Nura Gili, UNSW’s Indigenous Program Unit, will celebrate its 10th anniversary at the annual awards night this Friday, recognising an impressive list of firsts among Indigenous alumni.

“We’ve come a very long way in 10 short years, and are looking forward to the next 10,” says Deputy Director, Dr Reuben Bolt.

Nura Gili’s student intake has consistently increased over the past 10 years. The unit now provides support to more than 400 Indigenous students and delivers five aspirational programs, three pathway programs and a major and minor of Indigenous studies.

The UNSW Medical Faculty has the highest number of Indigenous medical students in Australia and there is also a strong Indigenous cohort in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Law.

Nura Gili will also introduce a new Indigenous Studies Honours program in 2015. The program will provide a pathway to a graduate research degree (MA Research or PhD) and will give students the opportunity to produce innovative research in their area of interest.

“Our approach today is underpinned by a determination to provide high-level academic support and above all else, we genuinely care about each and every student. When students succeed, we all succeed,” says Nura Gili Student Services Manager, Mick Peachey.

UNSW established one of the first university student centres for Indigenous students in NSW in mid 1980s and an Aboriginal Student Support Program in 1987, later known as the Aboriginal Education Program. The unit was merged with the Aboriginal Research and Resource Centre in 2003.  

After a name finding competition, the new identity of ‘Nura Gili’ was born in 2004. In the language of the Eora people, Nura means place and Gili means fire/light. Nura Gili brings together these concepts to create the meaning ‘place of fire and light’. 

From its humble beginnings, Nura Gili now occupies an impressive space at the centre of the UNSW Kensington campus. In 2012, Nura Gili moved into its new home at Balnaves Place thanks to a $1.5 million donation from The Balnaves Foundation. The state of the art centre is now the central hub for Indigenous education at UNSW.  

Nura Gili’s Director, Professor Martin Nakata, is the first Torres Strait Islander to receive a PhD in Australia and Nura Gili’s alumni include an impressive list of firsts:

  • Pat O’Shane AM, Australia’s first Indigenous barrister and first woman and first Indigenous person appointed head of a government department in Australia (Head of NSW Aboriginal Affairs)
  • The Late Bob Bellear, the first Indigenous Judge
  • Damian Miller, Australian Ambassador to Denmark, the first Indigenous Australian to serve as the head of an overseas mission
  • Judge Matthew Myers AM, the first Aboriginal Judge in an Australian Federal Court
  • Patricia Adjei, the first Indigenous Intellectual Property Law Fellow at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (2010)
  • A/Professor Kelvin Kong, Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon
  • Professor Paul Chandler, the first Indigenous Dean of a mainstream faculty at an Australian university
  • Ms Jenna Owen, the first Indigenous optometrist in NSW and second only in Australia 

The inaugural UNSW Law Mooting Competition of Australia’s First Peoples was launched by Juris Doctor student Teela Reid in August. Commerce student Ben Eisikovich has just become the first Indigenous person on the Westpac Finance & Accounting Graduate Program.

In artistic pursuits, UNSW Art & Design has produced award-winning artists Gordon Hookey, Brenda L Croft, Frances Belle Parker, Clinton Nain, Brook Andrew, Teho Ropeyarn and Lucy Simpson. 

What:UNSW Indigenous Awards Night & Nura Gili’s 10th Anniversary Celebration When:Friday 24 October, 6.30pmWhere: Doltone House, Hyde Park, 181 Elizabeth Street, Sydney NSW 2000

Tickets: contactLeilah Schubert, UNSW Media Office, 02 9385 8107