From disadvantage to learning and engagement: Community embedded socially supported education

Year: 2009

Author: Howard, Peter, Butcher, Jude

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The Australian government’s social inclusion agenda and the Bradley Review of Higher Education profile the importance of transformative education for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. While the challenge is public knowledge the means for addressing the challenge could involve revealing a well kept secret about the nature of transformative education. Transformative partnerships between Australian Catholic University, communities, local governments, community organisations and health agencies have been foundational to the development of the Clemente Australia program. Clemente Australia is community embedded, socially supported university education delivering key personal, social and economic benefits for people and communities who are marginalised or disadvantaged. This CESS university education program values and respects people for who they are and for where they are within their individual life journeys. Clemente Australia builds student capacity to be more proactive: to examine, contemplate and question the world around them, and to then engage with it. Clemente Australia focuses on learning and appreciating one’s potential and abilities to engage with others. Students are supported in their transitions into, through and from the program. CESS university education provides access to higher education in ways which enhance self esteem and self efficacy; increase capacity to see new possibilities; develop communication skills and the capacity to work in a group; to provide a wider network of social and community contacts, networks and supports; and, to provide opportunities for increased interest in learning and different ways of learning, including on-line.

This paper presents the roles of the university together with welfare, health and corporate organisations in the delivery of the program. It also examines the contributions of the partnership in terms of quality services, personal wellbeing of the course participants, personal, community and institutional capacity building, enhancing social capital and advocacy.