The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, has today congratulated the Charlie Perkins and Roberta Sykes scholarship recipients at a function hosted by the British High Commissioner in Canberra.
The scholarships, administered by the Aurora Education Foundation, help outstanding Indigenous graduates to undertake postgraduate study at prestigious overseas universities.
“The scholarships are named after two Indigenous heroes who championed the importance of education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Minister Scullion said.
Dr Charlie Perkins was the first Aboriginal man in Australia to get a degree, graduating from the University of Sydney in 1966.
In 1985, the poet Roberta Sykes became the first Aboriginal Australian to graduate from an American university when she received her PhD in education at Harvard University.
Minister Scullion congratulated this year’s scholars, saying that they would go in the name and spirit of these great cultural icons.
“All of that history and heritage goes with them, inspiring them to work hard and be proud,” Minister Scullion said.
The Minister noted an encouraging rise in the number of Indigenous students undertaking higher education. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of Indigenous students enrolled at university nearly doubled, from 8300 to just over 16,000.
“The great thing about those numbers is that there is absolutely no gap in employment between Indigenous and non-Indigenous grads,” Minister Scullion said.
As part of the $138 million 1967 Referendum – 50th Anniversary Indigenous Education Package announced in May, the Government is providing $4 million to the Aurora Education Foundation for a minimum of 14 postgraduate scholarships as well as other programmes and resources to support Indigenous students.
This year the Charlie Perkins Scholarship Trust is supporting Ashley Walker, a Walbunga man from New South Wales, to study an MBA, and Brook Andrew, a Wiradjuri man from NSW, to undertake a DPhil in fine arts, both at Oxford.
The Roberta Sykes Indigenous Education Foundation is supporting Baringa Kukoyi, a Turrbal and Gubbi Gubbi woman from Queensland, to study an MBA at Cambridge, and Ruby Warber, a Noongar woman from Western Australia, to undertake a Masters of Science in global population health at the London School of Economics.
Since 2010, these scholarships have assisted 19 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graduates to study in the United Kingdom.