Woolworths pledges $10 million for UTS First Nations College
Woolworths Group is helping realise the dream of a national First Nations residential college championing Indigenous excellence.
Woolworths Group is helping realise the dream of a national First Nations residential college championing Indigenous excellence. The College, the first of its kind in Australia, is an initiative of the University of Technology Sydney.
The College will be Indigenous designed and led, with Indigenous programs, an Indigenous library, a family history research centre and an arts centre. It will enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to choose a residential college that, at its heart, celebrates their identity, cultures and traditions.
It has the backing of more than 50 Indigenous leaders.
Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said Woolworths Group was proud to work with the university to help provide new educational pathways for First Nations students.
“Not only will this College be Indigenous led, it will welcome students of all nations and cultural traditions and will be a model of the inclusive Australian society we wish to work and live in,” Mr Banducci said.
“We believe in the power of education to transform lives - when supported by employment pathways, the College will not only place culture at the heart of learning, but will provide career opportunities and cultural sharing across our entire group.
“The partnership is part of our commitment to seismic change for Indigenous outcomes and building a more inclusive nation, embodying Woolworths Group's purpose of creating better experiences together for a better tomorrow.”
Currently, fewer than half of young Indigenous people earn a tertiary credential after high school, and across Australia, completion rates are lagging because the existing environments do not make Indigenous students feel at home.
Professor Michael McDaniel AO, UTS Special Advisor to the Vice-Chancellor for Major Indigenous Strategic Priorities, said university education is critical in preparing for leadership roles and improving life opportunities, health, education and economic outcomes.
“The health gap closes, the life expectancy gap closes, the housing gap closes, every other gap closes. Education is the key to that.
“This pledge forms part of a deeper partnership between Woolworths Group and UTS based on values of Indigenous self-determination, kinship and community."
“Woolworths Group will be an ongoing ally in our shared goal towards building an inclusive nation,” said Professor Andrew Parfitt, UTS Vice-Chancellor and President.
Once built, the College will provide scholarships and cost-covered accommodation for Indigenous students, strong connections with schools and employers, and nurture the future Indigenous leaders of the nation.
The publicly accessible arts centre will be a place for sharing culture and showcasing events in collaboration with a range of education, cultural, community, industry and government partners.
Woolworths Group’s partnership and investment of $10 million builds on more than 12 years of a relationship with UTS through Women in Engineering scholarships and industry advisory roles. This is the second largest philanthropic pledge in the history of UTS, and the largest commitment ever for UTS Indigenous initiatives.
The commitment emphasises the power of partnership and an engaged approach to philanthropy as catalysts for change. A collaborative funding model is bringing together UTS, government, industry and philanthropists to deliver the initiative for the nation. Other founding major donors to the initiative include philanthropic leaders such as The Oranges and Sardines Foundation, the Cowled Foundation and Wilson Asset Management as well as significant founding pledges from the NSW State Government and City of Sydney.
Building works for the College will commence in 2025.
For more information visit www.irc.uts.edu.au
FACTS ABOUT THE COLLEGE
When and where will the College be built?
The College will be built on the UTS Campus on the corner of Harris Street and Mary Ann Street, Ultimo. The College is planned to be completed in 2027.
Where is the funding coming from?
To realise the vision, UTS is pursuing a multiparty funding model with costs shared between the university, government, business and philanthropic partners. Once funding is secured, the transformational project will bring diverse partners together for a unique educational initiative that has at its heart the goal of a reconciled nation.
Why an Indigenous Residential College?
The plan for the College is informed by evidence and driven by Indigenous students, staff, alumni and community members, locally and nationally. Nowhere in the nation is there a traditional university college, with all the attributes of prestige associated with it, dedicated to Indigenous people and celebrating Indigenous culture and identity – while supporting Indigenous academic excellence, developing leaders, facilitating service and global citizenship.
The concept has already been tested in part over the last three years, with UTS offering guaranteed cost-covered accommodation, and living allowance (for those not receiving Federal funding), as well as a program of social events to enhance the residential experience. The majority of Indigenous students chose to use this residence as it offers an Indigenous sense of community. This pilot has resulted in Indigenous enrolments rising from 199 undergraduate students in 2015 to 250 in 2017.
Who will be able to access the College?
While Indigenous students will form the majority of the community, anyone will be able to apply for a place in the College and will be welcome. The College will be culturally inclusive space focused on embracing and celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures, as part of our Australian identity. It will model the inclusive nation we wish to see.
Will Indigenous students have to reside in the College?
Residing in the College will be completely optional. The College is about celebrating diversity and incorporating the impressive breadth of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, histories, contributions and perspectives into everyday life for students. Rather than being on the periphery, Indigenous people will be the hosts, not the guests. But Indigenous students won’t have to choose the College – they will also be supported to access other UTS housing if they wish.
What’s the difference between this project and other Indigenous residences in Australia?
This College will be Australia’s first university Indigenous Residential College. It will combine features to be found in other programs and places but in a way that hasn’t been done before. Everything from the architectural and interior design to the programs, will be led and informed by Indigenous perspectives and cultures. There are Indigenous residential facilities elsewhere, and Indigenous programs in universities, but not in the combination and to the scale and breadth of this College.
Some universities have Indigenous residences and housing, and some existing university colleges have Indigenous programs. However, this project will be the first College bringing together all of these elements and more, including a publicly accessible cultural, arts and events space. Technology will be used to create interactive, living art projects, including public programs for schools, community groups and tourists.
Much more than student housing, the College will be a strong symbol of Indigenous pride, culture and identity – a physical manifestation of Indigenous self-determination and the commitment to excellence in Indigenous higher education.
What can students in the College expect day to day?
Students will have a range of experiences and opportunities as part of the College. These will include opportunities for international immersions and exchanges, field trips, conferences, internships and work experience. Guest lectures and masterclasses, arts and cultural events will be key parts of the life in the College.
Connection to community, and caring for Country will be a central part of the ethos of the college.
What can the alumni of the College expect after they graduate?
Students will graduate with a rich and impressive portfolio of experiences and achievements. Lifetime members of the College, they will have an extensive network of peers, mentors and supporters who will be able to guide them in the next stage of their careers. The College will have a strong alumni strategy and facilitate ongoing connection post-graduation through regular events and communications.
How will the College benefit all of Australian society?
We know that for Indigenous people, closing the education gap closes all others — with benefits to the whole community, through improved health and wellbeing, enhanced socioeconomic outcomes such as full employment and economic participation, secure housing, and reduced interactions with the justice system. Increasing the number of Indigenous people who participate in higher education grows the number of role models — having an exponential effect on participation in education.
The benefits of the College will radiate well beyond individual students and graduates to include their families, children, employers and future employers. The impact will be multi-generational, with thousands of graduates over the coming decades entering leadership roles in the public, private, community and education sectors with a shared commitment to a more inclusive nation.
As a fully inclusive College that will also house non-Indigenous and international students, it will promote an ethos of shared pride that Australia is home to the longest surviving, continuous culture on the planet — more than 60,000 years strong.