The University of Technology Sydney has announced plans to build Australia’s first Indigenous residential college to encourage more First Nations people into higher education.
The college will be housed near the Ultimo UTS campus in a location yet to be decided and will house 250 beds for Indigenous – and some non-Indigenous – students with doors expected to open in 2023.
While other universities offer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students culturally supportive accommodation for regular, short stays while studying, this college will offer a permanent home away from home for the entire duration of the degree.
The new facility will be built and maintained around culture and heritage, with architects working in consultation with Indigenous designers to ensure First Nations cultures are at its core.
The $100 million college will see a third of the funds being contributed by UTS, with the federal government contributing $10 million and the remainder of the money to be raised through donations.
Federal Labor has pledged to provide $20 million if elected to government next year.
Labor MP and Shadow Minister for Education Tanya Plibersek said to reporters on Friday that the new facility was an opportunity for Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians to learn from one another.
“This is a great opportunity not just for our First Nations students, [with] more of them coming to university, more of them completing university,” Ms Plibersek said.
“But it’s a great opportunity for non-Indigenous Australians to learn much more about Indigenous culture.”
The college will provide mentorship and other support that will encourage students to complete their studies.
“Students at the college will be able to do outreach to high schools and even primary schools to encourage Indigenous students in primary schools and high schools to have an aspiration to go to university,” said Ms Plibersek.
The university is aiming to break down barriers such as living costs and cultural isolation that may be stopping Indigenous Australians from attending university, said Professor Michael McDaniel, a Wiradjuri man and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Indigenous Leadership and Engagement at UTS.
Prof McDaniel also said the college represents the "evolution of Australia" as a society.
"We've gone from viewing our Indigenous people as the unwanted. And what's happened is we've survived and in our own gentle and gracious way we've actually turned the nation's thinking around," he told media on Friday.
"This college is the symbol of the culmination of that. Now we believe it's good and proper for Indigenous people to have a world-class college and it's an opportunity where Indigenous people can be the hosts, not the guests, in our own country."
The college will also provide full scholarships and cost-covered accommodation for Indigenous students whilst also celebrating Indigenous culture through public spaces devoted to events.
This article has been updated as the original article did not highlight the distinction between colleges and residential student accommodation.