A VICSEG New Futures education program that was seed-funded by Gandel Foundation and then supported through a multi-year grant won the 2017 Victorian Multicultural Commission’s Award for Excellence in Education.
This award recognises outstanding educational practice which enhances intercultural understanding and meets the needs of students from diverse communities.
The Refugee Student Engagement and Support program in Melton and Wyndham was originally piloted in the Sudanese community and has subsequently been expanded to take in more than 150 students from a wide range of cultural backgrounds, including Samoan, Iraqi, Iranian, Karen and Chin Burmese.
Gandel Foundation was one of the philanthropic partners of VICSEG to seed and grow the program from its initial pilot in 2014 onwards.
The recently published evaluation conducted by Victoria University reports very positive outcomes for 140 students from refugee backgrounds. These included high levels of achievement of personal goals, improved confidence and self-efficiency, positive pro-social connection and increased motivation and opportunity. All these positives added up to vulnerable students becoming more engaged with their education and regular attendance at school.
The program began as a pilot in 2014 with students of South Sudanese background and has expanded to include young people from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Operating for the past three years across ten secondary colleges in the outer western growth corridors of Melton and Wyndham, the student support program has addressed the challenges faced by schools in providing positive learning opportunities for young people from low income refugee backgrounds. Some of the students have experienced disrupted schooling and family loss and have had experiences of exclusion due to language and cultural differences.
Key strategies that the program has employed include a scholarship to address student material and resource needs and individual mentoring provided by social and youth work students from Victoria University.
Family engagement has also been a key factor in the success of the program. Many are in the first generation of their family to attend secondary school. VICSEG used its team of bilingual community facilitators to ensure that parents were aware and supportive of every stage of the program’s development. They, like the teachers, had direct experience of their children’s improvement in social interaction and organisational skills, as well as positive changes in their emotional well-being.