Meet Ethan: First Nations student and Bachelor of Arts graduate

For Kaantju, Girrumay and Badu man and Bachelor of Arts graduate, Ethan Savage, the decision to study at UniMelb went beyond knowledge and career opportunities. It was the chance to find a new home in a new city, meet lifelong friends and connect to his First Nations heritage.

The road to Melbourne

Born in far north Queensland, Ethan’s family moved to Canberra where he completed high school, at a school with few First Nations students. The discovery that UniMelb and Murrup Barak, the Melbourne Institute for Indigenous Development, would support him to build  connections within the First Nations’ community was unexpected and exciting.

“Murrup Barak and UniMelb really appealed because I knew that they helped to facilitate connections with other First Nations students; if I wanted to engage with the First Nations community I could,” says Ethan. “[Once starting university at Melbourne,] I did go ahead and really embed myself within the community.”

UniMelb wasn’t exactly where Ethan first saw himself going after finishing high school. In fact, he hadn’t even considered it, until he decided to attend the Murrup Barak, Experience camp.

“The Experience camp was in Melbourne, which was an exciting destination as a whole,” says Ethan.

“Canberra can feel like country living. I was looking for a bit more excitement, more things to experience and more opportunity.”

Life as an Arts student

As an undergraduate student at Melbourne, Ethan lived on campus at Queens College, “I really enjoyed living at a college. It is wild. It is great fun.” says Ethan. “I participated in a lot of extracurricular activities and all those kinds of things were a great opportunity to expand my views and meet people I wouldn’t have met otherwise.”

“Moving from interstate, I needed that extra support, and college provided a stepping-stone.”

While at Queens College, Ethan joined event committees and took on the role of Residential Advisor to support fellow college students as they adjusted to studying and living on campus.

He was also an active member of Murrup Barak, which gave him the chance to build stronger ties to a First Nations community that became like a second family.

“Murrup Barak created a family for me at university, especially moving away from my mum and brother,” says Ethan.

“They are very supportive and place a strong emphasis on providing a nice, safe environment where you could interact with other First Nations people. [You can] learn about yourself and your own heritage, as well as other First Nations cultures by meeting people that you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to meet.”

Life beyond uni

Ethan graduated from UniMelb with a Bachelor of Arts, double majoring in Politics and International Relations and Anthropology.

“When I came to university, I always wanted to study politics. I always had an interest in politics - whether it was within Australia or international relations. I had an interest in the way the world works and how politics effects my own life and the lives of people that I know,” says Ethan.

“Anthropology is a good complement to politics, looking at social groups and different cultures.”

Today, he is a Graduate Communications Officer at the Australian Communications and Media Authority – a role he first heard about through Murrup Barak.

Working in communications, Ethan’s daily work life includes writing, editing, proof reading and implementing social media strategy.

“I’m definitely enjoying what I’m doing now. It has challenged me in different ways to university,” says Ethan.

So, what’s next for Ethan? “I guess as a young person, we’re tipped to have many careers in our lives, so I’m just going to take it as it comes. What interests me at the time is kind of what I’ll follow.”

And what hot tips does he have for first year students?

“My advice would be to do what you’re interested in, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and have fun while you’re doing it.”


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