Latest News

This section is regularly updated with news from the R E Ross Trust, the organisations it supports and the philanthropic sector in general. Stay tuned for the next update.

Breaking down barriers for asylum seeker children

The Refugee Migrant Children Centre (RMCC) will expand its work with young people from asylum seeker, refugee and migrant backgrounds with Braybrook and Sunshine Colleges, with the help of a $30,000 grant from the Ross Trust.

Founder and CEO of RMCC, Alice Wojcik, said “We have had many kids and schools on our waiting list for some time, and with the investment Ross Trust has made in our Sidekicks program it ensures another 40 children who now call Melbourne home will have the support network and guidance they need to prosper at school and the wider community.”

Since it’s establishment in 2012, the RMCC has helped over 800 children and young people tackle the unique and complex barriers faced by refugees, asylum seekers and those from migrant backgrounds seeking to settle in Australia.

The RMCC’s Sidekicks Senior program has been established to consider the pre and post settlement journey and its impact on educational and social outcomes, given the school system and teachers are not set up to tackle the likely barriers to success.

Well over 80 per cent of the students from each of Braybrook and Sunshine Colleges comes from a non-English speaking background.

The $30,000 grant for 2018-19 will help fund the expanded Sidekicks Senior program at the two colleges engage 40 youth (aged 13-17) from refugee, migrant and asylum seeker backgrounds who are in high need of specialist support outside of traditional services.

Along with educational activities, the program will include topics such as resilience and failure, identity and belonging, intergenerational conflict, walking between multiple cultures, building life skills and knowledge, forming support networks, accountability and confidence building.

The challenges for refugee students are magnified when you consider 20 per cent of females and 13 per cent of male refugees have never attended school and 44 per cent of females and 33 per cent of males don’t understand spoken English prior to arrival. Fifty per cent of children from refugee backgrounds live in relative poverty.

The young people who participate in the program are mainly from Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Burma and Samoa and they are supported by volunteer mentors, who have often gone through the resettlement experience themselves and are willing to share and offer to support to those who follow. Some of the training for the mentors is provided by the Centre for Multicultural Youth.

Alice says the most important outcomes of the program are “increased engagement in learning, the classroom and school community, as these need to be prioritised before positive educational and social outcomes are seen.

“When a child forms this foundation then education or self-improvement will always be a part of their life.”

Melbourne University has been engaged to formally evaluate the Sidekicks Senior program.

Read more about RMCC and its programs to empower children and youth from refugee and migrant backgrounds.


Improving family violence data collection and analysis

In a Victorian first, a partnership of family violence services is working together on a method to analyse data that will give them an accurate picture of the impact of family violence and the use of services in their region.

The Central Highlands Integrated Family Violence Committee (CHIFVC), which includes Women’s Health Grampians will use a $40,000 grant from the Ross Trust to progress its Data Press project to develop a regional family violence spatial data portal.

In line with recommendation 203 of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, Data Press will improve the way the local government areas of Ararat, Ballarat, Hepburn, Golden Plains, Pyrenees and Moorabool, collect, share and analyse family violence data.

CHIFVC is a cross-section of organisations in the Central Highlands region, working together to help keep women and children safe.  Membership includes primary prevention through to response, treatment and recovery: specialist support services, health services, legal, education, and justice.

Pennie Mathieson, Principal Strategic Advisor for CHIFVC says this approach to data collection, analysis and sharing has been used in other sectors, but this will be the first time that this approach has been adopted and used in the Victorian Family Violence Sector. The project is focussed on data challenges which are systemic across Victoria, and therefore could prove to be scalable and transferable to other regions.

“The CHIFVC is showing leadership by developing a pro-data culture in the region and ensuring that strategic and operational decisions are grounded in data and evidence,” Pennie said.

“The data will help us to gain a comprehensive understanding of the people accessing services.  This will assist us to ensure appropriate and effective service provision, particularly for marginalised groups.  We also expect to gain a clearer understanding of service sector demand and the impact of family violence on our community.”

The Family Violence Committee was first established as part of the Victorian Government reforms of the family violence service sector in 2006. Since the release of the Royal Commission into Family Violence report in 2016 the CHIFVC has grown significantly in its membership and breadth of work.

Pennie says a recent major achievement of the CHIFVC is the establishment of a family violence cross-sector Community of Practice in the Central Highlands region. “The CHIFVC hosts regular cross sector events across the six Local Government Areas, whereby up to 80 participants come together in a shared learning environment to foster cross-sector collaboration and develop a shared understanding of family violence in order to improve family violence responses.”

Visit the CHIFVC website for more details of their work.

Annual report released

The Ross Trust has released its 2017-18 annual report, showcasing the incredible work done by organisations across Victoria, with over $4 million in grants distributed by the Trust in the last financial year.

Ross Trust CEO, Sarah Hardy, said “these grants, alongside our partnerships, collaborations and other investments in not for profits across the State, demonstrate our keen focus on supporting vulnerable Victorians and environmental preservation.

“In my first year with the Ross Trust it is a delight to look back over the year, see what has been achieved by those we support, and this is just a small snapshot.

“The report includes stories about impact investing in conservation in the Otways, how new approaches to early childhood learning are netting strong results on the Mornington Peninsula, some of the unexpected benefits of developing advanced statements with mental health patients in Melbourne, and more.

“I would like to thank the many organisations who have worked with us over the recent months to tell their stories and demonstrate the great work they do,” Sarah said.

The Ross Trust was very fortunate to have Trustees the calibre of Eda Ritchie AM and Ian Renard AM, who both retired during the year. The annual report also features a story on Eda and Ian’s experiences in philanthropy with the Ross Trust and the changes they have seen in the past 20 years.

You can read the report here.

New Trustees Appointed

The RE Ross Trust Trustees are pleased to announce the appointment of two new RE Ross Trust Trustees and Directors of Hillview Quarries.

Mr Jon Webster and Ms Prue Digby will replace Ms Eda Ritchie AM and Mr Ian Renard AM, who will retire from their trustee and directorship responsibilities on 30 June 2018, after 21 years and 20 years respectively. This completes their exceptional leadership and dedicated service to the Trust and Hillview Quarries.

We welcome Jon and Prue to the Trust, who will take up their responsibilities on 1 July 2018.

Mr Jon Webster

With a long and distinguished career in the Law, Jon is currently a partner at the law firm, Allens. Jon was a board member of Allens from 2004 -2016.

Having held several academic appointments, Jon recently retired as a Senior Fellow of the Law School at the University of Melbourne.

Jon currently holds several Director positions including Director of the Human Rights Law Centre and listed investment company AMCIL Limited. He is also Chairman of the Audit Committee of the Northern Land Council.

Jon brings exemplary legal, business and governance skills to the RE Ross Trust and Hillview Quarries.

Ms Prue Digby

Prue brings extensive government and community experience having held several senior executive and non-executive Director positions, across a range of state, local government and non-government sectors.

Originally a Social Worker, Prue recently retired as Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Building Authority. Prior to this role, Prue was Deputy Secretary – Planning, Building, Heritage and Local Government and the first Chief Executive Officer for the City of Yarra.

Prue previously held Director positions on the board of many community organisations. Currently Prue is the State Government appointed Municipal Monitor for Frankston City Council and Member Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) WorkCare Board.


Prue brings extensive government networks, knowledge and business acumen, along with a strong understanding of complex community systems, to the RE Ross Trust and Hillview Quarries.