The Smith Family (Australia’s largest children’s education charity) launched its first new Learning for Life education support program in ten years, right here in Gladstone.
Sue Hicks, who accessed the Learning for Life program to assist with the cost of educating three of her seven children, became tearful when speaking at the launch, remembering the sadness and embarrassment her family endured when times were tight and there just wasn’t enough to pay for books and school excursions. She recounted also the deep gratitude she had to the Smith Family for their assistance.
Leonie Green from the Smith Family said the decision to begin to operate in a community like Gladstone was not taken lightly: “We want to be here for the long term,” she said.
The Learning for Life program offers a range of targeted support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and is proven to improve their educational outcomes, helping students go on from high school into further studies, training or employment.
During her Welcome to Country, Aunty Marilyn extended a special thanks to the charity for opening opportunities for our region’s struggling students: “The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community have a deep passion and concern, as do all the parents, of seeing their children educated,” she said.
The Smith Family’s strategic partner Orica has committed $500,000 over a three-year period to help bring Learning for Life to the Gladstone community. Their ongoing support will enable the charity to provide up to 100 Learning for Life scholarships in 2018 for disadvantaged children and young people. A further 200 Gladstone students will be brought on to the program by 2020.
The program also provides employment for two new staff, Sarah Bobart and Natasha Hope.
Orica Yarwun General Manager Vinay Kumar said after twenty-five years’ service at Orica he was very proud of the community work supported by the firm. He said he had seen first-hand, the success of Orica’s support for educational programs in the Pilbara and the Philippines, where it had changed the lives of children who needed help: “We do what we can do,” he said. “We are very committed to Gladstone and as such we’re proud to be a foundation partner, and part of this journey,” he said.
In 2016, The Smith Family undertook a feasibility study to assess the viability of establishing a presence in Gladstone. The study found there was a clear need for the type of support the organisation provides, as well as strong support from stakeholders on the ground.
Learning for Life is delivered in 94 communities across Australia, providing more than 38,000 disadvantaged children with targeted educational assistance throughout their school years. Research conducted by The Smith Family is showing the program is making a significant and positive impact on their educational outcomes.
Gladstone Region Mayor Matt Burnett welcomed the arrival of The Smith Family to the region.
“The education provided by Gladstone Region schools is of a very high standard but there will always be students who struggle, many for reasons beyond their control, and it is great to know that the Learning for Life program will be there to help these students get the most out of their education,” Mayor Burnett said.