Sarah Bourke and Tjabal Centre Director Ann Martin. Photo by Stuart Hay.

Sarah Bourke and Tjabal Centre Director Ann Martin. Photo by Stuart Hay.

Supporting the academic journey

Breaking down the cultural barriers to university has been at the heart of the Tjabal Centre since one man's passion created it, as AARON WALKER explains.

Starting university can be a big cultural shift. Students are in unfamiliar environments and differences in cultural norms can increase the uncertainty.

That shift was hard for Sarah Bourke, BA (Hons) '13, BSc (Psych) '13. Moving to ANU was the first time she lived as an Indigenous adult in a largely non-Indigenous social space. Luckily, she found help and support in a tiny corner of the campus.

"As a young Indigenous person, going to university is a big deal," she says.

"Having contact with professional, experienced and culturally aware Indigenous people at the Tjabal Indigenous Higher Education Centre was so important for me in developing my identity as an Indigenous person."

Bourke is currently studying for her PhD at the University of Oxford but her studies are all related to her home city.

"My PhD in anthropology examines the social factors which impact on health, wellbeing and bodyweight for Indigenous Australians in Canberra," she says.

"As a Canberra local, I wanted to have a positive influence on my community and believe undertaking this research is one way in which I can do this.