Indigenous scholars head to world’s most prestigious universities

Monday, 14 April 2014

Two outstanding young scholars from the University of Newcastle have been awarded competitive Indigenous scholarships to continue their studies at Oxford and Cambridge – ranked among the world's most prestigious universities.

UONIndigenousScholars Nathan West, recipient of the Roberta Sykes Scholarship, will pursue postgraduate studies in social anthropology at either the University of Oxford or University of Cambridge. This is the second consecutive year this prestigious scholarship has been awarded to a University of Newcastle student; the 2013 scholarship was awarded to the University's Kathleen Jackson, now undertaking a PhD in African and African American Studies at Harvard University. 

Jessica Buck, recipient of a Charlie Perkins Scholarship and a James Fairfax Oxford Australia Scholarship, will commence postgraduate studies in Neuroscience at the University of Oxford. Two to three scholarships are awarded annually in memory of Charlie Perkins - Australia's first Indigenous man to graduate from a university. 

University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor, Professor Caroline McMillen, said the University of Newcastle was a sector leader in Australia for providing more opportunities for Indigenous people to enter and succeed in higher education. 

"The University's enrolments of Indigenous students are almost double the sector average. Our students study across all of the professions from medicine to law, and engineering to psychology, and UON also offers the most comprehensive range of Indigenous studies programs in the country," said Professor McMillen. 

"For more than 30 years, the University of Newcastle and The Wollotuka Institute has been leading the sector in Indigenous education, providing a world-class environment, drawing strength from culture, communities and past journeys. 

"As outstanding scholars in their disciplines, Mr West and Ms Buck have a valuable opportunity through these scholarships to develop their expertise and knowledge at two of the world's top universities." 

Ms Buck, whose undergraduate degree is in Biomedical Science, developed an interest in health and medicine from a young age after watching her grandmother suffer from breast cancer. 

"As a kid I always wanted to fix things. My favourite toys were not Barbies but bandages, and my poor brother was forced into slings and mummified on many an occasion," said Ms Buck. 

"As an Aboriginal woman, I chose to study at the University of Newcastle because of its strong record of leadership in supporting Indigenous students. Almost half the Indigenous doctors in Australia graduate from the University of Newcastle." 

Cross cultural interactions with Indigenous populations in Arnhem Land, Canada and South America were the driver for Mr West's entrée into social anthropology research. 

"While volunteering as a mentor in Arnhem Land and a remote part of Vancouver Island in Canada, I became interested in what occurs when different cultural lenses come together," said Mr West. 

A self-labelled 'mediocre high school student', Mr West said he had no aspirations for university study until he attended a University of Newcastle Open Day. 

"Tertiary study was something I had dismissed until I attended a University of Newcastle Open Day. From then, I wanted to make tertiary study a part of my future," said Mr West.

Indigenous Scholars


Nathan West, recipient of the 2014 Roberta Sykes Scholarship.  Read about his plans to influence a range of benefits for Indigenous Australia.

"During my senior years of high school, I vividly recall the personal feeling that a tertiary education was not something which would be within my reach, not particularly due to a lack of academic performance or drive, but more based around a sense of misplaced entitlement and bewilderment regarding what was available to me...Read more." 

Jessica Buck

Jessica Buck, recipient of the 2014 Charlie Perkins Scholarship and James Fairfax Oxford Australia Scholarship.  Read about her drive to close the Aboriginal health gap. 

"When I go to the doctors, I fill out a standard patient form.  I write down my name, address and phone number, then proceed to the medical history checklist.....I simply ticked the box to state that I am of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.  And with that one stroke of the pen, I just shaved 10 years off my life expectancy...Read more."

Kathleen Jackson, recipient of 2013 Roberta Sykes Scholarship and the Harvard Club of Australia.  Read about her experience at Harvard.    

The Wollotuka Institute

For more than 30 years, the University of Newcastle and The Wollotuka Institute has been leading the sector in Indigenous education, providing a world-class academic environment, drawing strength from culture, communities and past journeys.  With more Indigenous students than any other University in Australia - and with outcomes such as these - the University of Newcastle is truly a global leader in Indigenous education.

  • Jessica Sullivan
  • Phone: +612 4985 4171

Related news

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.