Swinburne University of Technology: Swinburne celebrates Indigenous student success

Swinburne has massively increased its intake of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students over the past eight years, thanks to the leading work of the Moondani Toombadool Centre’s Indigenous Student Services team, and the university’s three RAP priorities – self-determination, cultural safety and Indigenous knowledges.

Since 2014, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher education and vocational students studying at Swinburne has increased from 81 to 1,048. Indigenous students enrolled at Swinburne now constitute 15.3 per cent of all Indigenous students enrolled at Victorian universities. This figure has tripled from 4.5 per cent in 2014.

This growth has been facilitated by the wide range of cultural, pastoral, academic, administrative and advocacy services provided by the Indigenous Student Services team at the Moondani Toombadool Centre, led by Manager Vicky Peters, a proud Wurundjeri and Yorta Yorta woman. These services are available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in both higher education and vocational education, whether they are online, on-campus, in workplaces or in the community.

“I’m incredibly privileged to work with such a dedicated and passionate team,” Vicky Peters says.

“Through their comprehensive personalized service approach, my team at the Moondani Toombadool Centre have created an incredible community environment for students to thrive.”

Adapting to COVID-19
In 2020, the Indigenous Student Services team developed several innovative initiatives to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on students. These included extending communications to students through newsletters and social media, conducting a student survey to determine the impact of COVID-19 and organising Wayapa Wuurrk (Indigenous yoga and mindfulness) workshops for students.

Indigenous Student Services team
The Indigenous Student Services Team at the Moondani Toombadool Centre. Image: Vicky Peters.

The team also led a NAIDOC Week Art Competition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, with the winning artwork printed onto merchandise and a portion of sales contributing to scholarships. This event is now run annually.

“The Indigenous Student Services team, outstandingly led by Vicky Peters, is achieving exceptional successes,” Professor Andrew Gunstone, Executive Director of the Moondani Toombadool Centre says.

“The team brilliantly illustrates the critical importance of our 2020-23 Elevate Reconciliation Action Plan’s three key priorities – Indigenous self-determination, cultural safety, and Indigenous Knowledges.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student services
The Indigenous Student Services team in the Moondani Toombadool Centre is made up of seven Indigenous staff. They are responsible for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student matters, including recruitment, retention, progression, completions and cultural safety.

The team participates in Swinburne student activities and events, including Orientation and Open Day, as well as organising specific Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student activities, events and community engagements to support students’ connections to each other and to culture. The team also promotes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures throughout the wider university and organizes many events, open to all staff and students, to commemorate events like National Sorry Day and NAIDOC Week.

The team has developed a number of innovative Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student recruitment initiatives and outreach programs. It engages with internal partners and several external industry partners, including the Clontarf Foundation, regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, scholarships and internships. It also maintains and develops significant relationships and engagements with many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, organisations and industry networks, including Worawa Aboriginal College.

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