Greater Charitable Foundation is marking International Literacy Day on September 8, with the launch of a new partnership with national children's education charity The Smith Family, to support more students on the organisation’s Learning for Life (LFL) and Digital Learning Essentials programs.
Under the new partnership, Greater Charitable Foundation will fund the essentials for learning from uniforms, bags, books and shoes while providing financial support for 100 new students on the LFL program. The Foundation will also support 17 students with access to a laptop, reliable home internet access and ongoing technical support through The Smith Family’s Digital Learning Essentials program.
With 1 in 6 Australian children still living in poverty, Greater Charitable Foundation CEO Anne Long said too many young people are at risk of missing out on the essentials for school.
“When children don’t have the basics they need for their education, they risk falling behind their peers and disengaging with school,” Ms Long said.
The Smith Family’s LFL program provides emotional, practical and financial support to help disadvantaged children and young people with their education. Support starts in the early years of learning development and continues through primary and high school.
Evidence-based programs help build skills, knowledge, motivation, self-belief and a network of positive relationships with parents, peers and significant others. This support increases a young person’s likelihood of remaining engaged with school, completing Year 12 and developing realistic and informed study and career pathways for life beyond the school gate.
For Tertiary Scholarship student, Darci Fish, the impact of sponsorship through The Smith Family has been life changing.
A proud Kamilaroi woman, Darci is enrolled in her first year of a Bachelor of Social Sciences Degree at The University of Newcastle.
Darci was first brought onto the LFL program in 2014 at the age of 11. Now 19, she plans to follow a career in Law where she wants to be an advocate for other indigenous Australians and those living with a disability.
She also serves as a Youth Ambassador and First Nations Representative for Canteen Australia, where she is currently developing frameworks and programs to strengthen support for indigenous children assisted by the children’s cancer support organisation.
Darci said sponsorship had changed the trajectory of her life, opening doors to new opportunities she wouldn’t have had without the support of her LFL sponsor.
“Sponsorship has been absolutely critical for my education; without the support of my sponsor I don’t think I would be where I am,” she said.
“It really is a big commitment for a sponsor to support a child they don’t even know, and I’m just so thankful that through the generosity of strangers, I’ve been given opportunities to make the most of my education and be a part of things I wouldn’t have thought possible.”
As a Tertiary Scholarship recipient, Darci receives financial support from The Smith Family to help pay for university expenses, such as a laptop. And while she has everything she needs to help her excel in her chosen degree, she concedes without access to a digital device and support, study would be next to impossible.
While digital inclusion for most Australians has improved since 2021, the latest Australian Digital Inclusion Index data, released in July, shows a growing divide between the country’s highest and lowest income households.
According to Ms Long, by supporting The Smith Family’s Digital Learning Essentials program, the Foundation hoped to level the playing field for students experiencing disadvantage by giving them the digital tools they need to stay engaged and keep up with their classmates.
“A laptop, reliable internet access and technical support and skills are now a vital part of all student’s education, but affordability continues to be a major stumbling block for families when it comes to being digitally included in Australia,” Ms Long said.
“Digital inclusion is one of the biggest educational challenges facing children in low-income households. As families struggle to meet the skyrocketing costs of food, petrol and housing, it is becoming even harder to afford the devices and home internet children need for learning.
“This International Literacy Day, we not only want to shine a light on the impact poverty has on a child’s learning and future employment outcomes, but also that we all play a role in ensuring all Australian children can empower themselves through education,” Ms Long added.
Digital Learning Essentials will provide an additional layer of the wrap-around support for students on the LFL program.
The Smith Family’s Partnership Manager Effe Sandas said to be fully digitally included, a student needs all four elements of Digital Learning Essentials - a device, reliable internet access, technical support and digital skills and safety support.
“All families on the LFL program will be eligible for support which will be provided as needed. For example, if they already have a device but need internet access or skills training, they will be provided with that,” Ms Sandas said.
“Through fundraising and with the support of our generous sponsors, we are striving to ensure all children on the LFL program have access to a device, internet and ongoing technical support by 2027.”
To find out more about The Smith Family’s Learning for Life and Digital Learning Essentials programs or how you can donate, visit thesmithfamily.com.au.