Care Leavers at University in Australia

by Dee Michell, University of Adelaide, South Australia

Back in 2014 I had the pleasure of working with a talented group of Australian Care Leavers to put together a collection of stories about our journeys to and through university.

We were inspired by:

a. wanting to ‘shout out’ that there are people who have been through the Australian care system and who have completed university degrees, despite enormous barriers;

b. wanting to encourage more Care Leavers of any age to explore university as an option, confident in the knowledge that others have been there before them;

c. and wanting to provide Australian Care Leavers with a community to which they automatically belong.

You can download a PDF copy of our book from here.

Since we published our book, there has been (a small amount of) increased interest in Australia in encouraging Care Leavers into university. For example, Federation University Australia, La Trobe University and Swinburne University of Technology have partnered to raise expectations and provide support to young people in what we call here “out of home care” (OOHC) and to Care Leavers thinking about and at university.

The Raising Expectations program is the only program of its kind in Australia. It began in 2015 with funding from the Sydney Myer Fund. The Victorian Department of Education and Training have also contributed so the program can be expanded further in Victoria and through to 2022.

You can find out more about Raising Expectations here.

The University of Newcastle (in New South Wales) has a Live Learn Grow Program that supports first year students with an OOCH background, and Emily Fuller who runs that program also encourages agencies working with young people in OOHC to get them into other aspirational ventures such as Children’s University. Information about Live Learn Grow can be found here.

Apart from that…

It’s a point made by former foster kid Anastasia Glushko last year, that so few Australian universities do anything to actively promote, encourage and support Care Leavers into and at university. From her Churchill Fellowship research, Anastasia found that Australian “support systems for young people exiting care are light years behind”.

Shame on us.

Instead of putting together an edited collection as I did, Anastasia Glushko set up a practical and informative website – Why Not You. Improving Higher Education Access for Care Leavers. She covers reasons why going to university is a good thing, what to consider when choosing a university, and how to cover costs.

It’s not as though Australian Care Leavers haven’t gone to university. In fact, former foster kid, Richard Farleigh, not only graduated from the University of New South Wales during the 1980s, but was Chancellor of London South Bank University from 2012-2018.

Unfortunately, it seems Australians in OOHC and Australian Care Leavers are still subject to what Andrew Harvey and Patricia McNama in 2015 called “the soft bigotry of low expectations”.

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