Ballarat Learning for Life is a suite of education-based renewal projects designed to animate and bring together the diverse Ballarat community in improving its health, re-engaging its youth, reducing levels of crime and breaking cycles of disadvantage.
In 2000 Australian Catholic University (ACU) and The Smith Family, a national not-for-profit community organisation, formed a long-term partnership researching ways of engaging disadvantaged communities in rural, regional, and remote areas of Australia.
By 2004, the research underpinning the program led to a partnership in the regional city of Ballarat, bringing together families, schools, universities, local government, non-profit organizations, businesses, and other community institutions in a range of innovative educational programs with a life-long learning focus to build up social capital vital to social and economic inclusion.
Today, programs operate in elementary and secondary schools, the ACU's Ballarat campus, community facilities, and private homes — settings and levels that break down barriers to participation.
Ballarat Learning for Life is a whole-of-community enterprise, breaking cycles of poverty and disadvantage in the city, providing life-long learning as the key driver of sustainable community improvement, and establishing a research-based paradigm for promoting educational and social inclusion in other disadvantaged Australian communities.
Ballarat Learning for Life Programs include:
Student2student Reading Peer Support for children with low literacy levels in Grades 3-6 — the child reads to a mentor from Grades 6 -10 in three weekly 20-minute telephone sessions for 18 weeks;
Math Clubs in which over 100 ACU pre-service teachers, supported by a member of faculty, have devised parent workshops and individual learning plans to boost 200 children's mathematical knowledge, working independently with small groups after hours in seven schools;
Tell Tales, a literacy program with kindergarten and Grade 1 children and parents engaging with pre-service teachers;
Digital Story Telling, with Grade 3 and 4 children creating stories using digital photography, the internet, narration, and music;
Health and Wellbeing, a nutrition program in which ACU pre-service teachers and nurses run forums for secondary pupils on healthy diet and exercise; and
Clemente Australia, a national university study program promoting re-engagement of disadvantaged and marginalized adults. Ballarat Clemente Australia partners are: ACU, Centacare, Central Highlands Regional Library Corporation, City of Ballarat, The Smith Family, United Way Ballarat and University of Ballarat