A taste of university life on offer in Bathurst for 25 prospective Indigenous students 

[by Rebecca Tomkins]

Eddie and Stephen, participants in this year's IAP in Bathurst. Image: supplied

Charles Sturt University in Bathurst has welcomed 25 prospective Indigenous students this week for a five-day program that enables students to get a taste of university life.



The Indigenous Access Program (IAP) is a free program designed to prepare prospective Indigenous students to study at university.


During the program, students get the chance to stay in university accommodation, participate in a range of social activities, and undertake workshops designed to build their academic skills and determine their suitability for their chosen university courses.


Charles Sturt’s Student Liaison Officer for Indigenous students in Bathurst Ms Julie Bennett said the University’s Indigenous Student Centre is excited to host the 25 prospective students for the program, which will offer them a well-rounded glimpse of university life.


“The program offers prospective students a unique opportunity to prepare themselves for university in an environment where they are basically treated like university students,” Ms Bennett said.


“For many, this is the first time they have set foot on a university campus, and the program allows them to stay on campus, eat at the dining hall and speak with other university students and staff.


“The students have to work hard during the program, there are a lot of workshops and various forms of testing to complete and benchmarks the students need to meet by the end of the program.


“But what is great is the program provides this university experience in a culturally supportive way, where these students feel included, recognised and valued.”


The program includes a welcome to country, a smoking ceremony, a range of activities to help students form social connections, such as movie nights and bowling, and a scavenger hunt so students can explore the Bathurst campus.


Ms Bennett said including a mix of culturally inclusive and academic activities in the program is important because it helps many students get through the week and eventually choose the right study or career path for them.


“During the program, many students are away from country and can feel homesick, so having those cultural connections and activities are really important,” she said.


“The IAP staff are also here to offer pastoral support, and we also have previous attendees from the program volunteer during the session to provide students with support, tips and advice.


“It is just wonderful to see students at the end of the program, they really do come out feeling empowered; they know they have worked hard and it is a great achievement to successfully finish the program.”


Ms Noelle Swainston, a Learning Advisor at the Indigenous Study Centre in Bathurst and a mentor at this year’s IAP in Bathurst, said she knows exactly what it’s like to finish a program like the IAP.


Ms Swainston completed a similar Charles Sturt program when she was 17 and went to on to complete a Bachelor of Psychology at Charles Sturt.


“I had the best time during the program, I absolutely loved it,” Ms Swainston said.  


“You really are treated like a student and you get to form so many close social connections.


“It is an eye-opening experience, especially for many students who come from very isolated or rural locations or will be the first person in their family to go to university.


“When they come to a big town like Bathurst and to the Charles Sturt University campus, it exposes them to different types of people, different types of jobs, and different types of degrees – they can really recognise their value and potential.”


The IAP in Bathurst is on this week at the Charles Sturt campus.


Students who successfully complete the IAP program will be provided with guaranteed entry into a number of bachelor’s degrees from the Charles Sturt’s Faculty of Science, Faculty of Arts and Education and Faculty of Business, Justice and Behavioural Science. A full list is available on the ‘Indigenous student support’ page on the Charles Sturt website.


Travel, accommodation and meals are provided and the program has no associated fees for eligible participants.


Charles Sturt’s Indigenous Student Centres provide the University’s Indigenous students with a range of different support, including study, accommodation, employment and social support.


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