RNLC is the only centre in Victoria providing free childcare for its students’ children. In childcare, the children are provided age appropriate education to prepare them for kindergarten or primary school.
Both the children and their mothers benefit. Without it, many of our students who are young single mothers would be unable to receive an education. Typically the young women entering our Programs are either preliterate or have a reading age of 7. The knowledge and confidence that their education provides is passed directly onto the children. It is an immense joy for a mother to be able to read to her child for the first time.
This service also creates valuable work opportunities for trained, but unemployed, childcarers of African refugee heritage, giving them experience to strengthen their prospects for future employment beyond RNLC.
Social welfare support is critical in assisting our students to manage the complex demands placed on them with language difficulties, finance, housing and trauma ever present in their lives with often no stable presence apart from us to offer advice or practical help.
Most of our students live on 80% of a basic centre link payment for an Australian resident equivalent. After paying board or rent and utilities, most have $30-50 per week to pay for other essentials. The food staples, MYKI public transport top ups and material aid we provide our students makes a huge difference.
Many of our students, some with children, are totally alone in Australia with no family support. Simply attending our classes provides a great psychological boost for these often isolated and lonely people. The support and camaraderie provided by staff and other students makes a meaningful difference and raises self-esteem.
Most students have experienced both physical and emotional trauma by the experiences that caused them to seek refuge or asylum and we work with other agencies to assist to address this. It has been very evident that many of the children who have been in detention with their parents have suffered greatly and struggle once released into the community. We believe our childcare service is doing wonderful work in assisting these children return to a more normal family life.
We also strive to develop our student’s life skills and foster their capacity for independence and self-determination by building bridges and links into the community and to access vocational pathways.