• Australia introduces first regional study hub in remote Wuyagiba. (Supplied)
A Sydney university is hoping to take its classes to remote Australia.
By
Brooke Fryer

Source:
NITV News
5 Oct 2018 - 2:49 PM  UPDATED 8 Oct 2018 - 9:50 AM

Macquarie University has launched new on country classes designed to teach Indigenous students practical academic skills.

University lecturers and Elders are teaching a six-week bridging course in an open-air classroom in Arnhem Land at the remote outstation of Wuyagiba.

A trial of the 'bush university' program started in mid-September, with 25 students from the Arnhem Land communities of Ngukurr and Numbulwar participating.

The classes focus on essay writing, note-taking and computer tools, as well as approaches for translating between Kriol and English. English is a second language for many of the students.

Elder Kevin Rogers is from the Ngukurr community and a former high school principal. He has been teaching  traditional skills such as identifying bush medicine, how to make fires and hunting. 

"Its personal knowledge we want to maintain and pass it onto our young ones, and they do the same thing, like our ancestors did," Mr Rogers told NITV News.

"I'm very happy for them to take the first step." 

Kiefer Hall, a 23-year-old student from the Ngukurr community, told NITV News he hopes the learning hub will lead to a university degree.

“I want to build up my knowledge so I can be somebody,” Mr Hall said.

He also wants to learn as much as he can to open up his career options.

“I want to become an engineer and an Aboriginal assistant teacher,” Mr Hall said.

“I also want to become a leader in my community for my people and our community. That's what my grandfather did for his people and his community.”

Ammeretta Wesan, a 26-year-old student from the Wuyagiba community, has been an Indigenous officer at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in Ngukurr for the past three years and hopes to become a police officer. 

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“It’s hard for myself and the other students because we haven’t done most of the university stuff like essays and that," she said.

“We also can play the big role and be a model for our community to the younger ones as well, so they can see they still have the opportunity to get into university.”

Another student, 21-year-old Trudy Hall, says the course is challenging but she is excited to learn new things.

"I'm having fun learning new skills, meeting new people, [and] learning how university runs," Ms Hall said. 

Education gap

Emilie Ens, a senior lecturer in environmental science and Wuyagiba Study Hub Co-coordinator, is excited about the program.

“We are not only bringing university education pathways to the bush but creating innovative cross-cultural bridging courses that enhance student’s cultural knowledge as well as western university skills,” she told NITV News.

“We have a significant university education gap here [in Arnhem Land]… so that’s the gap that we are trying to address here.

The rate of Indigenous Australians attending tertiary education is 3.9 per cent according to 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics data. 

Jon Taylor, media manager from Charles Darwin University, told NITV News Indigenous enrolment in tertiary education in the NT rose 2.8 per cent after the 2016 census, including more than 30 per cent enrolling in Vocational Education Training. 

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