Come together

5 November 2018

Ellebana Tyson

Photo: Elleban Tyson

How the UTS community is helping Indigenous students reach higher than ever.

On an average day, Ellebana Tyson looks like any other student at UTS. She rushes between classes, lugging around giant textbooks, and frets about upcoming assignments. She is incredibly confident and ambitious in her quest to complete a double degree in law and journalism, and hopes to carve out a successful career in the media industry.

What you don’t see, however, is the indispensable support network underpinning her confidence. Ellebana is a single mother with an 18 month–old daughter. As a Noonuccal woman from Queensland’s North Stradbroke Island, she has had to overcome significant personal adversity not just to continue with her studies, but to thrive in a challenging environment.

Ellebana’s father passed away when she was nine, but her desire to honour his memory is what drives her determination to complete her studies. “My father is of Indigenous heritage and he wasn’t able to finish high school,” she explains. “He was really wanting to go and study but he hadn’t had the proper education. He is why I strive to do my best at university and always give it my all, because he never had the opportunity to do that and it means a lot to me.”

“My father is of Indigenous heritage and he wasn’t able to finish high school…He is why I strive to do my best at university and always give it my all, because he never had the opportunity to do that and it means a lot to me.”

Making the transition to university life is intimidating to any student, much less embarking upon a double degree. Ellebana specifically chose to study at UTS because she knew she could count on the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research for support through this process.

“I’d heard such great things about Jumbunna, so I really felt like I would be better supported,” says Ellebana. “A lot of Indigenous students face personal and family-related hardship. I can speak from experience when I say the support that Jumbunna gives the students to get through their education is second to none.”

At UTS, the assistance and programs offered by Jumbunna play a fundamental role in improving Indigenous attendance at the university.

Currently, 3 per cent of Australians are Indigenous, but barely more than 1 per cent of university students are Indigenous.

According to the most recent Department of Education and Training statistics, the number of Indigenous students at Australian universities in 2016 was 16,963, representing 1.74 per cent of all university students. This was a modest increase from the 1.35 per cent recorded in 2009, but there is still a long way to go.

UTS is committed to improving Indigenous outcomes. For the Annual Appeal this year, the UTS alumni community was asked to help achieve the goal of raising $250,000.

The scholarships, pathway programs and initiatives available at Jumbunna – so critical to the success of UTS students like Ellebana – are only made possible through the generous donations from the UTS community of alumni and friends.

Every contribution will see more Indigenous students achieve a life-changing UTS degree, and make a positive difference to future generations. Even small gestures will drive programs like those at Jumbunna to create long–term change.

Through Jumbunna, Ellebana was able to access financial services so that she could manage her studies. She had access to tutoring services, friends and mentors; a community she could always turn to for help and support when she was struggling.

“They’ve been so helpful through really hard times,” says Ellebana. “If I was going to go to any other university, I wouldn’t get the same sort of support. They go above and beyond to help the students. University is really overwhelming and it’s hard, and to have that support is vital.”

Ellebana’s future has never looked so bright. However, there are many more Indigenous Australians for whom higher education is out of reach. Your support is needed to make the path to higher education easier for them, and to increase Indigenous enrolments at UTS.

You can help bridge the gap and drive initiatives that create long–term change for Indigenous Australians.

Change starts by degrees. Change can start with you.

Find out more and make a gift today

Byline: Clio Anne Ellis