This week Indigenous students from across Australia are diving into the UNSW experience with Nura Gili’s Winter School.


UNSW's Winter School is coordinated by Nura Gili - the University's Indigenous Programs Unit specifically for Indigenous students in high school years 10, 11 and 12. Over a period of ten years UNSW Art & Design has worked collaboratively with Nura Gili to introduce students from remote and regional Australia to the ways they can reach their creative and professional potential, and have fun doing it!


For seven days and six nights the participating students are completely immersed in every aspect of UNSW life in Sydney; work, rest and play. For the ten students at UNSW Art & Design the extensive timetable includes three full faculty days incorporating academic sessions, cultural activities, excursions and night activities, and sleeping in the Kensington campus. Most importantly, Winter School gives the students a 'feel' for disciplines and practice that they might not experience otherwise. This assists students in identifying their individual fields of interest, possible pathways and clarifies the subject areas required for further study in that field.


Tuesday was spent learning different methods of sculpture, Wednesday saw the students experiment with A&D’s cutting edge media technology and Thursday the group is being introduced to printmaking at Cicada Press. Their week culminates in an exhibition opening at UNSW Galleries.


Places in the program are highly sought after and are competitive, with only 100 students securing placements in the week long program.  Murrandah Hampton's, or Mars, art teacher helped him submit his application for Winter School. “My teacher knew I was good at art so she got me into the school. It’s a good, productive way to spend the holidays instead of wasting my time. It’s a great way to figure out what uni is like.”


Bronte Nener is enjoying being introduced to new disciplines: “When I first came here I wasn’t thinking of going to uni. Because of the different things we’ve been doing, seeing the paintings and videos in the UNSW Gallery exhibition We are in Wonderland I’ve become inspired to work more on my art and get out of my habit of just drawing.”


For every Winter School participant, this taster can be the best way to introduce cautious students to their tertiary education journey. As Tess Allas, Director of Indigenous Programs at UNSW A&D explains, for young people from regional Australia, UNSW can be an overwhelming place, “You only need to remember that UNSW employs more people than live in some of these kids’ town’s.”


Murray Kemp, a Winter School supervisor this year was a participant in Year 10, 11 and 12. He’s a perfect example of the transformative power of the school experience. “In Year 10 I didn’t really know what career to follow. I thought I’d be a tradie, like all my cousins and family. Winter School was life-changing because when I came I was nervous, shy, didn’t know anyone and by the end of the week I had a good group of mates, and an idea of my future path.”


Students also develop a strong relationship with Nura Gili and become mentors stewarding and supporting new groups of students each year. For Murray, the shift from participant to mentor is part of what makes Winter School special, “Because I know how enjoyable and important it was to me I want to give these Winter School kids the same opportunity. I want to participate in this great program and keep it going.”