Murdoch University is launching a new course designed to encourage Indigenous people to follow careers in science.
It is hoped the bridging program, at Murdoch’s Kulbardi Aboriginal Centre, will increase Indigenous employment, particularly in the resources sector.
Professor Rhonda Marriott, Director of Kulbardi, said: "People of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin have the highest unemployment rate in the country.
"As most Indigenous people – 69 per cent – live in the regional and remote areas of Australia, it makes sense to focus initiatives on industries which operate in these regions, such as the resource industry.
"At present many positions in this industry are filled by Western Australian and interstate workers and increasingly, overseas migrants on 457 visas, while Indigenous workers remain under-represented."
Professor Marriott said that Government initiatives to reverse these trends tended to focus on TAFE courses. These prepare students for trade positions, but do not cater for those who aspire to higher education.
"Our program, the Kulbardi Aboriginal Tertiary Entrance Course in Science, will prepare students for university studies in science, with a focus on the resources sector. This includes areas such as geology, metallurgy, physics, chemistry, environmental sciences, conservation biology and sustainability.
"This will empower them to become active participants in the workforce and potentially in the financial and political decision making processes affecting their communities."
The program is being sponsored by Energy Resourcing Australia, a progressive provider of professional services to the global resources sector including recruitment, contracting management services, training and corporate intelligence services.
Nicole Kirwan-Ward, Group General Manager, said: "The program has presented itself as an amazing opportunity to be involved with not only the university I attended but with an initiative that’s so important to the community.
"Energy Resourcing Australia will be involved at all levels from program development through to ongoing mentoring and support services for the students; we are in the privileged position within our industry to make a difference and that’s exactly what we intend to do."
The program will be designed with a hands-on practical approach to learning, and will allow Indigenous students to link their traditional knowledge of the land with proven scientific theories and frameworks. The first students are expected to start in 2012.
The development of this new program follows the success of a similar bridging course in social sciences and humanities, which launched in 1998. A total of 125 students have progressed through tertiary education as a result of this course, with some continuing their studies to Masters and Postdoctoral degrees.
Professor Marriott said: "These courses allow Indigenous students to discover their potential and act as a vital step in continuing their tertiary education and achieving their career aspirations."
For further information call Kulbardi on 08 9360 2128 or email firstname.lastname@example.org