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Government introduces ABSTUDY and ABSEG

After introducing payments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, the government ran ads in magazines for Aboriginal audiences.

The scheme, to be known as the Aboriginal Secondary Grants Scheme, forms part of the Government’s programme for Aboriginal advancement.

Kunmanggur, January 1970, p 5
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About the artefact

By the 1970s, the government had begun payments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to support them in continuing their education. Early ads for the program were in official government language without images or artwork.

Introducing the payments

The first scheme the government introduced was the Aboriginal Study Grants Scheme. Initially, the scheme was only for tertiary students. However, not many people were able to take up the payment, because the rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people completing secondary school and continuing to tertiary education were low.

To respond to the low uptake of the scheme for tertiary students, the government began the Aboriginal Secondary Grants Scheme. This scheme helped more people finish high school. They could then access payments to continue studying at university or TAFE.

The payments people could get under these schemes were called ABSTUDY and ABSEG. The government published an article about success stories of the ABSTUDY program in 1971

ABSTUDY continues to be available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander secondary and tertiary students today.

Advertising the payments

Early ads that the government ran to tell people about ABSTUDY and ABSEG were very plain and used official government language.

One example is from a 1970 edition of Kunmanggur, a publication of the Commonwealth Council and Office of Aboriginal Affairs. It included information about ABSEG payments.

Another is in a 1973 edition of New Dawn, a magazine by the NSW Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare. The magazine was ‘for the Aboriginal community of New South Wales’. After outlining the purpose of both programs and who was eligible, the ad encouraged people to apply.

While the style of the ads was in line with the tone of the magazines and other government advertising at the time, the language was quite complex and hard to understand. In later years, the government would begin using colourful posters with Aboriginal art and simple text to communicate about ABSTUDY and ABSEG.

Source details

The National Library of Australia holds editions of Kunmanggur in their collection, which you can view on their website. Kunmanggur was published by the federal Office of Aboriginal Affairs and documented government policy affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The publication ran from 1969 to 1971.

Full editions of New Dawn are available in AIATSIS's collections online.

Before the NSW Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare published New Dawn, it was published by the Aboriginal Welfare Board. The Board published the magazine between 1952 and 1970 and it was called The Dawn.

In 1969, the NSW Aborigines Act and the powers of the Aboriginal Welfare Board were changed after ongoing pressure from the community. The publication paused and was restarted with the new title. This name change reflected the intention to ‘use the publication as a forum for Aboriginal expression’ (New South Wales Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare Directorate of Aboriginal Welfare 1970:18).


Commonwealth Council and Office of Aboriginal Affairs (January 1970) ‘Aboriginal Secondary Grants Scheme’, Kunmanggur, 4(1):5–6.

Vaughan P (ed) (1 December 1973) ‘Aboriginal Secondary and Study Grants Scheme’, New Dawn, 4(7):21.

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