Deakin University partners with the Smith Family

19 June 2014

A partnership agreement between The Smith Family and Deakin University will support disadvantaged young Australians to stay engaged with their schooling and improve their access to university education.

The Smith Family's CEO, Dr. Lisa O'Brien today joined Deakin University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jane den Hollander at a launch of the partnership at the University's Waterfront Campus on Thursday 19 June at 2pm.

Dr O'Brien has welcomed the provision of tertiary sponsorships for Learning for Life students enrolled at Deakin University as well as the opportunity to further support the tertiary aspirations for students at Northern Bay College in Geelong.

"Both institutions are heavily invested in the educational outcomes of students in the region and, as Australia's largest education-oriented charity, we welcome the opportunity to walk side by side with Deakin University and Northern Bay College in providing opportunities for disadvantaged young people to stay engaged in education," said Dr O'Brien.

"Deakin University has been a long-time supporter of The Smith Family and this partnership aims to increase the proportion of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds who have access to tertiary education.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for the students of Western Victoria and The Smith Family is grateful for the opportunity to partner with Deakin University."

The Smith Family supports over 300 students at Northern Bay College (P-12) through its Learning for Life sponsorship, and 450 students across the Geelong region in total.

Learning for Life provides long term financial support as well as literacy, numeracy and mentoring programs.

Northern Bay College is the charity's key partner school in the Geelong community, and Deakin University also has strong connections with the school, with staff from both the university and the charity working locally with students.

With only one quarter of the most disadvantaged young people ages 17-24 engaged in full time study after leaving school – compared to two-in-five among their more advantaged peers – The Smith Family works to close the gap by providing direct financial support to tertiary students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

Thousands more apply for help each year but the charity is constrained by limited resources.

The coordinated support provided by Deakin University and The Smith Family to Learning for Life students at Northern Bay College will deliver an increase in the number of students from this school continuing on to tertiary education: a crucial step in enabling disadvantaged young people to create better futures for themselves. Deakin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander said the new partnership would make a real difference in supporting young Australians to stay engaged with their schooling and improve their access to a university education.

"Deakin has been a long-time supporter of the Smith Family and have believed since our inception 40 years ago that financial disadvantage, location or family situation should not ever form a barrier to a university education," Professor den Hollander said.

"Only 39% of young people from regional areas say they intend to enrol in university compared to 63% of those in Australia's major cities.

"The education divide is growing and it is impacting on the futures of our young people.

"Through Deakin's Engagement and Access Program and our partnership with the Smith Family's Learning for Life program we are chipping away at the barriers to disadvantage.

"We are changing lives and breaking the cycle of disadvantage."


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