Celebrated program for students experiencing disadvantage notches up 10 years.
Graduates, students, community organisations and staff involved in Clemente Australia have marked a decade of the program, with a celebration at Australian Catholic University's Melbourne campus to recognise the occasion.
Since 2003, Clemente Australia has assisted more than 800 Australians experiencing multiple disadvantage to undertake tertiary studies at 10 sites across the country. Founded on Earl Shorris's (2000) Clemente program in the USA, Clemente Australia offers students a university course at no personal cost in liberal arts subjects such as literature, philosophy, sociology, media, journalism and art. Students completing four units of study receive a recognised university non-award certificate, providing opportunities to pursue further tertiary education. ACU is one of ten universities and a host of community organisations, legal and social services that provide expert research, skills and services to the program which promotes personal development and social inclusion.
A recent Australian Research Council report into the benefits of such programs showed that the cost of providing services such as Clemente were offset by the economic benefits to the community, through reduced claims on health, social and justice services, improved morale and greater social participation.
Many Clemente students are striving to deal with complex issues such as mental illness, disability, addiction, unemployment, homelessness, or family breakdown. The program aims to empower these students to see themselves not as victims, but as agents of change. Student benefits of the program include increased self-esteem, improved social connections, more structured lives, and an opportunity to intellectually reflect and exercise the imagination.
Federal Minister for Social Services The Hon Kevin Andrews MP said it was a great pleasure to be invited to attend the celebration at ACU.
"There are some things the government does well and some things the government does poorly," he said. "The University sector can do so much more for individuals in terms of raising them out of poverty than many government programs and agencies.
"The Clemente program ensures that people can move through a progression of education that has the potential to lead them towards a job they desire and one that will bring fulfilment," said Minister Andrews.
Clemente Graduate Ben Klok said the value of the course were immeasurable and that the benefits for him were of a personal and fundamental nature. "Studying at university hasn't made me rich, but if anyone is willing to change that I'll take cash or a cheque. One thing I can say is that I've been enriched by the Clemente experience. I'm pretty sure now that I'm where I'm supposed to be and it certainly feels like I am reaching my potential."
ACU Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Craven said, "Clemente is the absolute reflection that in Australia we have a right to education that applies to everyone."
"Clemente is not a charitable contribution of ACU to Clemente students; it is a vital contribution of the students to the character, formation and truth of the University," Professor Craven said.