ATSIS and UQ CI create change for a brighter future

28 September 2018

Two of the world’s ancient cultures - Chinese and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, have joined hands in friendship to promote opportunities for students here at The University of Queensland.

During August of this year representatives from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (ATSIS) Unit, The Office of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Indigenous Engagement and the Confucius Institute at The University of Queensland (UQ CI) came together to celebrate the participation of two Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who recently returned from the UQ Research, Study and Experience Tour to China which was organised by the UQ’s Confucius Institute.

Key guests at the meeting included Professor Ping Chen, Director of UQ CI, Mr Shane Drahm, Director of the ATSIS Unit and Ms Rachel Crawford, Student Services Manager, ATSIS Unit.

The UQ Research, Study and Experience Tour is an annual program organised by UQ CI in collaboration with various faculties across UQ.

The four-week program is based at Tianjin University (TJU), one of the top 10 universities in China. Tour activities provide opportunities for participants to benefit from practical research experiences, develop a global view in their area of interest and grow a deeper understanding of the Chinese language and culture.

Mr Jade Yanner, who is currently enrolled in a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours), majoring in Mechatronics, and Mr Mason Rawling-Jones, also a student of Engineering at UQ, were awarded certificates of recognition for their completion of the four-week tour to China, which concluded in July. 

For Mr Yanner, who hails from the Atherton Tablelands region of Cairns in North Queensland, the experience has been transformational.

“The journey from my mob to China has been so incredible,” Jade said.

“It opened my eyes to the possibilities of further study in my chosen field as well as the opportunity to continue learning Chinese language and culture,”

“Without the support of the Confucius Institute at The University of Queensland and the ATSIS Unit  I would never have had the chance to be part of the study tour,” he added.

Beginning in June 2015, UQ CI, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Education) and the ATSIS Unit successfully collaborated to provide pathway opportunities for Indigenous students to undertake sponsored study as part of the UQ Research, Study and Experience Tour to Tianjin, China.

In that inaugural year Ms Michelle Heenan and Mr Mitchell McDermott, who studied toward a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) at the time, were selected by the ATSIS Unit to participate in the annual study tour.

Since that time, nine Indigenous Australian students have participated in this annual initiative.

"A brief recount of my time in China cannot even begin to describe the amazing time I have had," Michelle Heenan said.

In praising the China trip as a key positive towards his UQ studies, Mitchell McDermott said that “there are so many other experiences and stories and knowledges gained from this trip that can't be expressed. I only hope that the limited amount I have shared is enough to convince any enquiring students to pursue this opportunity, it truly was an experience of a lifetime."  

 “The UQ Research, Study and Experience Tour to China is one of around 50 programs and activities that we organize each year for UQ students, staff and the broader Queensland community, and has been very well received since it began in 2010,” Professor Ping Chen, UQ Confucius Institute Director said when commenting on the success of the program.

“It has been pleasure and an honour to work with Professor Frederick’s Office in supporting Jade’s and Mason’s participation on the tour this year, and we plan to contribute further to Indigenous education,” Professor Chen added.

“Professor Ping Chen and his colleagues have provided such a wonderful experience for our students. The magnitude of this opportunity is difficult to express in words, be it the value in the networking opportunities the students are exposed to or the acquisition of valuable knowledge and understanding of Chinese culture and language. I would like to congratulate the students for their outstanding contribution to the tour and similarly, thank the Confucius Institute at UQ for the opportunity they have afforded the students,” Mr Shane Drahm, Director of the ATSIS Unit said.

The next UQ Research, Study and Experience Tour to China will occur from 23rd June to 20th July, 2019. For more information about the tour, or if you are a student wishing to apply, please visit the UQ CI website at

The UQ CI strongly supports students of all backgrounds to broaden their international study experiences, particularly in relation to China. Programs such as the UQ Research, Study and Experience Tour to China are an integral part of the Institute’s commitment to The University of Queensland’s goal of becoming a globally connected university.