Oorala Aboriginal Centre’s Role - Access Programs
Oorala offers alternative entry programs specifically for Indigenous people: the Internal Selection Program (ISP) and the TRACKS Tertiary Preparation Program (TRACKS). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students receive advice through Student Services and Oorala to choose the access programs that are most appropriate to their prior learning and educational goals. Through Oorala's program activities, UNE academic staff also offer academic advice relevant to students' areas of interest.
In ISP, participating applicants for admission are assessed by Oorala to gain entry to a UNE course. In 2014, three prospective students participated in the ISP program for admission to commence undergraduate study in Trimesters 1 and 2, 2014, and Trimester 1, 2015. All of these applicants were subsequently successful in admission to UNE undergraduate courses.
In 2013 the application process for the TRACKS Program was revised to ensure admission by the most suitable applicants regarding their readiness to study at university. It was envisaged that this will lead to a smaller intake, as reflected in the enrolment data below, however over time this initiative is expected to lead to a greater retention rate. 2015 enrolments to date already show a steady increase compared to 2013-2014.
Oorala's further initiatives to improve access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at UNE included the following in 2014:
- From 2013 OORA1OO, 'Aboriginal Resilience and the Arts', has been listed as an elective undergraduate unit in the TRACKS Program, for students interested in Arts and Media disciplines. OORA100 provides TRACKS students the opportunity to transition into undergraduate studies by being able to take an elective unit with an Indigenous focus which, the Bradley Review defined as being critical to Indigenous engagement in higher education. The unit has been listed as a core unit for the Bachelor of Music in 2015.
- Support mechanisms available through Oorala and UNE for TRACKS students were reviewed during 2014 and strategies developed to strengthen effectiveness of services, to improve retention and progress into undergraduate courses. These included tutorial support sessions through Oorala's Student Support Team.
- In 2014, TRACKS students at the Woodford Correctional Centre continued to be supported by an on-site tutor for 6 hours per week. Visits to Woodford Correctional Centre for orientation and intensive support for TRACKS students by the Elder in Residence and TRACKS lecturing staff also continued. As a standard, Oorala provides learning materials in hard copy format to correctional centre students, as online Moodle materials are not accessible to these students.
- Throughout 2014 Oorala continued to develop a partnership with New England TAFE to offer a pathway into the TRACKS Program. Oorala received HEPP funding in late 2014 for this program which commenced in 2015.
- This cross-sectorial partnership offers the students a 'first step' towards university learning as well as providing specific foundational learning support to ensure readiness for the university learning experience. It aims to enable a greater number of Aboriginal people in the New England region to consider university study.
There are currently five participants in the TAFE/TRACKS pathway program and two 2013 participants from the initial pilot program continue to study TRACKS in 2015.
- Oorala was successful in attracting funding from UNE’s VC Scholars program to provide high achieving undergraduate students an opportunity to interact and mentor TRACKS students. Four scholars have taken up this opportunity; one of whom is an Indigenous student.
- The successful Pre-Orientation Program (‘POP’) for TRACKS students continued in 2014 and into 2015. This has been linked with more support such as mentoring through Oorala’s VC Scholars and Student Retention Projects, to increase its effectiveness in early student engagement.