Melissa Andrews-Wurramarrba: Australia's First 'Bush-Uni' Graduate

Melissa Andrews-Wurramarrba: Australia's First 'Bush-Uni' Graduate

Melissa Andrews-Wurramarrba, a 26-year-old Alawa woman from the remote community of Ngukurr in southeast Arnhem land, has recently become the first person from her community to graduate from university in 36 years! To Melissa, the idea of completing a bachelor's degree felt like a scene "out of a movie." (NITV. 2023)

Her journey to this achievement wasn't a walk in the park. After finishing high school, Melissa moved to Adelaide to pursue higher education. However, the transition was challenging, and she found herself struggling with tasks like essay writing and exam preparation. Without a support network, she decided to drop out after a year.

But life had other plans for her. Melissa was approached to teach and undertake a pre-university course at Wuyagiba Study Hub, a unique institution linked with Macquarie University in Sydney. Founded in 2018, Wuyagiba is one of the only 'bush universities' in Australia. It offers a two-way learning model that combines a mix of western and Indigenous curriculums for local Aboriginal students.

Melissa's time at Wuyagiba wasn't without its challenges. She had to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, language barriers, and personal losses, all while being away from home for long stretches. But her determination and the support from her family kept her going.

Her achievement has not only made her a source of pride for her community but has also inspired many. Melissa's success story has sparked conversations about the potential of bush universities in bridging the education gap in remote areas. Wuyagiba co-founder, Aunty Sue Pinckham, envisions the program expanding to other remote communities across Australia.

Today, Melissa is working in childhood education in her community and is considering pursuing a master's degree. She believes she's opened a door for young people in her community, stating, "I feel like I am the key to opening that door for young people to come to university and study and to become whatever they want to be in the future." (NITV. 2023)

Image credit: Youssef Saudie 

NITV. (2023). "This Ngukurr woman just became the country's first ‘bush uni’ graduate." Retrieved from