Bush university celebrates first graduate


Bush university celebrates first graduate

November 16, 2023

The Wuyagiba Study Hub, a life-changing education pathway in southeast Arnhem Land, has achieved an historic milestone today, with the conferring of its first university graduate.
Known colloquially as the ‘bush university’, the Wuyagiba Study Hub was established in 2018 to provide two-way education and a university pathway for local Indigenous students.

The Hub, which is located between the remote Arnhem Land communities of Ngukurr and Numbulwar, works in partnership with Macquarie University to deliver a specially designed amalgam of the traditional Western curriculum and an Indigenous curriculum. The first-of-its-kind initiative employs both cultural and academic experts to teach pre-university courses on-Country.

Today, Alawa woman Mel Wurramarrba-Andrews became the Wuyagiba Study Hub’s first university graduate, receiving a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Education from Macquarie University.

“The Wuyagiba Study Hub and two-way education has changed my life,” says Mel. “I had started higher education at Flinders University in Adelaide, but I was the only student from Arnhem Land there. It was too hard for me being away from home and isolated.

“I came back to Ngukurr and was encouraged by the late Mrs Cherry Wulumirr Daniels and Emilie Ens to join the Ngukurr Yangbala (Young Peoples) Project. This project grew into the Wuyagiba Study Hub, and I helped get it off the ground. The bush university enabled a group of us to enrol at Macquarie University and helped me reconnect with my dream of becoming a teacher.”

More than 100 students have graduated from the Wuyagiba Study Hub since its inception and 28 have gone on to enrol at Macquarie University.

Macquarie University Associate Professor Emilie Ens, who has been a key driver of the Wuyagiba project since its trial phase, says today’s graduation is a testament to Mel’s passion and commitment.

“Mel has overcome many, many obstacles, a feat of which she should be very proud,” she says. “Mel’s journey emphasises the importance of on-Country education and cultural connections for Indigenous students. Without them, Mel could have given up on education and hers isn’t an isolated story.

“The bush university is providing a pathway, not just to Macquarie University for those students who choose to continue with their studies, but also for these remote communities to have autonomy. Wuyagiba is providing the knowledge and skills that will enable locals to take on local jobs and serve their own community.”

The generous support of the Origin Energy Foundation, the Australian Government Department of Education and The Nature Conservancy Australia helps make the Wuyagiba Study Hub possible. Students are also assisted by Walanga Muru, Macquarie University’s support unit for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Head of the Origin Energy Foundation, Michelle Zahra, says: “This is a very important milestone for the Wuyagiba Study Hub, a program our Foundation has been incredibly proud to support since 2018.

“It is cause also for celebration on so many levels. First and foremost, Melissa’s graduation makes her the first full Bachelor degree graduate from Ngukurr in 36 years – a fantastic achievement as a result of her hard work and dedication to learning.

“It also demonstrates the success of the Wuyagiba Study Hub and its two-way education model, combining both Indigenous and Western curricula.

“Congratulations to Melissa – a true inspiration to the next generation.”

In March, Kevin Guyurruyurru Rogers, Helen Gabibi Rogers and the late Cherry Daniels OAM were each awarded a Macquarie University Honorary Doctorate in recognition of their integral contribution to the Wuyagiba Study Hub.

Learn more about the Wuyagiba Study Hub here.

We are grateful for the support provided by the Origin Energy Foundation and other generous donors during Mel’s study at Macquarie. If you would also like to contribute to supporting our Indigenous students to achieve their dreams, you can make a tax-deductible donation to the Wuyagiba Study Hub here today.  

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