Fund amount:
$300,000 over three years

Program area:
Educational Equity




Keeping it REAL in the northern suburbs

7 Sep 2020

A program strengthening school and community connections to protect some of the most vulnerable students in the City of Hume has been granted funds to continue and expand its work addressing primary school disengagement. 

Banksia Gardens Community Services has established the Northern Centre for Excellence in School Engagement (NCESE, an expansion of a previous program named Project REAL) and the Ross Trust will contribute $300,000 over three years to its trauma-informed practice to support extremely vulnerable children aged 9-12 years stay in primary school. 

Hume is in the top 10 local government areas in Australia for disadvantage, which means the capacity to keep pace with the need for these kinds of services is becoming increasingly difficulty. 

The challenges for local schools include higher student disengagement, absenteeism, poor behaviour, suspensions, and a high level of referrals to other schools or support services. 

The community-led preventative approach of NCESE targets young students in a state of crisis, who have typically experienced complex trauma and are exhibiting a combination of educational, behavioural, social and emotional problems. 

NCESE is building an alliance with 14 local primary schools, the Department of Education and Training, Gateway School and Outer Urban to refine and promote practices and proven strategies. A community of practice and a variety of professional development workshops based on the Berry Street model will also increase the skill set of teachers as well as focus on their own wellbeing. 

The aim is to create flexible models, where schools build their own capacity, students continue to be engaged, whilst managing their behavioural and mental health challenges, and connections are increased with families, carers and the community. 

All of this is done in the context of an inclusive, non-judgmental environment where students feel safe. As a number of students in these programs are impacted by family violence, once of the first things they do is develop their own safety plan. 

It is likely the lengthy absence from school during the coronavirus lockdown, will have further exacerbated some of the challenges for these students. 

The Ross Trust has been involved with Project REAL since its inception in 2017. The program is being evaluated by the Brotherhood of St Laurence with the intention of ensuring Banksia Gardens can continue to demonstrate the value and impact of these types of interventions.  

The funding for the NCESE featured as one of the grants approved in the August Trustee meeting. 

The Human Rights Law Centre was also granted $120,000 over three years for a program to reduce the number of women needlessly held in pre-trial detention. 

In June 2019, there were 578 women in Victorian prisons and 13 per cent of them were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Hundreds more women cycle through the system every year. Over the past five years in Victoria, there has been a 240 per cent increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women imprisoned. 

The Ross Trust Trustees also approved several grants to continue the trend of protecting Victorian habitats and species:

  • an Advocacy Grant of $150,000 over three years was awarded to the Invasive Species Council to stem the impact of feral deer Victoria-wide.
  • a Smart Grant of $116,700 went to Connecting Country for a pilot project to future-proof Victorian forests in the Mount Alexander region
  • a Challenge and Change Grant of $100,000 over two years for the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria to preserve vulnerable Victorian flora species for its Seedbanking for the future project.