Financial boost set to assist refugee students

Access to a good education is an important factor in the success of the resettlement of young refugees arriving in Australia. However, many of these young people are subject to educational disadvantage, due to the poverty and distress they suffer.

As part of Harmony Week 2022 a new partnership agreement between two Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle agencies - CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning and the Catholic Schools Office - has been created to assist students from a refugee background to gain an even footing with their peers.

The agreement includes the establishment of a CatholicCare Student Refugee Fund, which will provide assistance to refugee students who are attending, or would like to attend, Catholic schools within the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and are experiencing poverty or distress.

With assistance from CatholicCare refugee caseworkers, those eligible can apply for up to $6,000 in financial assistance per annum from the Catholic Schools Office for matters such as school fees, school resources, tutoring or other forms of support or extra-curricular activities, and counselling and mentoring services.

Principal of St Columban’s Primary School in Mayfield, Danielle Reed, is thrilled about the establishment of the bursary saying it will have a significant impact on the lives of many in the school community.

“St Columban’s has a longstanding tradition of welcoming migrant children,” Mrs Reed said.

“Many of our school’s migrant families currently only pay minimal school fees, negotiated on a case-by-case basis. We also often help with the cost of things like uniforms, incursions, excursions, sport, costumes, school camp, laptops and where necessary, translators,” she said.

Mrs Reed said the establishment of the CatholicCare Student Refugee Fund will help to formalise the support that’s available to these students and provide additional means to make their access to education resources more equitable.

The announcement comes on the back of a series of consultations undertaken by the Office of the Advocate for Children and Young People between 2018-2019. The working group conducted a series of consultations with young refugees and asylum seekers across the state, including in the Hunter.

According to the study, education was frequently raised by the participants as one of the best things about being in Australia, saying it opened up opportunities for their future. Additionally, many reported enjoying school excursions, something they had not experienced in their home countries.

Mrs Reed said the study reaffirms what she has observed within the St Columban’s school community.

“All our children are happy to be at St Columban’s,” Mrs Reed said. “However, you notice there’s a heightened sense of appreciation from students from a refugee background to be in your class or particularly, to be handed a new school uniform or go on an excursion.” 

“The CatholicCare Student Refugee Fund will provide an added boost to students across the diocese.”

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Lizzie Watkin

Lizzie is Team Leader Content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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