Matthew Williams, a year 12 student at Kormilda College, is one of 220 kids from across Australia taking part in this week’s Wingara Mura – Bunga Barrabugu Summer Program.
It’s part of the University of Sydney’s commitment to closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.
“We have bright, young, motivational Aboriginal kids here but due to a lack of focus in high-school, they didn’t take the right subjects to get into university ... and that makes my heart fall through the floor,” said deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Shane Houston.
The Summer Program – running until January 15 – offers support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from years 9 to 10, and years 11 to 12.
“I was afraid to come here because I’m quite shy and I didn’t know anyone,” said 17-year-old Williams.
For young students from the Top End, Sydney can be quite overwhelming. But Williams says the program has already eased him into city-life.
“I’ve made lots of friends so far, so I’m open to moving.”
Wingara Mura – Bunga Burrabugu also gives students a taste for university life; staying on campus at the University of Sydney and interacting with professors.
But the main goal is to align students with career pathways that match their interests.
“Prior to this course I didn’t know what I wanted to study, so this was the eye-opener ... I’m already considering becoming an architect from what I’ve seen here,” Williams said.
Now in its third year, the summer school is starting to spawn the next generation of Indigenous architects, scientists and doctors.
“We now have at least one Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student in every faculty,” said Professor Houston.
Professor Houston said the University will support each student beyond the program by giving them access to an online tutor for the next four years.