USQ Indigenous students set to break record

By Jocelyn Watts

A record number of Indigenous students will don academic robes at the USQ Fraser Coast Graduation Ceremony in Maryborough on Saturday, May 11.

Nine Indigenous students will receive their academic qualifications at the prestigious event, the most in any one year since five graduated in 2011. After May 11, a total of 26 Indigenous students will have graduated with Bachelor degrees at USQ Fraser Coast ceremonies since 2004. Other students have graduated with Masters and Diploma qualifications.

USQ Executive Officer (Indigenous Development) Christine Young said five of this year’s nine graduands had completed Bachelor of Human Service degrees with various majors including Child and Family, Indigenous Studies and Counselling. One student completed a Bachelor of Science (Psychology), and one Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting).

As well, Carmen Franks-Weier will graduate with a Masters of Education, and Ms Young herself with a Masters of Professional Studies.

“Carmen and I will go on to do our PhDs through USQ,” Ms Young said. “We haven’t had any Indigenous students graduate with a PhD from the Fraser Coast campus as yet.”

Ms Young said the increased number of Indigenous students graduating this year was amazing and she hoped the trend would continue.

“One of the Australian Government’s higher priorities is Closing the Gap on disadvantage for Aboriginal people. Slowly but surely the gap is getting better and with universities taking on the recommendations from various government reports with regard to Indigenous higher education, it’s just going to keep on getting better.”

Ms Young said her role at USQ Fraser Coast included increasing Indigenous participation, and along with Indigenous Student Relationship Officer Linda Wondunna-Foley, supporting the students through to graduation.

“Statistics show the majority of Indigenous students at university are mature-age women. There is a big drop out of Year 10 students who don’t complete their senior studies so we target late primary school and early high school.

“We encourage young Indigenous students to continue their education to university level by telling them they can do this, it is possible, they can dream big.

“It can be daunting for them – they often think ‘University’s not for me, it’s only for rich, very intelligent people,’ but that’s not true.

“There are different bridging programs, such as the Tertiary Preparation Program and the Indigenous Higher Education Pathways Program, that help those who don’t get high Overall Position (OP) scores for direct university entry. Plus there are tutoring programs available as well as scholarships and bursaries they can apply for.”

This year’s nine Indigenous graduands will be among 130 former students who will receive their academic qualifications at the USQ Fraser Coast Graduation Ceremony. Dressed in traditional academic robes, the graduands, academics and dignitaries will take part in a procession from the Maryborough Town Hall at 10.10am and proceed along Lennox Street to the Brolga Theatre for the 11am ceremony.

Participating in this year’s procession and ceremony is USQ’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas, who will present the candidates for degrees and diplomas to the USQ Chancellor, Mrs Bobbie Brazil, who will confer awards on behalf of the USQ Council.