Friday, January 17, 2014 - 11:15

More than 140 Indigenous young people are experiencing university life on The University of Queensland’s St Lucia campus this week for the annual Indigenous Youth Sports Program.

The program provides an opportunity for Indigenous high school students to consider university as a potential pathway after high school, while engaging with their peers through a week of sporting and team-building activities.

The program began four years ago,  and has so far seen eight students from Inala go on to tertiary studies.

The Institute for Urban Indigenous Health developed the program with Inala Indigenous Health Service, Education Queensland and UQ’s School of Human Movement Studies  to increase the numbers of Indigenous young people studying at university.

UQ Pro-Vice Chancellor (Indigenous Education) Professor Cindy Shannon said the program built confidence in young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and helped break down some of the barriers about university life.

“This unique initiative is vital for developing future Indigenous university students and is helping to inspire and build the leaders of tomorrow,” she said.

Institute for Urban Indigenous Health Program Coordinator John Brady said the first hurdle was attracting students to university, and sport was a positive channel to achieve this.

“The physical activities as well as classroom-based sessions assist students to feel comfortable with the idea of university study,” he said.

“Many have never considered university because no one in their family continued on to tertiary education.”

Institute for Urban Indigenous Health CEO Adrian Carson said the program engaged with Indigenous young people to inform them of tertiary study options.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are half as likely to undertake tertiary study as non-Indigenous school leavers,” he said.

"With South East Queensland's Indigenous population larger than the total Indigenous population of Victoria or South Australia, we have the potential to make a significant contribution towards closing the gap in terms of Indigenous higher education outcomes.”

The Indigenous Youth Sports Program is modelled on the successful National Youth Sports Program that has been running in the USA for 40 years and has seen significant improvements in university enrolments for African American and low SES students.

The program has run at UQ since 2011 and receives funding from the Department of Health and Ageing, the Brisbane City Council, Education Queensland and UQ’s School of Human Movement Studies and UQ’s ATSIS Unit, through the Widening Participation Project (supported by HEPPP funding from the Federal Department of Education.

Key supporters of the program also include the Inala Indigenous Health Service and Inala Wangarra Incorporated.

Contact: UQ School of Human Movement Studies Marketing and Communications officer Caroline Day +61 7 3365 6764, caroline.day@uq.edu.au.