Identifying success factors of outreach camps

2 November 2020

Connections, student ambassadors, and discipline-specific experiences balanced with cultural activities are key factors driving the success of outreach camps for Indigenous students.

Also recommended are building further Indigenous perspectives into hands-on camp activities, strengthening post-camp engagement, and embedding more evaluation processes.

At an Advisory Group (L-R): Professor Tracey Bunda, Dr Katelyn Barney, Hayley Williams.

That’s according to a preliminary findings ‘snapshot’ by a University of Queensland researcher who has been conducting a National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education Equity Fellowship.

NCSEHE Equity Fellow Dr Katelyn Barney is working with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisory group which includes her UQ colleagues, Professor Bronwyn Fredericks and Professor Tracey Bunda, as well as UQ PhD student and Research Assistant Hayley Williams.

They aim to contribute to stronger evaluation of Indigenous student-focused outreach programs, to increase pathways for Indigenous students into universities.

Dr Barney has drawn on interviews with Indigenous university students, outreach staff, caregivers/parents, and a national survey of Indigenous students who participated in outreach activities while at school, to better understand ‘what constitutes success’ and how and why camp initiatives are successful.

She says camp participants have great experiences but the ‘greatest impact’ was often meeting other like-minded Indigenous school students “with dreams and goals like theirs to attend university”.

“One interviewee described it as being ‘like a family’; she was also inspired by the Indigenous university students who were mentors and ambassadors at the camp, many of whom had attended a similar or the same camp.

“The camp demonstrated that going to university could be a reality, not a dream.”

Dr Barney says most universities run camps for Indigenous school students and the case for these initiatives is strong.

“There is plenty of evidence about the barriers Indigenous students face in entering university.

“These programs share many similarities: a variety of information sessions, workshops and events, all aimed at demystifying university culture and, hopefully, resulting in seeing those students enrol and attend university.

“Students talk about the importance of meeting ‘like-minded’ Indigenous students and realising they are not alone in their experiences and goals.

“They report keeping in touch with this network afterwards, many continuing to friendships on campus.

“Ambassadors also play an important role in demystifying university and demonstrating how, as Indigenous students, they navigate, survive and thrive at university.

“Students speak with excitement about getting the opportunity to participate in hands-on physics experiences, visiting labs and participating in other learning activities. But they highlight, as equally important, the opportunities for cultural activities, such as yarning sessions about cultural identity.

“Many students noted that they would have liked more contact with outreach staff post-camp.  This would strengthen a focus on the ‘whole-of-student-life-cycle’ approach supporting the student through school, into university, and beyond.

“This could be achieved with further phone calls after the camp, and even possibly bringing the group together again, via online or face-to-face if possible, to maintain the relationship and connection.

“Many students attended multiple camps, either returning to the same camp twice, or doing numerous different camps over their high school years.

“Their stories emphasise that camps are part of an important suite of outreach activities Indigenous students can participate in which can help lead them on their pathways to university.”

To read more about Katelyn’s project and the other NCSEHE Equity Fellows’ research please visit .