Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute has received a $5.5m funding from the Paul Ramsay Foundation for a community-based research program aimed at providing better education and health opportunities for children and youth in lower socio-economic communities.
The initiative is part of the foundation’s combined $11m grant to Victoria University and Queensland’s Griffith University focused on improving early learning to help children transition to school, and later finish school and seek higher education, training or employment.
The five-year project is geared at assisting local communities in overcoming inequality that disadvantaged students face so they can succeed in education, lead a healthy life and reach their full potential.
It involves working with local communities in the Brimbank area and plans to build on the success of existing projects such as Growing Brimbank.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Dawkins said that the University will be proactive in addressing the “disproportionately high rates of disadvantage amongst young people” in Brimbank in Melbourne’s west.
“There is growing recognition that where people live has a significant influence on their opportunity to excel and thrive, and that localised place-based approaches can help to address inequity,” he said.
Up to three years behind
Project Lead and Associate Professor Melinda Craike said wealth and parental education have the largest influence in the youth’s educational success and good long-term health.
“It seems inconceivable in a modern Australia that young people from low income areas fall up to three years behind in their learning by age 15 compared to people from high income areas,” she said.
“In a wealthy, developed country like Australia, all children should be having the same opportunities to succeed and break the cycle of poverty.”
Professor Craike said the project will require participation from local partners in designing programs to be implemented.
“We will be working with local organisations, local government, service providers, schools, families, young people and the broader community to co-develop and implement solutions,” Assoc. Prof. Craike said.
If successful, she hopes the project will be tailored and implemented in other communities across the country.