14 September, 2012The Federal Government commissioned report, Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, chaired by Professor Larissa Behrendt, builds on the hard work universities have undertaken to address higher education inequalities between Indigenous Australians and the general population.
"The panel has produced a well thought-out and thorough report, addressing an issue of national priority," said Belinda Robinson, Chief Executive of Universities Australia, the peak body representing Australia's 39 universities.
"We absolutely share the panel's vision for higher education becoming a natural pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as it is fast becoming for the general population.
"Family background should never be a barrier to pursuing and achieving a high quality university education and the life-long benefits that it affords.
"As the report notes, higher education and training has a critical role to play in improving the socio-economic position of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and advancing Australia's wellbeing and economic prosperity.
"It will provide potential leaders with the skills to improve education, health and economic outcomes within Indigenous communities and provide positive role models for the next generation."
Ms Robinson said the report further expanded programs already supported by Universities Australia, such as the Indigenous Cultural Competency Best Practice Framework and the National Indigenous Higher Education Workforce Strategy.
"Although much work has been done in this area and participation is increasing, the difference between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people is still alarming," Ms Robinson said.
"For example, the report reveals that in 2010 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students made up just 1.4 per cent of all enrolments in university."
Ms Robinson said the sector supported the report's recommendations and looked forward to working with the Government to adopt them.
"We are particularly pleased with recommendations for increased and streamlined income support arrangements. The need for this was highlighted in our last Student Finances Report and we expect it to again feature prominently in the survey now underway.
"We also recognise and commend the report's assertion that universities should set their own targets and timeframes. This recognises that there is no "one-size fits all" model and respects the diversity and demographic profile of both our universities and Indigenous cultures.
"The sector stands ready to assist in implementing the report's recommendations," Ms Robinson concluded.