In Australia, only 1.9 per cent of university students enrolled in 2018 identified as Indigenous, according to the most recent figures from Universities Australia. And of them, only 47 per cent complete their degrees, compared to 74 per cent of non-Indigenous students.
Those figures are improving every year, but it's clear that more needs to be done to ensure First Nations Australians are given every possible opportunity to go to uni, and to obtain their qualification.
There are a multitude of hurdles that First Nations people face when going to university from language barriers, to discrimination to cultural differences obligations.
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But, in the Northern Territory, where around 30 per cent of the population is Indigenous, Charles Darwin University is on a mission to change the status quo, with a goal of becoming the most recognised university for Australian First Nations training, education and research.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor for First Nations Leadershi and Yuin/Wandandian and Ngarigo man, Professor Reuben Bolt, said there are a range of fundamental challenges potential Indigenous uni students face.
"If you look at the whole country, most First Nations students don't have an ATAR score to get into their chosen degree programs. It doesn't matter where it is. So that's just a constant," Professor Bolt said.
"The other key issue is the cohort of students that we support and service. So predominantly the CDU Indigenous student body is mature aged, I think the average is about 35 years old or years of age. We have about half that are in rural remote communities.So along with that brings a range of issues, such as connectivity, but there's also the literacy, the numeracy issue so the English literacy numeracy issues.
He said the first step to getting more Indigenous students in uni is making the pathway more accessible.
"I think that the first step is how do they get here, or how do they start to change the narrative around whether or not it's achievable," he said.
"When you have one or two people from the community, then a lot others see that it is achievable - that's what happened with me."
Katrina Dubbioso, Hayley Shields, Sekari Butler and Jamie Love are all First Nations students at CDU. They study across a range of disciplines and come from a range of backgrounds, and - although they face challenges - are helping to pave a way for a future where more First Nations students are going to and thriving at university.
Katrina Dubbioso has big plans, and a lot of them.
The Wirangu and Kokatha woman was born and raised in Adelaide, and her path to where she is now - studying accounting at Charles Darwin University - was long and winding.
After leaving a hospitality job in Darwin where she said staff were prejudiced against Indigenous customers, she found herself on the internet looking for a fresh start.
"I couldn't bring myself to work there again," she said.
"I ended up finding the Indigenous pathway course which was the Preparation to Tertiary Success [at CDU]," she said.
"It teaches you how to incorporate Indigenous knowledge into your uni studies, so you could be doing like, you could get a question about land management...or even business and you can make it about Indigenous land management or Indigenous businesses. I'm starting to learn about my own culture through uni."
She said that learning about her culture and maintaining a connection to it has been her saving grace through her toughest times.
"When I first started PTS. It was very hard, and my head was hurting, and I wanted to run," Ms Dubbioso said.
"[Connection to culture] gives me motivation, makes me feel good when I complete my assignments and stuff."
"I go hunting with my partner and stuff so I still try to do that in my spare time, so I'm lucky to have that otherwise, I don't know where I'd be. Now, I definitely would have given up."
"That changed my whole life...that's the reason why I'm still doing what I'm doing now," she said.
"People don't want to give us [Indigenous people] a go, people, people just judge us from, from people that drink alcohol and stuff which they don't understand intergenerational trauma.
"It goes way back and that's why the NT intervention is a big thing, that's what people don't realise. This [has] affected Aboriginal people here and Darwin in a big way and is still doing it."
After graduation, Ms Dubbioso has a dream of bringing her skills back to Adelaide, where she wants to open a cultural centre for Indigenous locals.
"A lot of people in Adelaide are really disconnected from their culture so they do drugs and alcohol and everything. They need somewhere where they can come if they're homeless or if they want to work or study," she said.
"And I want to do like a healing room in remembrance of the people that have committed suicide. I've had a couple people I know just in the last month commit suicide."
She also hopes to join the small pool of Indigenous accountants in Australia so she can provide a more culturally appropriate service for Indigenous clients.
Ms Dubbioso is very aware of the fact that what she is doing has further-reaching impacts than just herself.
"They're [her family] really proud of me. They always message me, people randomly, young ones. 'Oh, I feel like I can do it, because you're doing it!... That makes me feel really proud," she said.
"Yeah, I love being a role model."
When Hayley Shields was the same age as her teenage daughters, she never imagined she would end up starting a university degree in her 30's.
The Nyikina woman from the Kimberleys region left school early to enter the workforce and then raise her kids.
But, it wasn't long before she realised she wanted a new challenge.
"I thought I'd had enough of school. And I thought, 'I don't want to do this anymore'...[but] I just felt like I kept hitting a brick wall," Ms Shields said.
When her kids were a little bit older, she decided to do a course in conservation and land management, pursuing an interest in the environment that harked back to childhood weekends spent on her father's block in the Darwin rural area.
"He was very good at showing us how to respect the land and the animals and stuff on it too. So I do believe it started there. Because when I did the conservation and land management certificate, a lot of that sort of flowed back," she said.
"That was back in 2014 though, so I continued to raise my children, still keep working in jobs I wasn't satisfied with [then] I decided not to continue down that path."
Then in 2021, Ms Shields obtained her ATAR and began a Bachelor of Environmental Science at CDU.
The experience of studying at university hasn't been easy for Ms Shields, who said Indigenous students have extra barriers to overcome in the university environment.
"I think that the setting, like a uni environment setting, is a little bit scary at first. And the process to enrol is sometimes very tricky, navigating the website, things like that," she said.
"There's a lot of what they call 'shame job'. It's shame to go in and talk to somebody.
"The other hurdle is family. They're [Indigenous students] either travelling a long way from family or they've got family commitments. So for example, I look after my daughters, but I'm also obliged to care for my nieces and nephews as well from time to time."
But, Ms Shields soon realised that her connection to her Indigenous culture made her an asset to the world of western environmental management, with the two worlds often colliding.
"It's a good way to think, connect[ing] my culture with the western concept of environment. The two merged together quite a lot, which isn't something I've come across in many other jobs that I've previously held," she said.
"I think Aboriginal culture, having survived for many 1000s of years, shows that they're obviously doing something right. For example, fire management is a practice that's been around for all of those years, and now it's being recognized and implemented into other organisations."
Ms Shields hopes to be a role model for her daughters now, who are currently finishing their schooling, teaching them that they can do or be anything they put their minds to.
"They couldn't imagine why I would willingly go back to study when they're in the middle of it and can't wait for it to end," she said.
"But I said, you know, in time, in time you'll understand why."
Jagalingou and Bandjin woman Sekari Butler always knew she wanted to go to university, but never knew what she wanted to do.
After a few years of travelling and working odd jobs, she found herself in the world of criminal justice by way of a job at the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency in her hometown of Katherine.
It was here she realised that law was her calling.
"[I] had the opportunity to engage with a pathway to higher education throughout my employment with NAAJA by way of the Bilata Pre-Law Program," she said.
"From there I completed the pathway course and was offered a placement within Charles Darwin University at the Asia Pacific College of Business and Law, which I accepted."
She said her experience in the legal industry and as an Indigenous woman in the NT generally has shown her why it's so important to have people like her becoming lawyers.
"It is imperative to have our Indigenous population represented and identifiable within our professional society," she said.
"It grows inspiration for our future generations and a sense of trust for our community, to assist in building stronger foundations."
Ms Butler is now in her final year and looking forward to graduation. But she recognises how far she's come, including overcoming the challenge of finishing her first ever year of university as a remote student still living in Katherine.
"I started my degree as an external student studying remotely from Katherine and had to navigate my first year with limited resources, which was quite challenging at the time," she said.
"Moving to Darwin to complete my studies on campus was one of the best decisions I made to improve my quality of learning."
She said the support of her family and friends has been imperative to her success.
"Family support is important to striving forward and my family has been there for me although, my biggest supporter is my Mum who has been there from the start and seen me grow - she is proud of my achievements."
Throughout his career, Jamie Love has worked within Australia's justice system from just about every angle possible.
Starting his career in the Australian Defence Force at just 18, the Bundjalung and Yankunytjatjara man then went on to work in policing in drug operations in Sydney. Thereafter he was employed in areas including Mining and Exploration, Corrections and Aboriginal health and mental health organisations across the country.
His work has always been focussed on creating opportunities and improving outcomes for Aboriginal people, providing him with the kind of experience and perspective that many Australian industries are lacking.
"I've worked in many different industries, government departments and communities in pretty much every State and Territory in Australia," he said.
"Boredom and inertia can be quite destructive. I have worked with long term unemployed, the mentally ill and those with criminal histories over the past 30 years. Sitting around within their four walls at home is unhealthy and impacts on a person's own sense of self value.
"Tedium can be a terrible thing, I discovered that many consumed alcohol because it took away that sense of boredom."
"You really appreciate the situations and the real ruts that people can get themselves into. And I have been involved in developing models, to provide options and pathways out of those rules and back engaging albeit through work or education..."
After everything he had done, Mr Love said it was only logical for him to try his hand at law next.
"I found myself in the Northern Territory...and I decided that I really want to learn about the law. The window of opportunity presented itself so I decided to do it full time and just get it done."
Now in his final year and having done a number of placements in the industry, Mr Love acknowledges the university experience is not easy for a lot of Indigenous students, with retention of Indigenous students within the law faculty being a problem he has witnessed.
"There's always issues and barriers you come across being Aboriginal," he said. "There's still a lot of racism and stereotyping around."
He said it is vital that more Aboriginal people like him finish their law degrees and enter the industry, especially in the NT.
"It's just very important to reflect, especially the Northern Territory, the Aboriginal population numbers, in all areas including the legal profession ," he said.
"Statistically it's important to have more Aboriginal lawyers because we know, naturally, being Aboriginal we have greater insights and networks and understanding of the Aboriginal community, the protocols and dynamics at work as opposed to other people".
"It's important that they're [Indigenous clients] are able to see there are Aboriginal people represented in the legal profession."
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