Dubbo, Optometry

I loved the five years I spent at Shalom – the experience was fantastic! Coming front he country I was nervous about moving to Sydney. Shalom made the transition so easy and I soon made great friends in college!

Shalom Gamarada Scholarship Program

“This program is a strong and eloquent contribution to our journey of reconciliation.”

- Her Excellency, Professor Marie Bashir AD CVO, Former Governor of New South Wales, Program Patron.

The Shalom Gamarada Scholarship Program offers residence at Shalom College to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students studying at UNSW. The program runs in partnership with: the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation;  UNSW’s Nura Gili Indigenous Programs Unit and the Muru Marri Indigenous Health Unit.

 Shalom College @ UNSW 1st Gamarada Doctor

Shalom College Head Dr Hilton Immerman and

Dr Beth Kervin, Shalom Gamarada's First Doctor
        Page Highlights

Walking Together Interview Video
Scholarship Graduate Profiles

The program's name comes from the term Gamarada ngiyani yana in the Eora language (the coastal Aboriginal people of Sydney) and is translated as "We walk together as friends."

The premise behind the scholarship is to make a future contribution to address the state of Indigenous health, disadvantage and welfare in Australia.

Many Indigenous students find it difficult to succeed at university because they:

  • commonly come from disadvantaged educational and socio-economic backgrounds
  • often live far from campus and spend many hours each day travelling on public transport
  • generally have to find part-time work to help support themselves and;
  • are seldom part of a “learning community” with friends and family members who have been or are engaged in higher education.

The Shalom Gamarada Scholarship Program helps to alleviate these problems by providing financial support, eliminating travelling time and creating an environment conducive to learning through tutoring and counselling support.

Originally concentrating on medical and health science students, in 2011 the program expanded to include students studying other disciplines. 

“Our commitment must be to maximise the number of Indigenous doctors in the workforce and this wonderful initiative will make all the difference between an Aboriginal student who struggles to pass and one who progresses steadily through the program.” 

- Professor Richard Henry, Former Deputy Vice-Chancellor, UNSW 

Since the program's inception in 2005, it has assisted 67 students. There are currently 28 Indigenous students at Shalom College.

To date 13 students have graduated - 10 doctors, 1 Optometrist, 1 Social Worker and 1 Architect.

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Each scholarship covers full board and tutoring support at Shalom College.  Scholarship holders who comply with the conditions of the scholarship (which includes having to pass each year of their study) have tenure until they complete their degrees. 

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How to Apply

  • First, you will need to submit an application to the college using the online application form, and ensure all sections are completed. This includes arranging for the completion of 2 referees reports.
  • Notify both Shalom College and the Nura Gili Centre for Indigenous Programs at UNSW that you are interested in applying for a Shalom Gamarada Scholarship.
  • Submit an electronic copy of a 500 word essay to on the topic: "Why I believe I am a worthy candidate for the scholarship and how I plan to serve my community following graduation." Include a statement in which you indicate whether you receive or will be receiving Abstudy - and, if not, why not? [this is one way of establishing whether applicants to the scholarship are 'in financial need'.]

Please click here to view the selection criteria.

If you require any further clarification, please contact our accommodation officer on 9381 4000 or

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Walking Together

This video includes interviews with existing scholarship holders and graduates of the program.

Scholarship Graduate Profiles

Linda Kennedy is one of our more recent graduates from the program. She completed her architectural degree in December 2013.

Linda Kennedy is a Dharawal woman from Wollongong, NSW. She is currently enrolled in a Master of Architecture at the University of Melbourne, having completed her undergraduate degree at the University of New South Wales, while residing at Shalom College.

Linda now works in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning as a Research Assistant and is looking at ways in which the University can support more Indigenous students to study a Bachelor of Environments.

Linda’s most rewarding experiences at university include learning from her peers. “Indigenous cultures hold knowledge and systems which can influence and inspire the way that we design and live in the built environment.” She was a guest speaker for the Koori Heritage Trust on contextualising the William Barak Apartment Building - Indigenous Representation in Design and Architecture

Linda is also the Director of the IADV (Indigenous Architecture and Design Victoria) which aims to develop future Indigenous leaders in the design profession and to encourage the integration of Indigenous design thinking into professional practice.

Josef McDonald completed his 6 year medical degree in December 2011 and graduated with a further Masters of Public Health in 2015. He is also a Shalom Gamarada Trustee and an ambassador for the scholarship program.

He extols the virtues of the program: “The Shalom Gamarada Scholarship was a life-changing experience for me. The fact that I had a friendly and supportive home on campus with healthy meals, enabled me to do the job I had to do to pass my exams. The scholarship - without question - allowed me to achieve my dream of becoming a doctor."

Josef is a proud Awabakal man.  He works for the Hunter New England Area Health Service and has commenced his specialisation in psychiatry. He is committed to working in the area mental health, particularly as it affects Indigenous Australians.

"There is no substitute for Indigenous health professionals from the local community who are known and respected. The Scholarship provides Indigenous people with the opportunity for self-determination regarding their health outcomes."

Josef is the third graduate of the Shalom Gamarada residential scholarship program, which he sees as being crucial for his success. 
I lived at Shalom College for 5 years. It was a life-changing experience for me. I had time to study hard at uni, in a racism-free environment in which Indigenous students can live proudly. Without this scholarship it would have been impossible for me to study medicine as there is no way my family could afford for me to live in Sydney.”
For a personal account of his experiences at Shalom College, see Dr McDonald’s article in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Dr Josef McDonald - Shalom Gamarada graduate

Jenna Owen was the second graduate from our Shalom Gamarada Scholarship Program. She is the first Indigenous optometrist ever in NSW and completed the 5 year degree at UNSW with a distinction average. She practices in Port Macquarie and is serving some surrounding local Aboriginal communities. 

Jenna lived at the college for the 5 year duration of her degree. She grew up in Albert, a town in western NSW with a population of 11. She then moved to Dubbo for High School. She said:

“Being an Indigenous student from a rural area, it would have been impossible for me to study Optometry having to live so far away from home because of the financial stress of accommodation, living expenses and travel costs. The Shalom Gamarada Scholarship has made my dream a reality and enabled me to be the first member of my family to attend university. Receiving the Shalom Gamarada Scholarship, and living here in Shalom College, has been an amazing experience for me. The cultural adjustment to studying and living in the city has been made smoother through the support I have had from friends at Shalom College.”

She is also a gifted golfer with a handicap of 4! 

Jenna Owen - Shalom Gamarada graduate

Dr Beth Kervin was Shalom Gamarada's first graduate in 2009.  

Dr Beth Kervin was our first graduate in 2009.  Beth is from Horningsea Park, NSW and lived in the college for 3 years as a Shalom Gamarada scholarship holder. She began her career at Liverpool Hospital in 2010. She is now a mother of two, and works as a GP on the NSW central coast. She has been recognised for her expertise with small children and understanding of mothers with young kids, which goes to the heart of her focus on paediatrics while studying. Her comments on graduation reflected her commitment to her role. “I want to work with, and give back to, my community. I’m committed to contributing to improving the health of Indigenous people in this country. I would also like to be a role model for other Indigenous people considering studying medicine.”

"The scholarship meant that I no longer had to travel for 4 hours a day to attend my classes, and was able to commit more time to my demanding studies. The Shalom Gamarada Scholarship allowed me to turn the dream into a reality."

She was inspired to become a doctor by her uncle and aunt who are both nurses. Beth believes that having a supportive network and Indigenous role models are key to increasing the numbers of Indigenous doctors.

Beth commented: I am an Aboriginal woman from outside of Liverpool, and my people are from Guyra. I recently graduated as a doctor and am working at Liverpool Hospital. In future, I hope to specialise in paediatrics and to work with, and give back to, my community. I’m committed to contributing to improving the health of Indigenous people in this country. I would also like to be a role model for other Indigenous people considering studying medicine.

Beth Kervin - Shalom Gamarada graduate

Scholarship Providers, Sponsors and Major Donors 

The program supports 21 students on scholarship, together with a further 9 fee paying Indigenous students. This is due to the invaluable support of our sponsors, who we are proud to list below. 

  • Medicines Australia - two scholarships
  • Gonski Family Foundation Scholarships – two scholarships
  • Alan Joffe Syndicate Scholarship
  • All-in Family Giving Circle
  • Baker & McKenzie and Friends Scholarship
  • Bernard Hendel Memorial Scholarship
  • DSTO (Defence, Science and Technology Organisation) Scholarship
  • JCA Benevolent Scholarship Fund
  • Judge Bob Bellear Memorial Scholarship
  • Karen Loblay Scholarship
  • The Jaya Scholarship funded by Lekha Singh
  • Reuben Pelerman Benevolent Foundation Scholarship
  • The Ilona Lee AM Scholarship (Sponsored by the Shalom Gamarada Trust)
  • The Alan Joffe Scholarship (Sponsored by the Shalom Gamarada Trust)
The Australian Indigenous Education Foundation matches these scholarships plus those provided by the Shalom Gamarada Trust

Background and History

The premise behind the scholarship is to make a contribution to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

  1. The Governor of NSW, Prof Marie Bashir AV CVO, Patron of the program, described it as “one of the most visionary and inspirational initiatives in support of young Australians in which I have had the privilege to be involved” and wrote, “We can declare with confidence – and gratitude – that the program is not only an investment in each of the young Australian beneficiaries, but a most valuable investment in our nation Australia.” 
  2. The program began in 2005 with 1 Aboriginal student of Medicine at the University of NSW on a scholarship to reside and be supported by Shalom College, a residential college on campus. 
  3. It has grown exponentially. To date, a total of 64 students have been assisted and, this year, there are 26 Indigenous Shalom Gamarada scholarship students studying for a variety of degrees – mainly Medicine and Law - at UNSW. 
  4. So far, there have been 6 graduates 
    • Dr Beth Kervin – 2009 - Medicine 
    • Jenna Owen – 2010 - Optometry 
    • Dr Josef McDonald – 2011 – Medicine 
    • Dr Andrew Julian – 2013 - Medicine 
    • Aaron Collins – 2013 - Social Work 
    • Linda Kennedy – 2013 – Architecture 
  5. In recent years the students in the program have achieved a 90% pass rate. This is a remarkable success - higher than that for non-Indigenous Australian students studying difficult, ‘long-haul’ courses like Medicine and Law. 
  6. 25 Indigenous scholarship holders completed the 2013 end of year examinations. 23 of them passed the year – many with credits and distinctions – thus making the pass rate 92%. This is a remarkable achievement, given the fact that most of the students come from seriously disadvantaged backgrounds. 
  7. Professor Jackson Pulver AM, Chair Indigenous Health at UNSW said, “We have not had one single student drop out because of having to work to support themselves or because of the lack of accommodation since this program began. Today, UNSW has one of the best retention rates of Aboriginal students in the country. Shalom Gamarada has allowed us to provide appropriate on-campus accommodation and meals to students in a city which is arguably the most expensive in the country.” 
  8. The program won the prestigious LIME (Medical Deans of Australian and New Zealand Universities) award as a model of best practice in the recruitment and retention of Aboriginal medical students. The LIME Network is a Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand Project and is supported by the Australian Government. The Shalom Gamarada Scholarship Program won the Award for "Leading innovation in Indigenous Student Recruitment, Support and Graduation".
  9. Shalom College at UNSW is the first Higher Education organisation to partner with the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation in 2010 – which means that every donated scholarship results in two – as each is ‘matched’ by the AIEF. 
  10. David Gonski AC (Chancellor of the University of NSW; Chairman of Investec Bank, Coca-Cola Amatil, the Guardians of the Future Fund, the Sydney Theatre Company, etc.; Patron of the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation) is a great supporter of the program – both through his role as Chancellor and in a personal capacity as his family foundation provides two Shalom Gamarada scholarships.

Shalom Gamarada Scholarships and Donations

For additional information about scholarships please contact:

Dr. Hilton Immerman OAM
Phone (02) 93814000 or email:

In order to make a financial donation:

Please call us on (02) 9381 4000; or

Direct deposits can be made to the following bank account:

Shalom Gamarada P/L
BSB: 012 303
Account: 4821 16072

Alternatively you may mail a cheque to:

The Shalom Gamarada Scholarship Program
Shalom College
University of NSW, Sydney
NSW 2052

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