A new learning centre designed to help double Indigenous student enrolments at UNSW has been opened today by the NSW Governor Professor Marie Bashir.

Balnaves Place – Home of Nura Gili was made possible thanks to a generous donation of $1.5 million from The Balnaves Foundation.

The new centre provides a central hub for Indigenous programs on campus, increasing UNSW’s capacity to provide Indigenous student support services and courses and research using state-of-the-art technological facilities with work and study spaces.

Speaking at the opening, UNSW Vice-Chancellor Professor Fred Hilmer praised the generosity of The Balnaves Foundation.

Balnaves Place – Home of Nura Gili provides a major boost to our plan to increase Indigenous enrolments to 500 by 2015,” Professor Hilmer said.

There are currently 263 Indigenous students enrolled at UNSW, many of whom have been assisted by the pre-programs and education pathways offered by Nura Gili – resulting in retention rates similar to non-Indigenous students.

“Neil Balnaves has shown great leadership in his philanthropic support of initiatives and programs like Nura Gili to help close the gap in Indigenous education. We greatly value the contribution his Foundation has made to UNSW and our students,” Professor Hilmer said.

The Balnaves Foundation has previously committed $1.4 million to nine scholarships for indigenous students to study medicine at UNSW, the national leader in the training of Indigenous doctors and home to the highest number of Indigenous enrolments of any medical faculty in Australia.

“You only have to meet the students who are awarded the scholarships and follow their progress to know that something good is happening at UNSW,” Neil Balnaves said.

“When we learned about Nura Gili, we were keen to provide assistance to build its capacity, so that it could better support Indigenous students.”

Director of Nura Gili, Professor Martin Nakata said, “It’s now our job to work hard to produce the best Indigenous graduates if we are ever going to have a chance at closing the gap.”

“This new home will be a special place for all Nura Gili staff and students at UNSW. We will offer the best facilities possible to ensure we graduate the best Indigenous students in the country – graduates who will become leaders in their fields,” he said.

Nura Gili collaborates with UNSW faculties to provide a range of programs to improve access, participation and retention of Indigenous students. Nura Gili’s academics also conduct research and teach up to 500 non-Indigenous students each year about Indigenous Australia’s people, culture and history.

Balnaves Place will be centrally located on the University Mall, providing more than 100 study spaces for Indigenous students and students of Australian Indigenous Studies.

Neil Balnaves AO is a member of the Advisory Council and Dean's Circle for UNSW Medicine. In 2010, the University recognised his service to the Faculty by awarding him an Honorary Doctorate.

Media contact: Denise Knight, UNSW Media, 9385 8920, 0405 207 685 | d.knight@unsw.edu.au