Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education

The Australian Government seeks to ensure that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have the desire and capability to participate in higher education are able to do so and are supported to succeed.

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment is the policy lead on higher education, including Indigenous higher education. The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA), under the  Minister for Indigenous Australians, works closely with State and Territory governments, Indigenous peak bodies, stakeholders and service providers to ensure that Indigenous programs and services are delivering for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as intended. For more information about NIAA’s programs to support Indigenous higher education, please visit the National Indigenous Australians Agency website.

More opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students

On 19 June 2020 the Minister for Education, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, announced the Job‑ready Graduates package. A number of these measures were in response to the National Regional, Rural and Remote Tertiary Education Strategy (The Napthine Review) 2019. 

Under the package, the Australian Government will provide $17.1 million over four years to enable Indigenous students from regional and remote areas to access demand-driven Commonwealth-supported university places. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who live in regional and remote Australia are guaranteed a Commonwealth supported place at a university of their choice, where they are accepted by the university into their chosen course of study. An eligible university place is a non-designated, bachelor level course at an Australian public university. For more information, on demand-driven funding for Indigenous students from regional and remote areas please see More opportunities for regional students: a guaranteed place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from regional Australia FAQ.  

The Job-ready Graduates Package introduces a new Indigenous, Regional and Low SES Attainment Fund (IRLSAF) from 2021. The IRLSAF will fund universities to support Indigenous students and students from low socio-economic (SES), regional and remote backgrounds. The IRLSAF realigns existing funding by combining the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP), regional loading and enabling loading. Funding for these programs will be distributed according to current policy until 2023.

For more information on the IRLSAF please visit Better University funding arrangements: more transparent and accountable funding FAQ.

National Agreement on Closing the Gap

The new National Agreement on Closing the Gap was released by the Prime Minister on Thursday, 30 July 2020 and is publicly available at https://www.closingthegap.gov.au/sites/default/files/files/national-agreement-ctg.pdf

The National Agreement was developed in partnership between the Commonwealth, the Coalition of the Peaks, State and Territory governments and the Australian Local Government Association. It includes a target to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students reach their full potential through further education pathways.

By 2031, increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 25-34 years who have completed a tertiary qualification (Certificate III and above) to 70 per cent.

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment is working with the NIAA to develop an implementation plan.

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium (NATSIHEC)

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment works closely with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium (NATSIHEC) to advance the outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in higher education. The Department of Education and Training commissioned the report Accelerating Indigenous Higher Education in 2018, under the HEPPP National Priorities Pool. The aim of the report was to determine the most effective reform strategies in three priority areas:

  • Indigenous student participation and outcomes in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
  • Increasing the numbers and capacity of the Indigenous academic workforce.
  • Whole-of-university approaches to improving Indigenous higher education outcomes.

The department is working closely with NATSIHEC to progress priorities in this policy agenda. Additionally, the NATSIHEC provides advice on issues concerning Indigenous students and communities under the Napthine Review (2019), the HEPPP and the National Agreement on Closing the Gap (2020).