More than 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students between years 10 and 12 recently travelled from around Australia to take part in the 2018 UNSW Indigenous Winter School program.

The week-long residential program introduces students to tertiary studies in the discipline area of their choice.

The program, run by Nura Gili and supported by UNSW academic staff and student mentors, features a range of interactive activities, cultural workshops, lectures and insights into university life.

Tess Allas, Indigenous Program Director for the Art and Design Faculty says Winter School students who return to study at UNSW are often the most engaged and go on to postgraduate degrees.

“Without a doubt this is my favourite week of the year, seeing the students’ eyes open as they learn and encounter the world of contemporary art is a real privilege,” Ms Allas says.

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Indigenous students engage in interactive faculty sessions at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA).

Associate Professor Anne Brewster of the School of Arts and Media led a variety of enlightening seminars for more than a dozen students interested in the performing arts.

“Being involved in the Winter School is inspiring, especially in the Arts field, a space where there is so much opportunity for students from Indigenous backgrounds,” Professor Brewster says.

Students participating in the Winter School spoke about the welcoming atmosphere and culture of the university. Alyssa from the Arts and Media group said it was great meeting new people and making friends.

“The group was great. We learnt so much from the staff and the workshops. It broadened my knowledge of the opportunities available in theatre, there’s so much more to it than I thought.

“Theatre is really appealing compared to other careers because of the collaboration and team work involved. Different groups all working together to make something,” Alyssa says.


The Winter School Social Work group posing with film star Danny Glover and model Magnoila Maymurru

For Winter School supervisor and mentor Maddy Wright, the prospect of going to university was always on the horizon because her parents encouraged education.

“My father was always flying for his job, so I knew the aviation industry was where I fit in the world.

“When it came time to apply for university, I didn’t actually get the ATAR that I wanted and missed the entry ATAR for the aviation program. I was set on aviation but didn’t know how I could get in now.  

“That’s when I found Nura Gili and reached out to see if there was any way they could help me.

“Without Nura Gili, I wouldn’t have been able to study aviation management and would’ve had to change my degree and also look at another uni,” Maddy says.


Indigenous Winter School graduating class of 2018

As a Winter School supervisor she is giving back by supporting the students on their journeys.

“I ran one of the workshops for the students in the Aviation school and also really enjoyed learning about the other schools of Science,” Maddy explains.

“I knew there were heaps of other schools, but I didn’t really know what each of them offered. The most interesting workshop for me was learning about the DNA sequencing at BABS.”


The Winter School ran a range of interactive activities, such as sequencing DNA in the Science faculty

Maddy says it’s great this program exists and is proud to support Nura Gili connect the students with the university experience.

“It’s because of programs like this that the statistics are becoming better each year and we’re seeing more Indigenous students come through and graduate at university level,” Maddy explains. 

The Nura Gili winter school continues to be a gateway for opportunity, innovation and inspiration at UNSW Sydney through its academics, mentors and students.