Indigenous students visiting a science exhibit with blue and white lines in the background.

Indigenous student opportunities

We offer a number of programs designed to support Indigenous students to access and succeed in their academic and career progression.

  • National Indigenous Summer School

    In 2017 a group of 19 enthusiastic high school students from years 10 and 11 travelled to Canberra from as far away as Innisfail, QLD and Two Rocks, WA.

    Read more

  • Finding her way to care for Country

    Kristi Lee, a Githabul Bundjalung woman and ANU graduate, has received the ‘Caring for Country’ award at the 2019 ACT NAIDOC Awards.

    Read her story

National Indigenous Summer School

The National Indigenous Summer School is a week-long Summer School for Indigenous students in Years 10 and 11, from across Australia, who are interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In this program, students will experience university life while undergoing exciting academic and hands-on activities from a range of discipline fields in relation to 'Global Challenges'.

Scholarships & support

Other University-wide scholarships for Indigenous students are available. View ANU scholarships for more information. 

Pathways to ANU

Other University resources

Our students

Dhani Gilbert
11 February 2020
Dhani Gilbert
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As students return to campus, we speak to a new arrival, Dhani Gilbert, who is about to start a Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Environment and Sustainability flexible double degree, focusing on conservation biology and science communication.

We meet at the base of Black Mountain, across the road from ANU. After a relentless month of smoke and fire, it is finally raining. Nearby, a creek bubbles through native grasses as we shelter under tall eucalypts and watch reinvigorated wildlife.

The last time I saw Dhani, it was in a very different environment: she was on the stage at the Canberra School Strike for Climate, addressing a crowd of 15,000 people.

“I used to cry whenever I had to do public speaking, even in front of my classmates”, she comments.

Having seen her there, determined and proud, it is hard to imagine her trembling at the thought of getting on stage.

“I think a big part of overcoming that was realising I had a voice which adds value, and that no one could really articulate what I wanted to say, the same way I could,” she says.

The powerful words Dhani shared with the Canberra community—about the importance of First Nations stewardship of land in the fight against climate change—were delivered just months before Australia’s inferno of a summer began.

I ask her how these bushfires affected her as a scientist, activist and a Wiradjuri woman.

“The truly heartbreaking thing is the loss of life. Not only the people we've lost in fires, but the wildlife. So much of Australia's biodiversity is now gone.

“It is also difficult to come to terms with the fact that these effects could have been partially managed and reduced with proper land care through cultural or ‘cool’ burning.”

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Dhani speaking at the School Strike for Climate.

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As well as working to apply conservation science and cultural knowledge, Dhani is determined to share its importance through science communication.

“Science can be this faraway subject which, for some people, has no impact on their day-to-day life. They might think ‘Well, I actually don't understand this and I don't see why it's important for me’.

“This is the case especially for First Nations people. Science is sometimes really foreign and it disregards what they know, when really it should be able to work with what they know.”

Dhani is also passionate about empowering young people to embrace leadership and is currently helping to organise the first land care youth summit at Parliament House.

“As young people, we're constantly told that we can't do things: that we’re too young, we don't have enough experience, or we don't understand things enough to be able to actually make a difference.

“So I really hope that some of the conversations that come out of this summit are around realising you do actually have the skills, the experience, and the understanding to make a major change in this field.”

Dhani’s passion for young leadership extends to her role in community. Last year, she initiated ‘Waybarra’, a regular weaving workshop for girls entering years 11 and 12.

“The project is designed to provide a space for girls, to have those connections as they’re coming into college”, explains Dhani.

“I worked with a master weaver, Aunty Jenny Dries, to learn how to weave, and then also learn how to teach people to weave. It was a huge endeavour, but so worth it.

“It was amazing to see these young women shift in the way they looked at community and college. There were some girls who, at first, didn’t want to go to college at all, but by the end thought, you know what, college might not be so bad.”

Dhani believes that community learning is really about learning from everyone. Smiling, she recounts a moment from a tour she led at Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary while working as a guide:

“A little girl asked me ‘How old are you?’ I told her I was 17 and she was like, ‘Have you finished school?’ And I said, ‘Nah I'm still in school’. She looked at me and said ‘How can you understand all this stuff if you haven't even finished school yet?!’”

“I said, ‘Well, actually, you can understand this stuff, too. It just takes time and learning. And remember that, actually, what you know now is also really important.’”

If you want to follow in Dhani's footsteps, consider a Fexible Double Degree in science at ANU.

Student profile

‘I realised I had a voice that adds value’: climate activist on her way to ANU

At the age of 18 Dhani Gilbert has a powerful voice, now she is headed to ANU to pursue ecology and science communication.

Elsie Percival 18 July 2019
Hmalan Hunter-Xenie

Hmalan Hunter-Xenie

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It was Hmalan Hunter-Xenie’s connection to Country that compelled her to flee ANU after a year of study, but it was also her connection to Country that led her to return ten years later.

Hmalan grew up in nature, first in New Caledonia - her dad is from Lifou, then in west Arnhem Land, where her mum and grandfather are from. When she moved to Canberra to start her degree, her reaction towards city life was simple: “I don’t like it.”

“I was used to being out bush, with people not wearing shoes, going to Darwin markets, and everyone looking relaxed and, smiling. 

“In Canberra, as a teenager I couldn’t cope. I missed my family and it was just so different to the Northern Territory. Very few in my family went to uni, so everything just seemed really different and foreign.”

Hmalan deferred her degree and returned to the Northern Territory, where she started working with the Aboriginal Research Practitioners’ Network (ARPNet), in partnership first with CSIRO then hosted by Charles Darwin University. 

It was here, away from her own studies, that she realised the potential of academia to help her community under the continued mentorship of a female scientist, Dr Bevyline Sithole.

“I was helping to empower communities to have the tools and strengthened capacity to do the work themselves, and to give them that acknowledgement and ownership of the work. 

“I loved being in academia but also being on the ground.”

There was only one problem. 

“The HR department kept saying, ‘You’re employed as an academic, but we don’t have your degree on file.’ And I’m like, ‘That’s because I don’t have one!’”

“I said to myself that I had to come back to ANU and smash out this degree.”

 

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The 2018 Vietnam Field School

The 2018 Vietnam Field School

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Ten years after she left, Hmalan returned to Canberra and re-enrolled in a Bachelor of Science (Resource and Environmental Management) but this time she made sure she had the support to thrive.

“The second time around, I made lots of friends from all over Australia and overseas. The Tjabal Indigenous Higher Education Centre at ANU was like a home away from home. All of us Indigenous students, that’s our place to hang out.

“I also made sure to go back home every term break. When I left for Canberra in 2016, an Uncle in Maningrida, Matthew Ryan, had said to me, ‘Don't forget to come back’. I returned after the first term break, and I was making a cuppa—no shoes, out bush—he happily said, ‘You didn’t forget us!’.”

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Hmalan Hunter-Xenie in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam

Hmalan in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam

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Hmalan believes research is a practical avenue for change, and although she always misses home, she sees being in Canberra, where decisions are made about her people, as a great opportunity to understand and influence the political process.

“I am going to start Honours here at ANU, because so much of what happens in Canberra impacts what happens on the ground in the Northern Territory, especially to do with Indigenous affairs. It is good to get a better understanding of how the Canberra system works, because I am always at the receiving end.”

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Hmalan with her family: Marita Hunter, Anita Hunter, Hmalan Hunter-Xénié, Widro Xénié and Rosie Baird

Hmalan with her family: Marita Hunter, Anita Hunter, Hmalan Hunter-Xénié, Widro Xénié and Rosie Baird

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“I want to be an avenue for my community’s voices to be heard.”

Hmalan still has a job waiting for her at Charles Darwin University through ARPNet. After she graduates, she laughs, there’ll be only one thing to do.

“I’ll send my degree to HR and say, ‘You can file that!’”

Find out more about opportunities in science for Indigenous students.

Student profile

Between Canberra and Country: the gap year that took ten years

Hmalan’s connection to Country made her flee ANU, but also led her back ten years later.

12 February 2018
Indigenous Astronomer: Karlie Noon
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Meet Karlie Noon, who is studying her Masters of Astronomy and Astrophysics at ANU. Karlie is in her first year and is specifically interested in making connections between Astronomy and her Indigenous heritage. 

Karlie, firstly, can you tell us what interests you about astronomy?

What's not to like?! I get to look at galaxies, learn about how stars are formed and look at amazing images of pretty space stuff. It's also incredibly challenging which is always fun.

You recently made history as being the first Indigenous person to graduate in New South Wales with a double degree in mathematics and science which you obtained from the University of Newcastle, but your life has seen some ups and downs prior to this achievement. Tell us about that light-bulb moment you had where you decided to bounce back and are now studying a field as interesting as astronomy and astrophysics.

Hmm, I don't think there was one. In my mind my life was normal. It was the same life my mum, my sister and a lot of my family so it didn't occur to me that I had to 'bounce back'. I never had a plan for any of this, I just followed what I was interested in and learned to ignore any critics and my own doubts along the way.

A lot of discoveries in science are pinned to Europeans however this is not the case when you consider the vast amount of discoveries Indigenous Australians made.

Connecting science with your Indigenous heritage is a fascinating research combination. Tell us about this exciting area that you are working in and how you are hoping to help other Indigenous Australians.

Thank you! It is something I am extremely proud of and excited about. Indigenous knowledge is an incredible source of complexity and science. Doing inquiry for 60,000 years produces a plethora of intricate knowledge, often things that the rest of the world has only recently discovered or who knows, might yet to be discovered.

I think it is incredibly important for the world to know how clever we were and still are. A lot of discoveries in science are pinned to Europeans however this is not the case when you consider the vast amount of discoveries Indigenous Australians made. We knew the Earth was not flat and we knew tides were influenced by the moon thousands of years before Galileo. 

We understand you're working on a paper on how Indigenous people used moon haloes - rings around the moon formed by ice crystals - to predict storms. This sounds extremely interesting - tell us about it and some other areas you are focusing on as part of your Masters work.

Researching halos is not a part of my Masters. This is a paper I am doing in my spare time with the help of the amazing Indigenous astronomer, Duane Hamacher. I look at the intricacies of traditional weather predicting techniques and explore how it correlates to the physical systems in the lower atmosphere.

My masters research project is slightly different; instead of looking at ice clouds in the lower atmosphere I am looking at gas clouds outside the Milky Way. If you have any questions about clouds you know who to ask!

Fast-forward into the future. After you complete your Masters, where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

It is my dream to own one of those floppy hats so hopefully by then I will have a PhD. Additionally, teaching is something that gives me passion and purpose so hopefully I will be teaching lots of people about how cool our world is.

Student profile

Indigenous heritage meets a star-studded future

Meet Karlie Noon, who is studying her Masters of Astronomy and Astrophysics at ANU.

11 July 2017

It was while looking down a microscope that Minette Salmon made a huge breakthrough.

But it wasn’t a scientific discovery; it was personal. Minette started to see her own biology differently.

“Biology is the language of the human body,” Minette explains. “It’s about decoding and trying to understand that language.”

Through the lens of biology, Minette saw her own story come into focus.

“My Indigenous heritage wasn’t something that had ever been an obvious part of me before that point. I was in the Army for seven years, and being female and Indigenous isn’t easy in the military, so I didn’t see it as part of who I am.”

But after discovering a passion for biology, Minette left the military to study it full-time.

"I was unsure whether I wanted to be a full-time student again, or whether my brain would be able to cope with it,” she remembers.

Minette was encouraged by the Tjabal Centre at ANU to enrol in a Master degree and to embrace her Indigenous heritage.

“Aunty Anne and Aunty Robyn from the Tjabal Centre pushed me to succeed and made me proud to be an Indigenous woman. They made me realise that it’s not something to be ashamed of, or to feel negative about either.”  

Now Minette is the first Indigenous student to graduate from the Master of Biological Sciences (Advanced).

“I've been trying to genetically engineer red blood cells to express a mutation that will stop malaria parasites getting into red blood cells, and breeding,” she explains. “If you can stop the parasite getting inside the red blood cell, that’s a potential cure for the disease.”Her research project saw her return to the microscope, this time decoding the biological language of malaria parasites at the Immunology Lab at the John Curtin School for Medical Research.

Minette now tutors other Indigenous students studying at ANU, and has sound advice for budding scientists.

“I think the thing that puts people off studying science is that it will be too hard, and they will fail. The fact is, regardless of what you do in life, everyone is going to fail at some point! I’ve certainly failed exams and tests along the way!

“I tutor some of the students at the Tjabal Centre, and this is a message I tell them. Failing at one or two assignments or tests doesn’t mean overall you won’t be successful. Keep trying, and keep at it because science is very rewarding.”

With a Master degree now under her belt, Minette is now looking forward to continuing to decode the language of biology, by working in labs with DNA, and undertaking some short-term research projects before starting a PhD.

“I’d really like to do further research on Indigenous genomics with the National Centre for Indigenous Genomics at the John Curtin School of Medical Research. They’re mapping the Indigenous genome at the moment.

“But regardless of what I do next, I would like to still make time to be a tutor at the Tjabal Centre. It’s my second home, a community, and part of my life now.”

Student profile

A close look at biology leads graduate to find herself

It was while looking down a microscope that Minette Salmon made a huge breakthrough.