2016 in Review at Aurora

2016 in Review at Aurora Aurora in 2016. Pictured, Aurora Scholars at a farewell reception event in October.

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Aurora celebrates another big year, with 2016 seeing some significant milestones achieved across the organisation.

From the Indigenous Scholarships / Digital Media Team

The Indigenous Scholarships and Digital Media Team maintain the large database of Indigenous scholarships and The Aspiration Initiative website. They also assist students and members of the public in linking them with scholarship opportunities and produce the TAI monthly e-newsletter.

This year has been a big one for the scholarships team, with the launch of the Indigenous Scholarships Portal at The Portal allows students to be matched to relevant scholarships and provides the functionality for applications to be received online through the system (we’ll continue to build relationships with scholarship providers to enable scholarship applications through our system in the coming year).

We would love you to tell us what you think so we can continue to improve the Portal. We are planning to enable more useful functionalities during 2017, so watch this space.

ScholarshipsPortal Screen

A look at the new Indigenous Scholarships Portal website homepage.

During 2016:

  • TAI website received over 63,000 visitors (around 5,400 visitors each month) and over 200,000 page views.
  • We worked closely with universities and scholarship administrators to update the scholarship database, reviewing all of the over 800 listings and adding new scholarship opportunities as they arose.
  • Kept everyone informed with email newsletter updates through the year. Each month the newsletter went out to over 4,000 subscribers featuring inspiring and informative stories related to Indigenous education. We saw a 29% increase in newsletter subscribers over the year, which increased our reach to students, parents and scholarship providers.
  • Promoted and administered on behalf of Defence Indigenous University Sponsorship program (DISUP) and Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) the awarding of sponsorships worth up to $59,000 AUD.
  • Said goodbye to two terrific team members, Emma Neurath and Gabi Holt, and welcomed Ben Crompton as our new Website Communications Assistant. We thank Emma and Gabi for all their hard and invaluable work and ongoing support, and welcome Ben with his amazing skills with great excitement. We have a feeling 2017 will be another Big and Exciting year for our team!

Thank you to our supporters in 2016:

  • Australian Government Department of Education and Training
  • Eureka Benevolent Foundation
  • Sir James McNeill Trust
  • Curtin University of Technology
  • University of Canberra
  • University of Newcastle

Raquel Duron

Digital Marketing and Communications Coordinator


From the Trusts and International Scholarships Team

Fostering a growing community of high achieving Scholars

Congratulations to our 2016 Indigenous Scholarship and Bursary Recipients

British High Commissioner to Australia, Her Excellency Menna Rawlings CMG, presented the 2016 Charlie Perkins and Roberta Sykes Scholarships to recipients at a ceremony in Canberra in August. The Reception held at Westminster House, brought together supporters, funders and families to celebrate the 2016 Scholars, who have now commenced their studies in the United Kingdom. 

The 2016 Charlie Perkins Scholarship recipients are:

  • James Beaufils, undertaking an MSc in Education (Children’s Development and Education) at Jesus College, Oxford
  • Malcolm Connolly, undertaking a PhD in Archaeology at Darwin College, Cambridge
  • Olivia Slater, studying the MPhil in Social Anthropology at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge.

The 2016 Roberta Sykes Scholarship recipients are:

  • Sarah Bourke, undertaking a DPhil in Anthropology at St John’s College, Oxford
  • Samara Hand, studying a Masters in Understanding and Securing Human Rights at the University of London
  • Michael McCagh, undertaking the Master of Laws at the London School of Economics. 

Roberta Sykes partnered again with Chief Executive Women to support two Indigenous women to undertake short executive education programs at INSEAD Business School in Singapore. Congratulations to:

  • Casey Millward, who attended the ‘Learning to Lead’ program, and
  • Seraphine Bray, who attended the ‘Leading for Results’ program.

Roberta Sykes also awarded Bursaries to:

  • Skye Akbar, to attend the Indigenous Studies Summer Program on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Policy at Columbia University
  • Amara Barnes, to attend the ‘Learning to Lead’ program at INSEAD
  • Cheryl Harrison, to attend Community Addictions Training at the Nechi Institute: Centre of Indigenous Learning; and
  • Pennie Weedon, to attend the ‘Leading for Results’ program at INSEAD.

Story1 CommunityNews

This years Aurora Scholars at the University of California, Berkley.

We also wanted to congratulate 2015 Aurora Study Tour Scholar, Bede Jones, who has won a 2017 Rhodes Scholarship. There have now been five Indigenous applicants for the Rhodes in recent years and all five made it through to the final interviews.  Bede joins Rebecca Richards (an alumna of the Aurora internship program) as Australia’s two Indigenous Rhodes Scholars.

Overall …

Six years ago there had never been an Indigenous Australian studying for a full-time degree at Cambridge or Oxford.  Now, 33 Indigenous Australians have been accepted to Oxford and/or Cambridge as a direct result of Aurora's work.

We have a growing number of Scholars undertaking Doctoral programs, with 10 DPhil/PhD candidates currently at Oxford (6), Cambridge (3) and Harvard (1).

Moreover, 21 out of 21 have successfully completed their postgraduate degrees at Oxford (10), Cambridge (9) and Harvard (2).

Congratulations to all the Scholars who successfully graduated from their Masters degrees in 2016

  • Lindsay Christian (MPhil in Epidemiology at Clare College, Cambridge)
  • Judd Harris (MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development at Wolfson College, Cambridge)
  • Aurora Milroy (Masters of Public Policy at Jesus College, Oxford), and
  • Tamara Murdock (MPhil in Geography and the Environment at Green Templeton College, Oxford).

In a speech delivered at the 2016 Study Tour Reception in October, Tamara noted: “It is exciting to be a part of the rapidly growing cohort of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander scholars attending some of the top universities in the world. The programs run by the Aurora Education Foundation, the Charlie Perkins Scholarship Trust, and the Roberta Sykes Foundation, do more than just support individual Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people to undertake postgraduate studies. They facilitate the building of a strong community at these universities – a strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander presence. This community is not only important for providing support to current and future scholars, but also for bringing attention to culture and to the issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.”

In October and November 2016, the Study Tour visited Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard, Columbia and NYU in the US and Cambridge and Oxford as well as the London Business School and London School of Economics in the UK.  

We have now had 100 Indigenous students and graduates attend the Study Tour since it began in 2010. So far, 35 of these participants have applied for postgraduate studies at the universities we have visited and 32 of them have been accepted to at least one of their choices (a 91% success rate). 

We partnered again with the Katrina Dawson Foundation to support educational opportunities for fourIndigenous women. This year, Emily Direen, Baringa Kukoyi, Claudia Paul and Nadine Rudkin were awarded Katrina Dawson Fellowships to support their participation in the Aurora Study Tour.

Lola Alexander and Siobhan Day

International Scholarship Coordinators

Academic Enrichment Program

The Aspiration Initiative’s (TAI) Academic Enrichment Program (AEP) works closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students, their families and communities to support and develop the academic achievement and aspirations of our young people.

2016 has been an important year as our NSW and Victorian students entered their first year of higher education and the majority of our West Australian students completed high school. This year we  worked closely with our students to build:

  • Individual resilience
  • A cohort of supportive peers
  • Skills to undertake study as independent learners
  • Preparation for and an wareness o feducation systems
  • Critical thinking skills.


  • 74% of our high school students in NSW and Victoria completed Year 12
  • 81% received ATARs – more than twice the national average
  • 72%transitioned to university at the beginning of 2016
  • 96% of our students in WA remain on an education pathway (school or TAFE) 
  • 75% of WA students are attending high school; in comparison, the apparent retention rate for Indigenous government school students in WA from Year 7/8 to Year 12 is 44%
  • The overwhelming majority of our high school students aspire to go on to university and view tertiary study as the next step towards a successful career


Evaluation data showing the impact of the AEP program.

AEP Camps in 2016

An integral component of the Academic Enrichment Program is the attendance of school holiday camps. Students voluntarily give up their regular school holiday activities to attend three, weeklong camps each year that includes intensive academic, cultural and pastoral support. The camp participation rate regularly exceeds 75% attendance by AEP students. 

The camps program for 2016 provided a clear set of academic objectives that were framed within traditional Aboriginal knowledge and ways of learning. A primary aim within the camps program this year was to allow students to explore how social differences such as race, ability, social class and gender can shape attitudes. Students developed powerful insights into their own sense of culture and belonging and in the process built up skills that would allow them to operate in diverse settings, such as universities. The camp experience and participation in the broader program increased intergroup understanding, empathy, collaboration and academic engagement. Through this process we have seen over the life of the pilot that the proportion of students interested in attending university grew from one-third (in Year 8) to two-thirds by the end of Year 12.


TAI WA Students, Mentors and Elders at Edith Cowan University during Camp 12

The camps program for 2016 included three West Australian camps, and three NSW and Victorian camps, including the final camp for the NSW and Victoria pilot, held on Wurundjeri Country Kinglake Ranges, Victoria in late November.

This final AEP camp for the NSW and Victorian cohort centred around the themes of ‘Community and Transformation’. Attended by NSW and Victorian students, mentors and Elders, the camp included academic sessions, confidence and team building activities, a half-day Community of Practice and a graduation ceremony. This marked a new beginning for the graduating Victorian and NSW students who are now  AEP Alumni and have the opportunity to mentor future AEP cohorts.


Students at the EAP NSW/VIC Graduation Ceremony


Participant story – Rachel

At first I wasn’t sure about being part of TAI and didn’t want to attend the camps. Growing up I used to do everything with my family, and I was worried that the camps would be isolating. I’d also experienced a lot of bullying, and I was very nervous about meeting new people.

My mum encouraged me to be involved in TAI and I’m really glad I have. TAI is incredible in bringing people together. Many of the people involved with TAI have come from similar backgrounds and we all understand, support and teach one another, without making judgments. I have even met quite a few cousins that I didn’t know I had!

The camps have helped me to develop an understanding of my culture and improve my approach to learning. TAI helped me to understand where I’ve come from, the impact of the decisions I make, and where I’m headed. When I was growing up I didn’t know much about my Aboriginal culture. The Elders helped me by sharing their knowledge of our people and the land – they helped me to develop an Aboriginal perspective on life. Being part of TAI has made me proud to be Aboriginal.

If it wasn’t for TAI, I wouldn’t have made it to Year 12. I haven’t had the best experience at school; I’ve been pulled out of class before and told that if I missed school for cultural activities it would have a negative impact on my grades. TAI has organised tutoring for me in English, History and Human Biology, and this is really helping bring my marks up. The camps have helped me to work a lot harder; I focus more and find it easier to concentrate. They give me the motivation and support to keep on trying. TAI also helps me to be more confident and less insecure. I have an opinion now, and the confidence to speak up.

I have a better idea of what I want to do and how to get there. Through TAI I’ve developed a passion for social justice, and I hope to study law next year at university.

Samantha Simmons

National Manager, Academic Enrichment Program

From the Placements Team

The Placements Team run the Aurora Internship Program, which places law, anthropology and other social science students and graduates with organisations working in Indigenous affairs for a 5-6 week placement.

We have another successful year which saw a record number of applications and placements for the summer 2016-17 round, with over 440 applications being received. Following selection and placement process, over 150 placements were arranged at a variety of organisations:

  • Current summer 2016/17 round :
    • 443 applications received from 33 universities and 7 from overseas
    • 153 internships arranged at 58 organisations working in the Indigenous sector.
  • Winter 2016 round:
    • 223 applications received from 31 universities and 4 from overseas
    • 121 internships arranged at 50 organisations working in the Indigenous sector.

The team worked closely with students and organisations to place a record number of students this year. We would like to congratulate all students and thank all who took part in the placements program this year.

Congratulations to our John Skipper Kelly (JSK) Fund Indigenous scholarship recipient, Russell Byrnes, who will undertake his summer 2016/17 placement at the NT Environmental Defender’s Office and to our Lisa Wright Internship scholarship recipient, Katie Moore, who will undertake her summer 2016/17 placement at Yawuru in Broome.

Congratulations to our inaugural Lisa Wright Internship scholarship recipient, Luis Arturo Aguilar Lopez, who undertook his winter 2016 placement at Goldfields Land and Sea Council in Kalgoorlie.

Since inception, over 2,000 internships have provided more than 380,000 hours of additional capacity to over 100 organisations working in the native title and the broader Indigenous sector, which translates to approx. $11.5 million of cost savings and productivity gains. 

More than 500 internship alumni have undertaken full-time, locum and/or part-time ongoing paid placements as a direct result of the Program, including 18 Indigenous alumni.

A big thank you to PM&C for ongoing funding of the Internship Program (currently through February 2017).  We are waiting on the outcome of our 3-year funding application through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, and hope to hear before Christmas.  This funding application supports improved outcomes for:

  • Indigenous students and graduates through pathways to jobs in Indigenous and other organisations;
  • Indigenous organisations through non-Indigenous intern support and cost effective recruitment.

Congratulations to our 2015/16 Australian Government NTRB Rio Tinto Scholars, Phil Ramsay and Jeremiah Riley for graduating with Distinction in their Master of Laws (LLM) at the University of Dundee in Scotland.  They were our last two Scholars, since this Scholarship has now ceased.

For more information, see the Aurora Internship Program.

Kim Barlin

Student Placements Manager