New program supports Indigenous high school achievers

Friday, 26 May 2017

The University of Adelaide will today launch a new program for Indigenous high school students aimed at helping them achieve academic success in Year 12 and go on to study at university.

Launched on the eve of Reconciliation Week, the new Karnkanthi Indigenous Education Program, the first of its kind in Australia, has been developed for high-achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in Years 11 and 12/13. The program runs alongside existing high school curriculums and provides students with academic development, cultural knowledge and perspectives as well as building resilience to overcome life’s challenges and succeed.

Karnkanthi (pronounced ‘Garn-ganthi’) means ‘lifting up’ in Kaurna language.

“The Karnkanthi Indigenous Education Program is about ensuring young Indigenous people receive the preparation they need to thrive during their final years of high school, and see a clear pathway into university,” says Professor Shane Hearn, Dean of Indigenous Research and Education Strategy at the University of Adelaide.

“For many high-achieving Indigenous students, performance drops off in their senior years as everyday life becomes more challenging, they try to fit in with peers, they lose motivation, or because of society pressures and negative stereotyping,” says Professor Hearn.

“We want to highlight that there are a cohort of Indigenous students demonstrating excellence, who could be future PhD students, great school teachers, doctors, lawyers and strong community leaders.”

Students participating receive access to up to $26,000 in private tutoring, a $5,000 student development scholarship; individually tailored academic, personal and career development; a computer tablet; and financial support for travel and accommodation.

The program also works closely with families and communities of participants, to enhance their ability to keep students on track with their studies.

“In our communities a major influence in life are our parents. Therefore in the Karnkanthi program they will play a critical role to support success, encourage capability and protect against risk, so that students can reach their full academic potential.”

Another key feature is experiential learning and development – students are encouraged to participate in career-related experiences.

Hannah Brooks, 17, has taken part in a pilot of Karnkanthi earlier this year. Through the program Hannah was able to access an opportunity to go to Canberra to meet Ministers in Parliament. Hannah was one of 50 Indigenous students from across Australia chosen to go on the trip, where she was able to speak with politicians and meet young Indigenous people with similar career goals.

“It was great to meet Indigenous people who want to follow the same path as me and who strive to do well,” says Hannah, a member of the Wathaurong (from Geelong, Victoria) and Butchulla (Fraser Island – K’gari Queensland) communities.

Hannah joined the Karnkanthi pilot program after making the move from her high school to University Senior College.

Through the Karnkanthi program Hannah has been able to access tutoring support, which has had a big impact on her results and confidence.

“Since starting the program and University Senior College, my grades have lifted and I feel more prepared to take on University next year,” says Hannah.

Interim Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Mike Brooks says the program reinforces the University’s commitment to reconciliation.

“The establishment of this new Indigenous engagement and development program reaffirms the University’s commitment to supporting Indigenous students to meet their full potential,” says Professor Brooks.

“Indigenous enrolments have been steadily increasing at the University of Adelaide over the past decade, and we have a high retention rate of 78%.

“This new program will further support our commitment to lifting substantially our proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students over the coming years,” he says.

The Hon. Kyam Maher, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, says: “I applaud the University of Adelaide’s efforts to empower Indigenous people through education.

“Education transforms lives – it is key to employment, leadership in our community, health and wellbeing, all of which are important to our state’s strategic plan.

“If we can increase the number of students attending and completing University and moving into good jobs and careers, over time we can create generational change, and that will benefit individuals, communities and the state overall.”

For more information on the Karnkanthi Indigenous Education Program see:


Contact Details

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762

Kelly Brown
Communications Coordinator
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 (8) 8313 3943