About Clemente Australia

What is Clemente Australia (Clemente)?

In 2012, nearly one million Australians (18 - 64) experience multiple disadvantage. These Australians and their families are in current dire circumstances due to ongoing adversity across a range of life areas.

Clemente Australia is a groundbreaking university course for Australians experiencing multiple disadvantage and social isolation. Clemente provides the resources and opportunity to support people in making changes in their lives through university-level education.

Student fees are covered by ACU, and those who successfully complete four units are awarded a Certificate in Liberal Studies by ACU.

Since 2003, more than 500 Australians experiencing multiple disadvantage have enrolled in Clemente Australia and many, upon completion, have used it as a pathway to further education, employment and community participation.

The achievement of studying at a University level for someone who has been living on the edge of society is truly transformative.

"People see that I have a brain because I have done a university unit. I am back in society"
Clemente student

"Events took away my confidence and self-esteem…the course helped me get back on track"
Clemente student

Clemente Australia Model

Clemente Australia uses a "strengths" based model that sees students as having the strength and capability to shape their own goals, change their dispositions, and improve their life choices. Through greater social interaction and focused reflection the students become agents in their re-engagement with society.

The approach to learning is respectful and open, recognising that the various life experiences of the students contribute an opportunity to create rich knowledge together. The design of space, place and activity promotes a balance between social support and self-direction and a sense of taking ownership of learning within the group.

In the Clemente Australia model lecturers deliver university level education in community locations. Classes are small classes with 15 – 20 students and the focus is on open discussion and hearing the voices and opinions of the students.

"The humanities are a foundation for getting along in the world, for thinking, for learning to reflect on the world instead of just reacting to whatever force is against you. I think the humanities are one of the ways to become political."
Earl Shorris, Clemente Course founder and author, Riches for the Poor

A key aspect of the Clemente model is Community Embedded, Socially-Supported (CESS) framework university education. This provides community based collaboration of the education, community and business sectors in supporting people who are socially isolated to access enhanced educational and learning opportunities.

Clemente Australia provides students access to a range of educational choices and opportunities, not simply welfare to work training. Students study the humanities subjects such as history, literature, ethics and art: content that is relevant and connected to the lives of the students.

A key benefit of studying the humanities is that enables people to think about and reflect on the world in which they live. They examine, question, contemplate and engage in "activity with other people at every level" (Shorris, 2000) and become engaged 'public' citizens (Howard & Butcher, 2007).

"I understand more about the world and I understand my place in it. Before I had no idea, I was clueless…"
Sam's reflection on participating in Clemente

Clemente Australia History

Clemente Australia is founded on Earl Shorris's (2000) Clemente program in the United States of America.

Earl Shorris's visited Australia in 2003. The Australian Catholic University (ACU), in collaboration with the St. Vincent de Paul Society and with financial assistance from the Sisters of Charity and Sydney City Council offered the first Australian Clemente program at the community centre of Vincentian Village in East Sydney in 2003.

In 2012, the program is run in nine locations across Australia and is continuing to expand.

To learn more about Clemente and its origins please read "As a weapon in the hands of the restless poor.(On the Uses of a Liberal Education)" (PDF, 363.9 KB) by Earl Shorris, published in the September 1997 issue of Harper's Magazine