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DARE (Dream Aspire Reach Experience)

DARE focuses on building the aspirations of Indigenous students through face-to-face mentoring and engagement with parents, teachers and Indigenous communities


The University of Southern Queensland’s DARE (Dream Aspire Reach Experience) Program aims to address the barriers related to participation in education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The curriculum-based program focuses on building the aspirations of students through face-to- face mentoring and engagement with parents, teachers and Indigenous communities. DARE engages with a variety of stakeholders to develop partnerships aimed at supporting school attendance and completion rates and raising students’ awareness of further education opportunities beyond the school gates. The importance of a holistic approach underpinned by Indigenous protocols and knowledge is integral in approaching school engagement, building rapport and trust.

Features of the program include:

  • Year 10 secondary school students targeted to coincide with Senior Education and Training Planning
  • 16 week program conducted in group settings within schools
  • Indigenous and non-Indigenous undergraduate university students, Indigenous elders, Indigenous community leaders, business owners, health service employees, Community Education Counsellors, Queensland Police Officers and Indigenous Liaison Officers engaged as mentors
  • Cross-cultural awareness training and ongoing support for mentors
  • Cultural understanding, historical awareness and self-identity development incorporated to benefit both mentees and mentors
  • DARE Traditional Indigenous Games School Competition
  • DARE Leadership Camp involving guest speakers, leadership and motivation workshops, team building, and cultural experiences, and
  • DARE Awards Ceremony to celebrate participation, academic and attendance achievements.

The program aims to:

  1. raise the aspirations of Indigenous students to higher education
  2. improve secondary school attendance and completion rates of Indigenous students
  3. improve English literacy and numeracy skills of Indigenous students
  4. promote healthy and positive lifestyles for Indigenous students to improve their participation in education
  5. promote and foster cultural respect and understanding, and
  6. bridge the gap between schools, communities and universities.

HEPPP Funding
The program is partially HEPPP-funded, supporting leadership camps, traditional game days, and awards evenings. In-kind support from the University of Southern Queensland allows the program to run in 15 secondary schools, with sponsorship from Arrow Energy allowing the provision of scholarships and extension of the program to a further two schools.

Success of the program is judged based on school participation, secondary student enrolment patterns and attendance rates, academic improvement records from schools, surveys, focus groups and reflective journals. Early indications are positive:

  • 10 secondary schools engaged in 2012, increasing to 15 in 2013
  • 25 undergraduate students volunteered as mentors in 2012, increasing to 56 undergraduates and community members acting as mentors in 2013
  • 405 secondary school students engaged in 2013
  • improved attendance rates, engagement and completion rates
  • increased Indigenous Higher Education Pathways Program enrolments at the University of Southern Queensland from DARE engagement initiatives.

The Future
The program is now in its second year of operation, and its impact on the tertiary aspirations and success rates of Indigenous students is only beginning to be seen. Given the program’s success and support from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, plans are underway to continue its expansion across the university’s three campuses from 2014.

Illustration of three circles, each labelled as either outreach, access, or support, with the outreach and access circles filled with colour

This case study is one of a series of 39 presented in our case study publication, Access and Participation in Higher Education: Outreach – Access – Support.


Posted 7 January 2014 Posted in General, Indigenous