Back to school for young Gippsland mums

05 February 2014

A new program designed to provide education and childcare for teenage mums – and help prepare them to go on to further education and future employment – is set to begin in Churchill.

The Kurnai Young Mum’s Program – a pilot developed in partnership with Kurnai Secondary College, The Smith Family, Community College Gippsland and LaTrobe City Council – starts on Monday, 10 February.

The program is one of a number of initiatives developed through the Kurnai Education Hub Pilot, which aims to create activities, events and opportunities to inspire students to stay at school, complete their education and improve their study and career options.

The Kurnai Education Hub Pilot provides a link between education providers and the broader community in an area characterised by high levels of disadvantage. It offers a range of programs to help young people participate more fully in their education and transform their lives.

The idea for the Young Mum’s Program began when Kurnai College student manager, David Shields, wondered how to re-engage young teenage mothers with their education.

“Research showed that when there was a viable program for young mothers, it was childcare availability and location, cost and negative feelings towards education that held them back,” said Mr Shields.

“We therefore set ourselves the goal of overcoming all of these obstacles, and have developed a pilot program which all young mothers in the region could access.”

As a national charity working hard to break the cycle of disadvantage, The Smith Family knows that early school leavers, and teen mums in particular, run a greater risk of remaining jobless and dependent on income support well into their adult years.

“It’s a stark reality that many young mothers in disadvantaged areas are faced with a choice of either parenthood or education. It doesn’t have to be that way,” said The Smith Family’s Victorian General Manager, Anton Leschen.

“The Young Mums Program is a terrific initiative, helping young mums on the path to a future career by offering a supportive and encouraging environment in which to learn.”

There are 25 young women currently enrolled in the pilot. Children receive high-quality care at the Moe PLACE childcare centre, while their mums undertake learning activities.

The Kurnai Young Mums Program based at the Kurnai Secondary College Precinct Campus in Churchill will utilise various facilities within the LaTrobe Valley – Ted Summerton Reserve Sporting Facilities in Moe, LaTrobe City Leisure Centre Churchill, Community College Gippsland Warragul, GippsTAFE Morwell or Traralgon or Federation University Churchill as required.

“We were able to enlist support from a range of organisations that allowed the program to come to fruition,” said Mr Anthony Roduaghan, Kurnai Secondary College Principal.

“Thanks to this collective good work, led by The Smith Family, these young women have a real way forward and I’m similarly proud that our college is providing that way."

The program will provide students with a Year 12 VCAL Certificate and a VET Qualification of their choice.

Term One of the Young Mums Program starts Monday 10 February and aims provide these young women with the tools they need to create better futures for themselves and their children.