• Wollotuka Institute, Newcastle, NSW (NITV News)Source: NITV News
The Wollotuka Institute in New South Wales is enabling Indigenous students to recognise their true potential and embark on a future path of success. NITV News explores how the Indigenous educational institute is making a difference.
By
NITV News, Jodan Perry

7 Oct 2015 - 5:24 PM  UPDATED 7 Oct 2015 - 6:36 PM
TRANSCRIPT

Natalie Ahmat: The Wollotuka Institute at the University of Newcastle is leading the way when it comes to Indigenous education. It recently received Australia's first accredition from the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium, which recognised the centre's positive outcomes within First Nations higher education.

Our own Queensland Correspondent Jodan Perry is a product of the centre, and he went back to say hello.

Jodan Perry: Education is one of the keys to the success of all our mob, and sitting on the lands of the Pambalong clan of the Awabakal people, the Wollotuka centre is dedicated to the educational achievement of Aboriginal people.

Cheryl Newton, Senior Administrator: Wollotuka started off in 1983, as a small Aboriginal enclave just supporting, probably at that stage, a handful of students. Over the years, it's moved more from supporting students into the academic and research area.

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We've got a student population of, I think it's around 990 Indigenous students, so from a handful to 990. We still provide services to these students but we also manage I think around 29 courses. We run about four programs starting from enabling to postgraduate programs and we also do alot of work with Indigenous research.

Jodan Perry: The centre is an all Indigenous staffed unit and it has been recognised on the world stage for its commitment to education.

Cheryl Newton: The accreditation- what it does is it looks at the cultural integrity of the programs we run, the services we provide, how we interact with our students, staff, our communities. So it's mainly looking at the cultural integrity of our areas here at Wolllotuka.

Jodan Perry: The operations of the centre are bound by a set of cultural standards, which have been shaped and defined by Nguraki, or elders, and the local community.

Aunty Bronwyn Chambers, Elder In Residence: As we are aware as Aboriginal people that all decisions are made through our Nguraki, our Elders, the wise ones, the knowledge holders.

"Anything that is happening within the university, that Nguraki panel should be there at the table, having a look at what's happening"

Nothing should happen within our communities so we look at the Wollotuka Institute as an Aboriginal community and a family, so things that are culturally appropriate, anything that is happening within the university, that Nguraki panel should be there at the table, having a look at what's happening.

Jodan Perry: Support for their students is also a priority, with many systems in place to help guide our mob through to degree completion.

James Ballangary, teaching student: I was surprised. You know you have these stereotypes of university that it's all for rich people, its not a place for Aboriginal people at all, but then coming here and seeing a place like this, I was surprised to have an institution with a lot of Indigenous academics as well as elders coming in and sharing their knowledge, it's... I still can't believe it.

"Seeing a place like this, I was surprised to have an institution with a lot of Indigenous academics as well as elders coming in"

Jodan Perry: James Ballangary hails from Bowraville, and says the community aspect of the centre is a big factor in his ongoing studies.

James Ballangary: Wollotuka, it's very much a home away from home for me. It's a community away from my community back home, they have the same sort of values and same sort of morals. You know the Aboriginal students that have come through here, it gives me a better sense of "I can achieve it", not so much "if they can do it I can", but more so much that, "it's possible".

"It gives me a better sense of 'I can achieve it', not so much 'if they can do it I can', but more so much that, 'it's possible'

Jodan Perry: The centre has many support structures in place, including alternative entry schemes for those who didn't go too well at high school, including myself, so it's never too late.

Dr Ray Kelly, cultural standards coordinator: As any mature aged student who is returning to an educational space after quite a number of years out of the environment, I found it very difficult, but with good friends and support and some great supervisors, I believe that I've been able to produce a thesis, or a body of work that can have some real benefits to Aboriginal people.

It's never too late, and the reality is it's never too late to learn.

"I've been able to produce a thesis, or a body of work that can have some real benefits to Aboriginal people"

James Ballangary: Give it a go, you know, come here and just appreciate the opportunity and give it 100 per cent.

Jodan Perry for NITV News