Undertaking a medical degree is a large financial commitment. There are opportunities to get assistance or a scholarship to help pay for your university fees. A number of Indigenous fellowships and scholarships are available from government and private sources for Indigenous undergraduates, postgraduates and postdoctoral fellows for study within Australia or abroad. Things to consider when investigating scholarships are:

1. Type of scholarship

There are generally two categories of scholarships, those for equity and those for merit. Equity scholarships are awarded to people who have faced some form of disadvantage that has limited the opportunities available to them. Merit scholarships are awarded to the students who get the best grades. Most of the scholarships listed here are equity scholarships. However many scholarships use a combination of merit and equity criteria in selecting applicants.

Some scholarships are only available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other scholarships are available to all people who meet the criteria, including Indigenous Australians. Both are included here. Many Aboriginal people are awarded mainstream scholarships, so don’t be afraid to apply for them if you think you meet the criteria.

2. Scholarship value

Many scholarships are paid using the interest from an investment such as a trust fund. Instead of being a set at a particular amount of money, the scholarship may instead be awarded as a percentage of interest that the investment makes. Therefore, the amount of the scholarship may vary from one year to the next or from one period to the next, depending on the strength of the financial market. Alternatively, a scholarship paid using the interest on an investment may be a set at a particular amount. However the number of scholarships that can be awarded in any given period will be determined by how the investment performs.

3. Scholarship frequency

Some scholarships are not available every year – they are only awarded when tenure becomes available. This means that only one person (or a set number of people) can hold the scholarship at once. If the scholarship is awarded over a period of time (such as the duration of a course) then it won’t be awarded again until the person or people who are currently receiving the scholarship can no longer receive it (they graduate or are no longer eligible).

4. Scholarship applications

It’s important to be aware that some applications for some scholarships will need to be submitted the year before the scholarship is awarded, sometimes as early as July, especially if you are in year 12 and applying for a major scholarship as a commencing university student.

Some scholarship applications are made directly to your university, or to a private donor. Others, especially equity scholarships that are awarded in large numbers are administered through the major tertiary admission centres (UAC, QTAC, TISC, SATAC, and VTAC).

5. Citizenship requirements

For almost all scholarships listed in this document, you’ll need to be an Australian citizen or permanent resident. Almost all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be Australian citizens/permanent residents. If you think you might not be, you’ll need to read the eligibility criteria of any scholarships you are applying for very carefully, and ask if you’re unsure.

6. Continued eligibility

Almost all ongoing scholarships (scholarships that are not once-off payments), you will need to maintain continued enrolment and satisfactory progress. For most scholarships you’ll need to maintain a pass average. If you change the course you’re studying or reduce your study load (for example from full-time to part-time) then you may not still be eligible for the scholarship and you’ll need to inform whoever is administering it. In some cases students have had to pay back scholarship money that they received when they were no longer eligible.

7. Scholarships and study load

Most scholarships listed here required you to be studying full-time. The scholarships that do allow you to study part-time usually only pay a pro-rata rate to part-time students. This means that you’ll be paid a percentage of the full scholarship amount proportional to your study load. For example, if a full-time student undertaking 4 subjects per semester would receive $10,000, a student undertaking 3 subjects per semester would get $7,500 and a student undertaking two subjects a semester would recieve $5,000.

8. Scholarships and Centrelink payments

Some scholarships will be counted as income by Abstudy/Youth Allowance/Austudy, and so will affect your Centrelink income. You can click here to find out more from the Department of Human Services website.

9. Scholarships and income tax

Some scholarships are exempt from income tax and some aren’t. If your scholarship is not exempt from tax you can sometimes choose to have it paid directly towards your HECS fees. There are three benefits to this:

  • You generally won’t have to pay tax on your scholarship
  • You’ll get a 20% discount on the HECS fees that are paid upfront (if your scholarship is more than $500)
  • Your scholarship won’t be considered earnings for Centrelink purposes, so it shouldn’t affect your Abstudy, Youth Allowance or Austudy

For more information about how scholarships may affect your income tax see the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website.

10. Holding more than one scholarship

There are some scholarships which you can’t receive at the same time as holding another scholarship and some scholarships specify that any other scholarship you receive must be valued at under a certain amount. Other scholarships don’t have any such restrictions. Many scholarships will ask you to list on your application form any other scholarships you currently hold or have applied for. Check the specific criteria for any scholarships you wish to apply for. If you’re not sure ask before you apply or you may end up having to repay scholarship money.

11. Residential scholarships

If you accept a scholarship that pays partial fees towards accommodation and board at a residential college, you will need to pay for the rest of the fees yourself. These can get quite expensive, especially in major capital cities, so it’s important to be sure of the costs involved before you apply.

12. Scholarships and deferral

It’s very rare that scholarships can be deferred. If you are awarded a scholarship and choose not to take it up in the year it’s offered to you, in most cases it will go to the next most suitable applicant.

13. Graduate and undergraduate scholarships

It is easy to get confused between undergraduate and graduate scholarships. For scholarship purposes, graduate-entry medicine counts as an undergraduate degree because it is at bachelor level and requires another university course as a pre-requisite. True postgraduate students may find the Good Universities Guide website useful. The Aspiration Initiative is also an excellent resource.

14. OS-HELP Loan

Australian students who want to go on an overseas exchange or undertake an elective in another country as part of their course can apply for an OS-HELP loan from the Australian government. You can apply for up to $7,635 per six-month study period for up to two overseas placements. The loan is treated in the same way as a HECS debt, is subject to indexation, and has the same repayment conditions as a HECS debt. See the OS-HELP website for further details.

Other useful websites to search for scholarships available to Indigenous students studying medicine can be found in the links below:

Australian websites

AIDA Scholarships
Australian Government
John Flynn Placement Program
NSW Rural Doctors Network
NHMRC Postgraduate Scholarships

New Zealand websites

Kia Ora Hauora Scholarships Database
Te Rau Matatini Workforce Scholarships

You should also speak with and seek advice from your Universities’ Indigenous Education Centre; their contact details are located on the Indigenous Education Centres page.

If you know of any scholarships that you think should be advertised on the LIME Network website please email us at lime-network@unimelb.edu.au so we can publish them on our Scholarships, Grants and Jobs page.