REVIEW OF HIGHER EDUCATION ACCESS AND OUTCOMES FOR ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER PEOPLE

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) is pleased to make the following submission consideration in the Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. The submission primarily focuses on the initiatives of the Australian minerals industry in attracting and retaining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to achieve higher education qualifications at Australian institutions.

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) is a principal sponsor of The Aspiration Initiative (TAI) which works to increase opportunities and support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, helping to ensure they realise their potential at school, university and beyond. This theme of whole-of-education pathways support is confirmed in reviewing the contributions to this submission of two of the MCA member companies (Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton Iron Ore) who demonstrably make significant investment through an array of initiatives in support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in their employ and from local communities surrounding their usually remote operations.

Their contributions are provided verbatim in this submission.

The MCA recommends the following to this review:

  • The whole-of-education pathway approach is supported by the research and associated activities of The Aspiration Initiative (TAI) which identifies that multi-level support for the individual and community is required, especially when a student is the first in their family to access higher education. The MCA recommends that the Australian Government extend its funding initiatives to include initiatives in support of whole-of-education pathways (such as The Aspiration Initiative) to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have contiguous and multiple support arrangements in realising their higher education aspirations.
  • Those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students that enter into higher education pathways are usually leaving their communities to pursue their qualifications. This dislocation from their community is currently not being adequately supported by the Australian Government (for minerals industry-supported cadets and scholarship holders) as they are excluded from obtaining ABSTUDY; an allowance which is critical in supporting the higher cost of living at (mostly) metropolitan-based universities. The MCA recommends that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students receive existing Commonwealth funding (including ABSTUDY payments) in addition to any minerals industry-funded cadetships or scholarships they might hold to ensure that living expenses associated with being dislocated from their communities is not an inhibitor to their success in attaining higher education outcomes.

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