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Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Indigenous Student Success Program

Today’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university students are the leaders of tomorrow. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university graduates go on to professional or academic careers, making important contributions to communities, families and the knowledge of our country.

The Indigenous Student Success Program (ISSP) commenced on 1 January 2017 and provides supplementary funding to universities to help students take on the demands of university and succeed. Universities can offer scholarships, tutorial assistance, mentoring, safe cultural spaces and other personal support services. The flexibility of the ISSP assists universities to tailor their services to match student needs.

ISSP funding is particularly prioritised towards the support of Indigenous students who are financially disadvantaged and/or from remote and regional areas.

Universities receive ISSP funding based on enrolments, unit success rates and course completions of Indigenous students. A special loading also recognises the additional costs associated with assisting Indigenous students from regional and remote areas.


Applications for new ISSP scholarships should be directed to the Scholarships Office or Indigenous Higher Education Units at the institution where the student intends to study. Any application for a new scholarship must include information on any other scholarship or financial assistance potentially or already received.

Higher education providers are expected to advise eligible students of their scholarship value, duration and method of payment prior to the start of semester. Other Government support such as the Centrelink Residential Cost Option, Relocation Scholarships or Student Start-up Loans may impact ISSP eligibility. Providers are expected to advise students where eligibility may be impacted. Late or incomplete student applications may lead to delays in scholarship advice or payment.

Providers must record the offer and award of ISSP scholarships in the Higher Education Information Management System.

Students who were in receipt of an Indigenous Commonwealth Scholarship in 2016 or earlier may be eligible to receive a Preserved ISSP Scholarship under transitional ISSP arrangements.


General information on 2019 ISSP reporting - DOCX | PDF

Information on 2019 performance reporting due 1 May 2020 - DOCX | PDF

Information on the 2019 financial acquittal due 1 May 2020 - DOCX | PDF

2018 ISSP post-implementation review

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet conducted a post‑implementation review of the ISSP during 2018 to ensure the program was operating effectively. The review included consultations with education stakeholders and an independent Health Check conducted by KPMG.

The Department released a discussion paper outlining the key features of the program. Stakeholders and peak bodies participated in teleconferences and face-to-face meetings. There were 38 written submissions received. The discussions and submissions, along with recommendations from the KPMG Health Check, were very informative.

There was wide ranging support for the ISSP reforms and the new flexibilities introduced by the program.

Stakeholders and KPMG both supported the development of a handbook to assist education providers administer the ISSP. The creation of the handbook will be progressed in 2019 in consultation with education providers.

In response to KPMG findings, the Department will also document risk management strategies consistent with the Department’s existing framework.

In response to issues raised by some stakeholders, the reporting arrangements will be made clearer for education providers.

A number of improvements have already been made to the program guidelines following the review including:

  • Clearer provision for the treatment of education providers that leave the program and those   which join.
  • An ongoing requirement for  education providers to show that the value of scholarships offered to Indigenous students from remote and regional areas remains at a level that is  at least 95% of the value offered to those students during the previous year. This ensures providers maintain support for students from remote and regional areas. It has been made clear that that the offer requirement can include new offers as well as honouring previous commitments.
  • Strengthened ‘working with vulnerable people’ requirements.
  • A new requirement from 2020 that at least two Indigenous Australians to be involved in each provider’s Indigenous governance arrangements. This aims to enhance the involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in decision making regarding ISSP.
  • A new provision that the Minister may agree to “stretch” Indigenous employment targets to higher than 3% for individual providers who have, or are about to, achieve the baseline 3% Indigenous employment target.
  • From 2020, an extension of the requirement for a provider to outline its strategies to recruit or develop suitably qualified Indigenous Australians at the Pro Vice-Chancellor or Deputy Vice‑Chancellor level to also include the Vice-Chancellor level. This aims to encourage providers to build on recruitment and staff development strategies with a vision for more Indigenous Australians in the most senior university positions.

More information on the review feedback and outcomes is in the Outcomes – Post-Implementation Review paper.

The Minister and the Department thank the many people and organisations that offered advice and ideas to improving the way ISSP is administered.

More Information

The Indigenous Student Success Program is administered under Part 2-2A of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 and the Indigenous Student Assistance Grants Guidelines 2017. Each Principal and Amendment to the guidelines has an explanatory statement available to assist interpret the guidelines.

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