Aspen Foundation partners with University of Newcastle to launch a new scholarship for Indigenous students focused on Nursing and Social Work

Sarah Louise Aiken pictured with (L-R at the back) Prof Elizabeth Sullivan, Amelda Keys and Glenn Keys of the Aspen Foundation

A new scholarship at the University of Newcastle has been established by the Aspen Foundation to support Indigenous students in completing a degree in Nursing or Social Work. The scholarship provides a benefit of $5,000 each year for up to three years of study, with a total value of $15,000.

Mrs Amelda Keys, Chair of the Aspen Foundation, said: “The Aspen Foundation is committed to supporting the undertaking of life-changing healthcare through significantly reducing or eradicating key illnesses and diseases in remote Australian communities and to provide education for the sustainability of improved health practices.

“The Aspen Foundation aligns its support to initiatives such as scholarships, which will make a practical and immediate difference to the lives of people living in these remote and medically-challenged communities. We are committed to partnering with University of Newcastle, and others, to help close the gap in Indigenous health outcomes across Australia.”

The inaugural scholarship recipient is Ms Sarah Louise Aitken, a proud Dunghutti woman from Kempsey in New South Wales. Sarah is undertaking a Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Newcastle. The University of Newcastle funds all administration, staffing, marketing and communications for scholarships to ensure the entirety of the scholarship funds goes to the student.

Laureate Professor John Aitken, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Faculty of Health and Medicine, said: “Our University prides itself on a strong ethos of enabling access to education for people from diverse background, and this generous scholarship from the Aspen Foundation will help strengthen that. It will provide valuable support to the next generation of Indigenous health professionals and ensures the nursing workforce reflects the diversity of patients and community that it cares so capably for. 

“This significant financial commitment means so much for our students as they can concentrate on their academic and professional success, and we are grateful for the Aspen Foundation’s ongoing support.” 

The relationship between the Aspen Foundation and the University of Newcastle stretches back to the 1980s. Co-founders of Aspen Medical, the Canberra-based healthcare solutions provider, Glenn Keys AO and Dr Andrew Walker are Novocastrians, with Dr Walker having graduated from the university in 1986 with a Bachelor of Medicine degree. Between 2014 and 2018, the company established and funded the Chair of the Centre for Resources Health and Safety in conjunction with the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) at the University of Newcastle. The Centre focuses on interdisciplinary research to support health and safety in the resources industry, recognising the impact that workplace health and wellbeing determinants have on communities and economies more broadly.

This latest partnership builds on the Aspen Foundation’s mission to support Indigenous health initiatives including Take Heart and Malpa.  

By partnering with Take Heart and supporting the Take Heart Project, the Aspen Foundation is helping to bring awareness of Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) and Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) to health workers and Indigenous communities.

In 2014 the Aspen Foundation partnered with Malpa to deliver their Young Doctors Program in specific Indigenous communities. Young Doctors is a health leadership program that trains children to be health ambassadors in their communities.

The University of Newcastle is a recognised leader in equity and this year celebrated surpassing 100 Indigenous medicine graduates.