In an aim to increase industry efforts to bring more Indigenous Australians into the technology industry, Thoughtworks, General Assembly and Indigitek have come together to offer a hands-on scholarship experience.

The initiative will offer two full scholarships for General Assembly’s software development course and an internship at Thoughtworks.

The scholarship is offered to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with foundational digital capabilities and tertiary qualifications are not necessary.

Nyungar digital rights activist and technologist at the First Nations Delivery Centre at Thoughtworks, Kathryn Gledhill-Tucker said expectations of prior qualifications is one way the tech industry may disadvantaged Indigenous communities.

“I think the challenge is the tech industry is designed to hire and train people who have gone to university, who have studied computer science and live in major metropolitan cities like Sydney or Melbourne,” she said.

“It creates this systemic bias against people outside of those areas and without a university education.

“So few of us from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities go to university at all, and even fewer of us study computer science.

“The onus is really on the industry to make up for those shortfalls, not the individuals.”

This opportunity also makes it possible for interested applicants in regional areas to have the chance to understand a bit more about the technology industry.

Ms Gledhill-Tucker said her experience growing up rurally means she wants to ensure the program involves regional communities they may possibly work with.

“I grew up in Esperance, rural WA and I can’t imagine just how impactful this kind of opportunity and visibility and conversation would have meant to me growing up in the country.

“I’m careful about how we approach this kind of initiative as well because working with remote communities takes time to build those relationships.

“If we are going to be working with remote communities, I want them to be community led and there are other organisations who are doing this work really well like Indigitek.”

Although the program endeavours to draw interests from regional Indigenous communities, Gledhill-Tucker said it’s not a choice of leaving home to have a successful career.

“I don’t want any First Nations person to think that in order to have a successful career in technology you need to leave your family and leave you community,” she said.

“I think that it’s really important that we’re not setting people up to make that choice between okay, do I make money and have a successful career or do I stay connected to Country and culture.”

The scholarship seeks to help the two Indigenous or Torres Strait Islander applicants to overcome accessibility obstacles and with professional learning and working experience.

Gledhill-Tucker said she hopes they come away not just with new knowledge in tech, but also a plethora of community support.

“It’s a multi-layered support network that we’re trying to build around people by providing them with community support in partnership with Indigitek,” she said.

“I’m working with Indigitek as a moderator on their discord community, so I think that adds this really interesting extra layer of community support in a digital space that didn’t exist a few years ago.

“So I hope by treating this in a very multi-layered approach, that we’re creating a very nourishing environment for people to find success in tech.”

Applications are now open on General Assembly’s website.