The Aspiration Initiative 2014 Highlights

The Aspiration Initiative 2014 Highlights

Tuesday 9 December 2014

The Aspiration Initiative (TAI) is a collaboration of the Aurora Project, the Charlie Perkins Trust and the University of Canberra. TAI is jointly funded by the Australian Government Department of Education.

TAI - Academic Enrichment Program

“Creating a ripple effect of high expectations – students, families, communities and schools”

We recently celebrated our 3 year anniversary with TAI high school students and to date have held 10 camps in NSW and Victoria, 6 camps in WA, a study intensive and a few conferences!  As the NSW and Victorian students head into Year 12 in 2015, nearly all are seeing university in their future…

“Without TAI I wouldn’t have enjoyed school as much as I do.  I was planning in Year 7 to leave school as soon as I was old enough.  But now I want to go to university.”(TAI Year 11 student)

2014 tai highlights


  • Victoria’s 7 day academic camp at the University of Melbourne in January gave students a real university experience.  Students lived at Trinity and University College and attended lectures and tutorials in four major faculties.

  • WA’s 5th academic camp at Ern Halliday in Perth explored the theme of “agency”. The camp activities challenged students to ask themselves about how they might use their power to have an effect on their lives and the world around them. We also looked at how agency increases with knowledge of the world.

  • A joint NSW and Victoria camp at Mildura and Lake Mungo in April where students investigated and experienced the theme of “protection.” Through sessions, stories and yarn-ups with local community, students considered how this theme applied to their study and lives. Building on the back of the last camp theme, ‘awareness’, and focusing on skills needed to succeed in school, sessions included: analysing essay structures, grammar, close reading of texts, connecting to country, and deflecting racism (to name a few).

  • TAI’s first Study Intensive  hosted by UTS Jumbunna in June which involved a series of workshops that focused on exam and assessment preparation, time management, essay writing, study skills and understanding the Year 11/12 syllabus.

  • TAI’s Family conference hosted by University of Canberra in July which provided families with skills and information around supporting young people through senior school and into university, as well as the opportunity for families and staff to network and discuss future plans for the program.

  • Since 2013, TAI staff have delivered professional development and training around embedding Aboriginal perspectives and knowledge in the school curriculum to approximately 15 schools, 1 network of Principals, 2 universities and 120 distance education educators. 

  • Our external evaluators, Clear Horizon, completed their mid-term evaluation and concluded: “The program approaches and processes are found to be exemplary and considered by an expert panel as being culturally, socially and academically appropriate and corresponding to best practice in Indigenous education.” (Clear Horizon Mid-Term Evaluation Report, Dec 2014)

  • Exciting event to come: In January 2015, we will be holding our first National Camp, bringing together the students from NSW, Victoria and WA.  

Here is what some of our families and students say about the impact of the program: 

“I’ve known I always wanted to go to uni but I didn’t know how, I didn’t know which uni I wanted to go to, I didn’t know how to get there, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  Now I know how, I know which uni, I know how uni works, I can apply for a scholarship and actually do it not just think about it.  And I want to live in Melbourne.  Now I know I can do that.  They [TAI] are trying to push us to our goals – not just saying “you can do it” but actually helping” (TAI Year 11 student)

“TAI staff have genuine care and concern, they are great role models. TAI has taken my daughter to places I never have taken her to.  TAI has introduced a new level of anticipation for my family and I feel that my daughter is always safe with them.”  (TAI Parent)

“I can envision him being the first grandchild to go to university.  It's a real possibility with the help he is currently receiving from this program.”  (TAI Parent)

The Aspiration Initiative website - previously known as the Indigenous Scholarships website

“ Connecting a community of Indigenous students with resources and opportunities”

In 2014 we had a website makeover.

  • Launched our new The Aspiration Initiative (TAI) Website incorporating the previous Indigenous Scholarships website. 

  • Had over 48,845 visitors on our TAI website during 2014.

  • Launched the TAI - video About us  If you haven’t watch it yet and would like to know more about different educational programs that are part of The Aspiration Initiative, please click and share.

  • If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander student looking for a scholarship, or you know someone who is, please help us spread the word and let them know about The TAI/Indigenous Scholarships website. 

  • If you know any success stories of Indigenous scholarship recipients we would love to hear and feature those stories on the website so we can continue to inspire other students through this platform. Please send an email with your contact information to

  • We would also like to say Thank You to our website partners,  for helping us connect Indigenous students with Scholarship opportunities available to them through the website.

Here is what some of the website visitors have to say: 

“So I look at TAI and I look at the website and I wish this was around when I was a student. To actually be able to have a place where you can go and all the resources that you need are there, there is useful Information and there are stories that other people are telling about their experiences, so you don’t feel so alone” (Lilly Brown 2012 Charlie Perkins Scholar to Cambridge, TAI Education Specialist)

“The Indigenous Scholarships website is a really powerful tool, encouraging Indigenous students to succeed” (TAI Academic Enrichment Program student)

“To be able to articulate my story or my conversation in this website to others who may not know where their pathway lies. I think is really important” (Vincent Backhaus 2013 Charlie Perkins Scholar to Cambridge)

International Opportunities

“Building a growing community of high achieving Indigenous Scholars"


 (L-R) 2014 Charlie Perkins Scholarship recipients Tamara Murdock, Jessica Buck, Doctor Tom Calma AO, The Prime Minister of Australia Hon Tony Abbott MP, 2014 Charlie Perkins Scholar Jessyca Hutchens and The British High Commissioner to Australia, His Excellency Paul Madden. 

Special Events

  • UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, acknowledged Indigenous students studying at Cambridge and Oxford universities in Britain and gave a special mention to Leila Smith (2012 Aurora Scholar and 2013 Charlie Perkins Scholar), who recently completed her Mphil in Public Policy at St Edmund's College, Cambridge.  Leila now works as a consultant at Nous Group (watch the special mention at min 3:50 of the video).

  • The 2014 Charlie Perkins awards ceremony in Canberra introduced the 2014 Charlie Perkins Scholars, who have now all commenced their studies at Oxford. Congratulations again to Jessica Buck (2012 Aurora Scholar), Jessyca Hutchens (2013 Aurora Scholar) and Tamara Murdock (2013 Aurora Scholar). To read their full Bios, click here.

  • The 2014 Aurora Scholars Reception was an inspiring evening to introduce the 19 Aurora Scholars who were selected to attend the Aurora Indigenous Scholars International Study Tour this year to visit: Berkeley, Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, NYU, Cambridge and Oxford. So far there have been 62 students and graduates attending the Study Tour since it began in 2010. The Tour continues to grow in participants and universities each year (2014 was the first year the Study Tour visited The University of California, Berkeley in the US). 

    Some of the inspiring speeches of the night included Sharon Davis (2012 Aurora Scholar, 2013 Roberta Sykes Scholar), Leila Smith (2012 Aurora Scholar, 2013 Charlie Perkins Scholar), Dr Misty Jenkins Postdoctoral Researcher, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, member of TAI’s Advisory Committee and the 2013 L’Oreal For Women in Science Fellow and Stacey Broadbent (2014 Chief Executive Women / Roberta Sykes Bursary Recipient “Learning to Lead” program).

Congratulations to the 2014 Indigenous Scholarships and Bursary recipients including: 

  • 2014 Roberta Sykes Scholarship Recipients: Michael Bryden (2011 and 2013 Aurora Scholar), Nathan West (2013 Aurora Scholar) and Kristopher Wilson. To read their full Bios, click here.

  • The six Indigenous leaders and managers who were awarded Roberta Sykes Bursaries to attend short executive courses at leading Universities overseas.

New partnerships

  • This year Roberta Sykes Indigenous Education Foundation(RSIEF) partnered with Chief Executive Women to support 2 Indigenous women to undertake short executive education programs at INSEAD's Singapore campus - Stacey Broadbent and Vanessa Curnow.

The growing success story...

  • Four years ago there had never been an Indigenous Australian studying for a fulltime degree at Cambridge or Oxford universities. Today, 24 Indigenous Australians have been accepted to Oxford and/or Cambridge and 1 is currently undertaking a full time degree at Harvard.

  • Congratulations to all the Scholars who have successfully graduated from their master's degree in 2014 - Vincent Backhaus, Sharon Davis, Bridget Hughes, Taryn Lee and Leila Smith. In adition, Paul Gray has succesfully completed his viva in Oxford and is expected to be the first graduate from a doctoral program, in early 2015. 

  • Vincent Backhaus has now commenced his PhD at Cambridge.

  • Along with the new 2014 graduates, there are now 9 Indigenous Scholars who have graduated with full time degrees from Cambridge and Oxford.

*Note - Aurora Scholars are participants on the Aurora Indigenous Scholars International Study Tour.

Here is what some of the Scholars have to say: 

“Before the Tour I never knew so many Indigenous scholars existed across a variety of fields. … In the past I've felt quite isolated as a scholar who identifies as being Indigenous but now I don't. Now I feel empowered and reassured that there is a worldwide network of people who have had similar experiences and struggles and that together we can accomplish just about anything.” (Tamara Murdock, 2013 Aurora Scholar, 2014 Charlie Perkins Scholar)

"Had it not been for the Aurora Study Tour, and Richard, there is no way I would have applied for programs at Oxford and NYU.  And now, here I am only two years later, with an MSc in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition from the University of Oxford.  But I couldn’t have done it without the support of the other Indigenous scholars.  We’ve built a little community of support, which grew from our culture and a common goal of wanting the best for our mob" (Sharon Davis, 2012 Aurora Scholar, 2013 Roberta Sykes Scholar)