Koori degree axed

Issue 

By Angela Luvera

WOLLONGONG — In a move that has angered local elders, students and many other people, the Wollongong University administration has axed the bachelor of health science in indigenous health course.

The bachelor of health science in indigenous health was created in response to requests from the Tharawal Aboriginal community for more education for Aboriginal health workers in Campbelltown in 1995. The degree is unique in Australia, with some students flying from interstate to attend.

The course is structured into weekend blocks to accommodate full-time Aboriginal health workers. The majority of lecturers and tutors work voluntarily.

Students were initially enrolled in the course for 1999, but as a result of faculty restructuring they were then funnelled into the bachelor of science degree. The university intends to phase out the subjects in the indigenous health degree, thereby erasing the Aboriginal course content.

These changes mean that the majority of students in the course may not be able to complete their degree because they are not able to attend classes several times a week all semester.

The reason given by the administration for cutting the course was insufficient full-time enrolments. It said there have been only four full-time enrolments since 1995, yet students point out that there were 13 full-time enrolments in 1999 alone.

"The course is growing, despite the lack of marketing and promotion, but the university doesn't want to fund another course that won't make it money", said Nadine Torney, a student enrolled in the course and the campaign to save it.

The amount of funding universities receive is based on the number of full-time students, and since this course was designed to allow part-time weekend study, it is unlikely to attract a large number of full-time students.

Students at Wollongong University have launched a letter writing campaign focused on the university vice-chancellor, Gerard Sutton, and the NSW minister for Aboriginal affairs, Colin Markham. More than 1000 letters have been sent so far.