Soon after arriving at Monash in 1980, Professor Merle Ricklefs consulted Aboriginal Studies’ Colin Bourke about how to increase the lamentably low numbers of Aboriginal graduates from Australian universities, then estimated at no more than 10 to 15 across Australia. An American-born historian of Indonesia, Ricklefs was inspired by his “personal opposition to racism in all its forms and fruits”.
Professor Ricklefs and Associate Professor Isaac Brown/Irruluma Guralwin Enumbura, an inspirational figure in both the Monash and Indigenous communities, were the driving forces behind the Monash Orientation Scheme for Aborigines (MOSA). Associate Professor Isaac Brown was the inaugural director of MOSA and made important contributions to the advancement of Indigenous Australians in education.
Under the Monash Orientation Scheme for Aborigines, students who completed the program successfully were guaranteed a first-year place, initially in Arts or Law, and ongoing support. Nine students undertook the Scheme the first year; by 1987 there were 34 Aboriginal students enrolled at Monash. By 1993, when Professor Ricklefs departed the University, the Scheme had eleven members of staff and had produced a dozen graduates - roughly doubling the number of Aboriginal graduates in the country.