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Travelling from as far away as Alice Springs and Innisfail, 100 Indigenous high school students have arrived in Sydney for a week-long taste of university life.

The UNSW Winter School residential program, held from 6-10 July, is one of the largest Indigenous university preparation programs in Australia. It provides students with the opportunity to focus on particular areas of academic interest, and to stay on campus in college accommodation.

Students choose from Engineering, Business, Law, Medicine, Science, Indigenous Studies, Social Work, Education, Built Environment, or Visual Arts and Performing Arts.

Year 12 student Madeline Austin, who has come from the town of Wellington in NSW, has enrolled in the Indigenous Studies program at this year’s Winter School.

“Winter School is great because you get to go into the faculties and actually see what it would be like to do the degree. It is a bit more in-depth,” says Madeline, who also attended last year’s program.

“Last year we looked at Indigenous astronomy and went on excursions to Sydney Observatory, and to see some rock carvings. It was really hands on.

“I really want to go to university and it is a good opportunity to see what university is like, learn about different degrees and it is really fun as well,” she says.

Winter School 2015

Winter School 2015

Michael Peachey, Student Services Manager at Nura Gili, UNSW’s Indigenous Programs Centre, has been overseeing the program since 2009.

“The Winter School program, or any of Nura Gili’s programs, are particularly important for a number of reasons. They show Indigenous high school students that university is available for everyone to access, and what they need to study at school to help them with university studies.

“It also shows them that UNSW already has Indigenous students attending this university and doing well across all faculties. Also, that there are Indigenous staff at UNSW in both academic and professional areas.

“And, probably most importantly, that the university is behind improving Indigenous education, improving the number of Indigenous students enrolling at UNSW and especially, improving the number of Indigenous students finishing with a degree.

“We had 59 Indigenous students graduate in 2014 and there are currently 340 Indigenous students enrolled at UNSW. A record four Indigenous PhD students will graduate in 2015,” he says.

Jay Carroll completed Winter School last year and is now studying Education and Design at UNSW. He has returned to Winter School this year as a supervisor.

“I signed up to be a supervisor at Winter School because I know that my experience was the reason I came to university,” he says.

“It really does change peoples’ lives. I’m now studying with the students I went to Winter School with – they are some of my closest friends.”

Jay says his experience growing up in Bourke helped drive his passion to teach in rural areas and to make a difference to the lives of others.

“Education is an amazing thing because you are shaping generations and helping children achieve their dreams,” he says.