students, as well as local and national Indigenous leaders.
Professor McDaniel said: “The majority of Indigenous people don’t have a history of participating in university education. By creating a place with Indigenous culture at its heart – not on the periphery – the college will help Indigenous people ‘see’ themselves at university. For the first time Indigenous people will be the hosts not the guests in a place based around their traditions and identity.
“The college will help remove barriers to education for Indigenous people by raising aspiration, maximising opportunities for entry to higher education and supporting the pursuit of quality employment, careers and contribution to society.”
Current UTS Honours student Marlee Silva welcomed the initiative and her university’s role in pioneering it.
“UTS’s demonstrated leadership and its ongoing public support of many Indigenous issues and projects, such as this college, shows that UTS is undoubtedly one of, if not the, most centrally committed universities in Australia to nurturing Indigenous culture and traditions, in order to promote the growth and prosperity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.”
To realise the vision UTS is pursuing a multifaceted funding model with costs shared between the university, government, business and philanthropic partners. Once the full funding is secured, the transformational project will bring diverse partners together for a unique educational initiative that has at its heart the goal of a reconciled nation.
The aim is to have the college open to students by 2023. The final site of the college will be determined later but will be near the UTS Ultimo campus.