Moving beyond the postcode with Banksia Gardens
In 2019, the Readings Foundation supported the Banksia Gardens Aiming High VCE Support Program. Here, our Grants Officer Gabrielle Williams shares some insight into this highly successful project.
They’re the most insignificant of numbers, literally taking up only a fraction of space on the face of an envelope, and yet the four numbers of your postcode can have an enormous impact on how wealthy you are (or will be), how healthy, and how well educated.
In the DOTE2015 Report (compiled by Jesuit Social Services and Catholic Social Services Australia), the postcode of 3047 was found to be struggling with disadvantage on many levels.
However, the Aiming High programme works hard to buck the trend and stack the odds in favour of the students that come through its doors. Run as an invitation-only programme for some of the most motivated students in the Broadmeadows and Craigieburn areas, Aiming High has been getting results that are nothing short of astounding. In 2017 100% of Aiming High students successfully completed year 12, receiving their first university preference. A student from a couple of years back is currently enrolled in a medical degree at Monash University, having fled Somalia with limited English only a couple of years earlier.
And then you have Aisha and Ahmed, two of the Aiming High alumni I met with last week.
Aisha came to Australia in year 9 from Afghanistan. She spoke no English and spent her first few months in Australia attending English language school. When she went to high school, she found that the only time she was competing on a ‘level playing field’ (relatively speaking) was when she was in science: all students, whether native English speakers or not, struggling together to learn the foreign language and concepts of science. Aisha completed year 12 last year, and is now enrolled in a first year Science degree at the highly prestigious Melbourne University.
And then there’s Ahmed who grew up in a family where reading was not a priority. Over all his years at school he only read one book (that one book was 1984 by George Orwell). And yet last year, Ahmed was the co-editor, together with Maxine Beneba Clarke and Magan Magan, of a highly regarded anthology called, Growing Up African in Australia.
That’s the difference programmes like Aiming High can make in these people’s lives. Finding advantage when it isn’t necessarily intrinsic to the postcode you live in.
Jonathan Chee who runs the Aiming High programme says the knock-on effect within the community cannot be measured.
‘Younger students who come to our homework club are seeing the achievements of the Aiming High students and recognising that education is an important step in the process of escaping disadvantage. One of the loveliest things for us has been the number of past students who are now ‘paying it forward’: volunteering on the Aiming High programme and encouraging current students to achieve their best.’
If you’ve ever given a donation to the Readings Foundation in exchange for having your book wrapped, there are 15 young people in Broadmeadows (and another 15 in Craigieburn) whose lives you’ve had an enormously positive influence on. So thank you.