History in the making

VU Arts graduate Olivia Slater (Yamatji/Noongar) is making history as the first Indigenous Australian woman to undertake a PhD at Cambridge University.

“At 15 I left high school, and subsequently left home, and started working. I later left my home town of Perth and moved to Sydney, then Melbourne, and worked in a series of Indigenous-related roles at organisations including the ABC and Koorie Heritage Trust.

I realised Indigenous studies were my passion and found VU’s Bachelor of Arts (Kyinandoo) degree to be a great fit, despite having a young child and returning to the classroom at the age of 28.

VU’s culture of equitable education allowed me to thrive. As part of my degree, I connected with Melbourne’s western suburbs Aboriginal community and worked as Indigenous program producer at Footscray Community Arts Centre. I also travelled to the US to visit with First Nations groups and learned about Native American sites of resistance.

After completing my honours degree at VU, I was one of three Indigenous Australians awarded the 2016 Charlie Perkins Trust Scholarship. My scholarship enabled me to accept my offer at Cambridge University (UK), where I moved with my two children and husband to complete my Masters degree in Social Anthropology.

In 2017 my academic dreams were realised when I applied for and was accepted into a PhD program at Cambridge – exploring impacts of Indigenous Australian theatre in secondary schools.

I hope my work will help inform and develop future curriculums, set better outcomes and help students to have a critical eye.

I can’t imagine what my life would look like now if I hadn’t studied at VU – I’d probably still be working and raising my children, waiting for the perfect moment to study.”

Course studied

Bachelor of Arts

Read about VU’s courses and units with an Indigenous focus.

Find out more about VU’s Moondani Balluk Indigenous Academic Unit.