Centre of Indigenous Academic Excellence at UTS

Australia's first Indigenous residential college at UTS focussed on academic excellence at UTS will be ready in 2025 . 

The $100 million, 250-bed college is  to be designed by Indigenous architects and led and operated by Indigenous Australians.

Professor Michael McDaniel said the solution to close  the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is education 

"Education will help the health gap closes, the life expectancy gap closes, the housing gap closes, every other gap closes.”

The Yarning Circle 

"We will have a college where our traditions, and our heritage, and our belief systems are at the heart of it, which also means we are at the heart of it."

Josh Yasserie is completing a Master of Arts Screen: Animation at the Australian Film Television and Radio School and said the new college would be a place where like-minded people could meet, work together and build on their collective and individual successes.

"This is a beautiful thing," Mr Yasserie said.

"It's very important to have a place like this, because otherwise, you're isolated. You're stuck away, you're in a corner, you're on the sidelines of stuff — you're never at the face of it."

Mr Yasserie said it took a while for some of his fellow students to accept him during his undergraduate degree at UTS. 

"Each semester that I used to rock up to class, I would sit at a table and no one else would sit there," he said.

"So, I reckon this is a big thing. We need to have something for ourselves. We need to have our own community, we need to be able to feel comfortable in who we are."

Joel Cama has just completed a double degree in sports management and international studies at UTS and is working as a community programs manager for the Sydney Kings basketball team.

His experience at university was largely positive, but he recalled some isolated incidents.

"There was a few times where, just an example, [there were] racist jokes being told in the common area," Mr Cama said.

"It wasn't directed at me but it's just the kind of culture that I was exposed to in the classroom and in housing."

He said he was excited about UTS' plans.

"I mean, I had a great time, and I had a lot of support from the Indigenous centre when I was studying here," Mr Cama said.

"But I wish I was starting and going through my bachelors when this college was built. 

Where they're heading now is crazy good."

It started with a Yarn 

When Brigitte Sancho, who works with Professor McDaniel, was telling him a few years ago about her own experience at university, it started a crucial conversation.

Ms Sancho attended the W.E.B. Du Bois College House – a residential college for African-American students at the University of Pennsylvania.

"I talked about how I felt a lot of pride, identity and culture in a place where I just walked in and I thought oh, these are my people," Ms Sancho said.

"It was amazing, and I just asked the question, would that be able to happen here?"

Ms Sancho said Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the United States fostered a sense of identity, pride and culture amongst their students.

"I think it's going to be a hothouse for future Indigenous leaders."

Governor-General David Hurley

Ambassador for the college, Governor-General David Hurley, at a Rotary luncheon, said the UTS initiative would have an impact for generations to come.

The college will also welcome some non-Indigenous students, including international students, from First Nations communities in other parts of the world.