UNE Support mechanisms for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students

Support mechanisms for ATSI students at UNE

Support mechanisms




Oorala Student Retention Project

HEPP funded project to improve retention rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander undergraduate students, including a number of strategies to support academic progress (e.g. proposed academic skills camp or workshop, stronger engagement of students with Oorala and UNE support mechanisms and increase of student take-up rate for ITAS tutoring)

Project initially funded for 2014, new funding submission required to extend project into 2015

Successful workshop held in Trimester 3, 2014, strategic student and community engagement visits implemented throughout 2014, increase in students accessing ITAS tutoring and improved academic outcomes; Project successful in funding round for 2015 and further workshops and retention activities planned for 2015

Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme (ITAS)

Provides additional academic tutorial assistance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students; coordinated by Oorala with Commonwealth funding

Scope limited by ITAS funding guidelines and availability of ongoing funding;

Availability of suitable tutors in local areas for off campus students in non-local regions

Intensive promotion and other strategies resulted in increased no. of students tutored (from 32 in 2013 to 53 in 2014) and increase in number of hours for which students were tutored (1,149 in 2013; 2,330 in 2014).

Targeted Library Orientation Sessions

Run by Dixson Library to inform Indigenous students about its function, services and resources

Funding and staff resource limitations

Increased student engagement with the Library; service to be reviewed regularly with Indigenous staff and students

Peer Assisted Library Support (‘PALS’) Program

Run by Dixson Library from T2 2014 to engage and support all UNE students requiring librarian and technical assistance, especially those in first year of study. ‘PALS’ to be recruited as student casuals from current UNE enrolments for this service.


Twelve ‘PALS’ recruited in 2014, including one ATSI student, providing peer support.

Further PALS training and ongoing service resourced in 2015.

Establish alternative pathways and academic support programs that address Indigenous and low SES student participation in higher degree programs.

Stated as initiative 1.1.7 of the UNE Research Plan; Support mechanisms include establishment of 4 new UNE HDR Participation Scholarships for ATSI Masters and PhD students.


HDR Participation Scholarships for ATSI students to be offered in 2015.

UNE MATSITI Exploratory Research Project

Funded by the ‘More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teachers Initiative’ (MATSITI), commenced in 2014 by School of Education with Oorala Aboriginal Centre as a project partner, to expand support strategies which aim to improve retention and graduation rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teacher education students at UNE.

MATSITI Funding guidelines and voluntary student participation

Student surveys, analysis and consultations undertaken in 2014. The research phase will conclude in 2015 and a follow-up action phase will commence in 2016.

The UNE Residential system is a large contributor to the on-campus student experience and in 2014 UNE considered new strategies for its residential system to better support Indigenous students, such as greater inclusion of cultural safety considerations, community relationships and representation to influence the college environment. Costs of study and accommodation, especially for on campus students, are also factors that impact upon support requirements and UNE reviewed the need for more intensive promotion of scholarship opportunities for Indigenous students, or potential for more Indigenous-specific scholarships to be offered.

Indigenous attrition has been identified as higher in those universities that have more flexible admission. In response UNE has flagged its engagement with Indigenous students as being critical to retention and success, especially in areas which have direct student contact. A broad approach has been recommended starting with staff training to develop competencies and awareness of the specific support needs of Indigenous students. Some outcomes include the provision of development for staff to scaffold a broader action plan (developed in conjunction with Oorala) aimed at increasing the enrolment, retention and graduation of Indigenous students.  Also plans for an ongoing Indigenous scholar position with the objective of increasing Indigenous enrolments and completions in Arts courses were developed to promote student access and social inclusion, and to enhance integration with Oorala.