Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are supported in higher education with programs and funding to increase participation and help Close the Gap. Discover what programs and policies are in place, and how they are being implemented.

Delivering program and policies

The policy lead on higher education, including Indigenous higher education, is The Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA), under the Minister for Indigenous Australians, works closely with a number of bodies to ensure that Indigenous programs and services are delivering for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as intended. This includes working with:

  • State and Territory governments
  • Indigenous peak bodies
  • Stakeholders and service providers

For more information about NIAA’s programs to support Indigenous higher education, please visit the National Indigenous Australians Agency website.

More opportunities for indigenous students

On 19 June 2020, the Minister for Education, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, announced Job‑ready Graduates package.

The package includes a number of these measures in response to the National Regional, Rural and Remote Tertiary Education Strategy (The Napthine Review) 2019 that will benefit Indigenous higher education students.

A guaranteed place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from regional Australia

Under the Job‑ready Graduates package, the Australian Government will provide $17.1 million over 4 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. They must be 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.

In 2021, an additional 160 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from regional and remote areas will benefit, rising to over 1,700 students by 2024.

Read more about demand-driven funding for Indigenous students from regional and remote areas.

Indigenous, Regional and Low SES Attainment Fund (IRLSAF)

The IRLSAF will fund universities to support Indigenous students and students from low socio-economic (SES), regional and remote backgrounds. The IRLSAF combines existing programs, including:

Funding for these programs will be distributed according to current policy until 2023. During this time the Australian Government will work with universities to develop a funding model that allows universities to use their funding more flexibly to best serve the needs of their local communities.

Reform of equity funding

From 2021, the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) will be reformed to ensure that regional and remote students will receive greater support in accessing and succeeding in higher education.

For the first time, Indigenous, regional and remote students will be recognised as key target groups in the distribution of access and equity funding through the HEPPP. The formula for distributing funding, which rewards university performance in meeting the needs of key groups of students, will balance the barriers to education faced by low SES (socio-economic status), Indigenous, and regional and remote students.

A new Regional Partnerships Project Pool will provide $7.1 million over four years to support outreach activities that increase the aspiration of school students in regional Australia to attend university.

Closing the Gap

The new National Agreement on Closing the Gap includes a target to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are supported to participate and succeed in higher education.

By 2031, the target aims to 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.

An implementation plan is currently being developed, in consultation with: