One crucial initiative combines forces with the University of New South Wales in providing a scholarship to an Indigenous student at the UNSW Australia Business School.
“This scholarship is our way of encouraging and supporting Indigenous Australians at university,” says David Epstein, Group Executive Government and Corporate Affairs at Qantas. “Education is a good foundation for young aboriginal students who want to step up in their careers and move into fulfilling, well paid jobs.”
The scholarship, valued at $60,000 over three years, is not a random idea but forms part of a broad range of opportunities provided by Qantas to Indigenous Australians. The national carrier is now regarded as a corporate leader in the implementation of a Reconciliation Action Plan that identifies a number of key strategies aimed at closing the gap between Aboriginal/Torres Straight Islanders and the rest of the population.
“We know that reconciliation will continue to need hard work and good will and we are ready for the challenges,” says Qantas’s Chief Executive Officer, Alan Joyce. “For Qantas, the Reconciliation Action Plan has proved an outstanding vehicle for change, for learning, for achievement, and for optimism about the future of our country.”
The UNSW Indigenous scholarship is all about the future. It is one essential in a $1 million package of donations made by Qantas to various university projects and is now in its eighth year.
“Qantas values its relationship with the University of NSW and the range of opportunities this provides. This scholarship helps young Indigenous students to reach their full potential and fulfil their educational aspirations at one of the country’s premier educational institutions,” David Epstein continues.
Over time, reviews have been undertaken and amendments have been made to the scholarships, so lessons have been learned. Today’s merit-based Indigenous scholarship supports one student for the life of their degree but it goes one step further in offering the opportunity of work experience at Qantas.
“We want to alleviate some of the difficulties for Indigenous students by giving them financial support at university and then giving them a taste of what it’s like in the workforce. Ideally, we’d like to encourage these students to work for Qantas when they come to choose their careers,” Epstein said.
Qantas now has over 300 Indigenous Australians working in corporate areas or as cabin crew, customer service and baggage handlers. With a bit of luck, the UNSW graduates will join this diverse team as Qantas ambassadors, helping to broaden the Indigenous workforce across the company and over the horizon.