THE SMITH FAMILY CELEBRATES 90 YEARS OF CHANGING LIVES
This month, The Smith Family is proudly celebrating its 90th birthday and is marking its evolution into the largest education-oriented children's charity in Australia supporting over 100,000 Australians each year. Far from slowing down, the charity is announcing a bold new strategy to double its reach to disadvantaged children, young people and their families.
"The new strategy is driven by the knowledge that ongoing financial hardship persists in Australia. We believe every child deserves a chance, yet we know that in Australia today one in 10 children and young people still live in disadvantage and that social background, rather than ability, is the biggest single predictor of differences in educational achievement," said Chief Executive Officer of The Smith Family, Dr Lisa O'Brien.
"As a nation we can and must do better on the educational outcomes being achieved by young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Improving the performance of these children in their education is at the heart of The Smith Family's work. It's not only in their best interests, but it's undoubtedly in our nation's best interests.
"Our aim, with the help of our supporters, is to double our reach over the next five years. However this is entirely dependent on our ability to demonstrate to Australians that the need is great and to take them on our journey with us.
"We need to harness the time, talent and dollars of individual supporters, businesses, key philanthropists and governments to support our work with children, their families and the communities in which they live. In five years' time we will be able to look back and know that, together, we have made a far greater impact on kids in need in Australia," said Dr O'Brien.
The Smith Family was founded in 1922 when five businessmen concerned by the poverty that existed on their doorstep, visited an orphanage at Christmas. They took with them gifts of toys and sweets for the children. When asked who the children could thank, the men modestly answered... "Smith, we are all Smiths." The anonymous benefactors vowed to continue their support for disadvantaged children and created the name we proudly bear today.
For nine decades, The Smith Family has continued to review the needs of disadvantaged children and families and respond accordingly. Today The Smith Family empowers disadvantaged Australian children to transform their lives through education.
"The education focus of our organisation today is based on research and our work with hundreds of thousands of Australians, both of which inform us that young people with poor educational outcomes are more likely to experience unemployment and poorer health outcomes, and rely more heavily on income support payments," said Dr O'Brien.
The achievement gap between young people from low socioeconomic backgrounds and high socio economic backgrounds is equivalent to around two or more years of schooling.1 Year 12 completion rates are significantly lower (56%) for students from low socio-economic backgrounds, than for students from high socio-economic backgrounds (75%). 2
Dr O'Brien continued, "We all share the responsibility of ensuring that future generations of young people do not continue to fall through the cracks. Enabling these children to thrive, rather than just survive, will change the future for all Australians and bring a whole range of better outcomes for our society. Unless we take action now, this problem will only be exacerbated, stifling our economic growth into the future.
"The Smith Family thanks everyone who has helped us to change the lives of hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged Australians across the last 90 years and looks forward to their continued support as we embark on a journey to create opportunities for many more young Australians in need."
How does The Smith Family help children in need?
Partnerships with governments, corporates, universities, schools and other community organisations who provide time, talent and funding to support:
- Early-learning programs
- The ongoing engagement students have with their learning at school
- Successful transitions for young people to further education, training, employment
- Parenting, financial and digital literacy programs for parents.
The Learning for Life program takes a long-term approach to provide children with:
- Financial support through sponsorship (each child is matched with a sponsor)
- Opportunities and connections within local communities to support their education
- Access to a range of learning support and mentoring opportunities.
The Smith Family is an independent charity that works with more than 90,000 individual supporters; 20,000 VIEW Clubs of Australia members; more than 7,000 volunteers; and 188 partner organisations, comprising corporates, universities, trusts and foundations, to facilitate and fund its work.
1 (Programme for International Student Assessment, PISA)
2 (DEEWR, 2011, Review of School Funding).