Participation in Clemente comes with a wide range of benefits for all involved. Hear first-hand how Clemente has changed the lives of students and volunteers.

As a direct result of their participation and study in Clemente, students have developed:

  • better personal health and wellbeing – through increased self-understanding, confidence, productivity and management of their own health
  • a sense of belonging to a social group and a wider capacity for social engagement
  • key competencies, communication skills and capacities for volunteer and paid work.

In interviews, Clemente students reported improvements in a number of areas including:

  • writing skills
  • time management and planning skills
  • communication skills
  • critical thinking skills
  • skills for future work
  • skills to help in a time of crisis
  • broadening horizons - new personal goals and aspirations, new ways of viewing the world
  • confidence to enrol in further university study.

Student reflections

Hear how students feel about Clemente and its impact on their lives.

When I began my Clemente journey in 2009, I could not begin to imagine the journey that would be ahead of me. Like all journeys, there were numerous highlights, and several bumpy patches. In the years since, I have completed a Bachelor of Arts, a postgraduate Bachelor of Philosophy, and I am now studying a Bachelor of Laws. University study has become a long, large part of my life.

I did learn a lot more during the Clemente program than just the content though. I rediscovered my love for English Literature, as well as the academic ability to finish a degree or two. It is a lot harder to doubt yourself once you’ve proven that you can do something.

Outside of study, I did have some health problems to get through, as well as an unsympathetic boss who did not seem to value education. I made it through all of this somehow, and progressed on to my first degree.

After finishing my Bachelor of Arts, I moved on to Macquarie University to keep studying English Literature at a postgraduate level. It was a great experience to share with like- minded academics that have since gone on to other projects and PhDs. I ended that experience with another degree under my belt and a few more friends.

At the moment, I’m back at ACU, studying Law part time while I work full-time. Somehow I managed to find the time to write a novel in amongst that too. While I’m not working within my field of study, I am a lot happier where I am now.

It’s funny the curveballs that life throws at you. Plans change, things happen, and in the end you have an experience that is wholly unique. It might not be exactly the way you planned it, but it is yours. Life has a way of upending the cart, but it does right itself in the end. I am glad that I have had this learning journey, and there isn’t much that I would change if given the chance to do it all over again.

Understanding the way in which the world works so often has to begin with an understanding of the self. The units offered in Clemente provided expert guidance to those of us who were struggling to understand the injustices and inequities we sometime encountered in life. Studying introductory units of Ethics, Sociology, Australian Aboriginal History and Literature provided an effective entry point into deeper consideration of not just self but the wider world too. The world suddenly became alive, the structure of existence, how we interact as human beings suddenly took on a clarity that had been absent before. I watched as my fellow travellers on this journey also developed a renewed sense of connection to the world around them, to their communities and even to themselves.

It is just not the responsibility of the individual, to ensure that they have faculty and agency of their destiny, rather, it is the collective responsibility of society to ensure that no talent is wasted because of poverty, ill health and discrimination.

Being given the chance to attend the Clemente program was a pivotal turning point in my life.

I am on the Autism Spectrum, and I grew out of a disadvantaged adolescence, where crippling poverty, combined with a lack of knowledge or comprehension of Aspergers Syndrome among my teachers and peers in High School led me to develop severe depression.

The supportive social environment of the Clemente lectures — where I was free to speak my mind, and step by step gain interpersonal skills in an environment where I received support and empathy — enabled me to gain a pathway to a bachelor degree.

After completing my certificate and accreditation from the Australian Catholic University, I was offered a place at Griffith University and studied a Bachelor of Politics and Government. I received the highest grade in three of my courses, and on completion of my degree I received the Griffith Award for Academic excellence on my academic transcript. My passion for finding more reasonable and logical solutions to problems outside the prevailing orthodoxy has inspired me to commence study this year of a Master of Economics at the University of Queensland.

After I complete my Masters I intend to start work on a PhD, which examines the topic of inter-generational wealth, and how inherited accumulation can restrict access to public utility, thereby reducing the scope of enterprise and economic vitality.

I had done really well at school until things unravelled in direct correlation with the onset of my illness, but with Clemente I have found the understanding, accepting and supportive nature of my classmates, staff, learning partners and lecturers have meant I have now finished four university subjects offered by the programme. I have confidence that I can achieve my goals given the help I need. Sometimes what we do makes us who we are and by doing the things that make me who I want to be I have found my life fall into place, piece by piece and struggle by struggle. I hope above all to continue learning and to have an open mind about how this learning comes about and from whom it will come.

I come from a migrant family and the first priority was to put a roof over our heads and food on the table. I didn’t think I would ever have the opportunity to get a university degree. When my own family got older, I realized that I didn’t have the qualifications to get many of the jobs that interested me. Discovering that there is an education program created to give a second chance to people who are disadvantaged when they were younger opened up a whole new world to me.

With only one more semester before graduation, I am starting to look to the future. At last when filling on forms I will be able to put something in that question on ‘further qualifications’. Leaving it blank always hurt. Many have asked why I bother about those qualifications. I never had the chance to test myself. Whether I pass or fail, Clemente has given me that opportunity.

Student stories

In 2016 Clemente students’ writing was compiled into an anthology Shifting Perspectives The Clemente Australia Anthology (Griffiths, M., Murray, J. & Howard, P. (Eds) 2016: Garratt Publishing Mulgrave Vic).

This Anthology showcases former students of the program, who have shared their lives and experiences in prose, poetry and art and is testimony to how the power education can restore the hopes of people through life’s challenges.

Here is a sample chapter from the anthology to give you a taste of the contributions by Clemente Australia students.

Sample chapter (PDF 7.2MB)

More student stories:

Lecturer reflections

Hear from lecturers about the value Clemente students bring to their classes and subjects.

Clemente has been, and continues to be, a great privilege for me as an academic and as a person. I didn’t come to uni through a traditional path so I can empathise with many of the struggles that Clemente students have during their journey. I was supported by some academics during my journey and this is a way I can give back. Clemente is a great program that inspires both student and academic.

It reminds me that each student is on a journey-both seen and unseen-and we need to be mindful of this as we teach. We also need to start seeing small things as achievement markers so that we can engage students to do well in their lives. I am humbled by the students’ trust and their engagement in class encourages me to help mainstream students connect with the units I teach more strongly.

My teaching has been turned on its head. What has thrilled me is the skills and experience Clemente students have. To take part, they have to be able to read a newspaper, but these people have the skills and the language to write a newspaper, to write anything. It is a privilege to be able to work with our collaborators, learning partners and these students, to be part of something so positive.
These were adult learners, highly intelligent, motivated, and rich in life experience. The atmosphere in the class was generally excellent, students were appreciative and supportive of my work and each other. I found that as the semester went on I realised that at the beginning of each Monday I was really looking forward to the Clemente class. I found myself thinking aha, this is why I like teaching! I enjoyed seeing the group when they came to ACU on Thursday night for their Learning Partner sessions; the students were warm, interesting, engaging people, some of whom needed to move mountains to be there.
One of the most striking things about teaching in Clemente is how eager all the continuing students have been to learn. The students are real life-long learners! So, for me as a person, the students have taught me to always keep learning. As an academic, the students have taught me to engage more with real-world experience. This is not meant to sound trite or patronizing, but more that I need to listen more closely to the way non-sociologists narrate sociology.

When we enter the Clemente program we enter as strangers, all of us on our own journey, all of us with our own story. Over the course of the program we meet many people from all walks of life, as we get to know them we realise they are now a part of our own journey. Together as we learn, we laugh, we cry and we support each other, soon the strangers that entered are now not only classmates, not only friends but family, the Clemente family, a family I am proud to be part of.

Many Clemente students bring with them a storehouse of rich life experience, wisdom and understanding that help to deepen the response of those around them. On-campus students who have the good fortune to interact with Clemente graduates often say how their own understanding of literature and life is truly deepened by the opportunity to work with those who have had to struggle to get there.

Clemente has taught me to reach for levels of understanding that reach out more widely to people’s feelings, emotions and sensitivities; it has taught me to ensure that what I have to say is understood and felt; it has taught me to be to be much more open to the voices, the contributions, of those on the margins.

Clemente Australia reminds us that education is more than professional training for employment but has the capacity to transform the human spirit.

Clemente students remind us that education breaks down barriers and unites us in community. ACU’s Clemente programs, delivered through longstanding partnerships with community organisations, remind us of our core mission as a Catholic university- a university that values the dignity of all people, and pursues teaching and research to advance the common good.

Fr Anthony Casamento csma
Vice President ACU

You might also like...

About Clemente Australia

Clemente aims to break the cycle of poverty, inequality and social injustice for people experiencing complex life challenges through access to university education.

Learn more

Our mission, identity and values

Everything we do at ACU is led by our mission and values. Discover our commitment to the pursuit of knowledge, the dignity of the human person, and the common good.

Learn more

Partner with Clemente

Clemente is built on partnerships. ACU invites organisations to support Clemente through contributions of time, talent, influence, resources or funds.

Learn more

Contact the Clemente team

If you would like to learn more about Clemente, or find out how to get involved, you can reach out to our friendly Clemente Australia team by email or phone.

Contact Clemente

Have a question?

We're available 9am–5pm AEDT,
Monday to Friday

If you’ve got a question, our AskACU team has you covered. You can search FAQs, text us, email, live chat, call – whatever works for you.

Live chat with us now

Chat to our team for real-time
answers to your questions.

Launch live chat

Visit our FAQs page

Find answers to some commonly
asked questions.

See our FAQs