This Education Week, the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare (the Centre) celebrates the power of care experienced students in voicing their needs and advocating for themselves in Victoria’s education system.
This year’s theme is ‘Active Learners: Move, Make, Motivate’, an important part of which is listening to and valuing the voices of students from vulnerable backgrounds like those in out-of-home care and care leavers.
As Victoria’s peak body for child and family services, the Centre administers Raising Expectations, a program which supports care experienced young people to aspire to, access and succeed in vocational and higher education. Funded by the Department of Jobs, Skills, Industry and Regions, Raising Expectations is a collaboration between the Centre, La Trobe University, Federation University, and Swinburne University of Technology.
The program is shifting a culture of low educational aspiration and expectation to one where care leavers have the inspiration, support and confidence they need to access, learn and thrive in post-secondary education.
When the program began in 2015, there were just 43 care experienced students identified at partner universities. By 2022, this number had risen to 670 TAFE and university enrolments.
Tess grew up in out-of-home care and was supported by Raising Expectations to attend Swinburne University, where she’s now in her fourth year of a double degree. As the chair of the student representative council, she regularly uses her voice to advocate for her peers.
“It is critical for education providers and other services to listen to the voices of students with a care experience. I have used my positions to discuss my personal experiences, and also allude to the concerns I have heard from a broad variety of students,” Tess said.
Centre CEO Deb Tsorbaris said care experienced students deserve the same education opportunities as all Victorian students, with support that recognises their unique backgrounds.
“These students have a valuable contribution we need to hear – in education settings, care reform and society more broadly,” Ms Tsorbaris said.
For more information about Raising Expectations or if you’re a care leaver wanting to be connected to post-secondary education, visit raisingexpectations.org.au.