Ballarat young parents program a step closer to statewide rollout

Young Mum's Group hoping visited by Education Minister Martin Dixon. L-R Link UP Co-ordinator Peter Innes, Alex Lee and her son Tyler Quinlan, Education Minister Martin Dixon. PICTURE: JEREMY BANNISTER

Young Mum's Group hoping visited by Education Minister Martin Dixon. L-R Link UP Co-ordinator Peter Innes, Alex Lee and her son Tyler Quinlan, Education Minister Martin Dixon. PICTURE: JEREMY BANNISTER

A CAMPAIGN lobbying for Ballarat Secondary College’s Link-Up Young Parents program to be adopted statewide is a step closer to fruition after a long-awaited visit from Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon on Tuesday.

Young Parents Program co-ordinator Peter Innes has been campaigning for Mr Dixon to attend a mothers’ group session in a bid to push for statewide – if not national – program adoption.

He said the group, which is run by volunteers and teaching staff had adopted a whole-of-community approach that he had never seen anywhere else.

The aim of the program is to support young parents to get back into education and the workforce.

The group currently assists more than 40 girls between 13 and 21.

After visiting its Delacombe base, Mr Dixon said had been blown away by the concept.

“It is unique, it works and it is inspirational,” Mr Dixon said.

“There are women in a similar situation in every community and it just happens that in this instance there is the right combination, including an incredible driving force in Peter, and a facility that works and community that donates all sorts of money, services and time to this place.”

Mr Dixon said he did not see why the concept could not work on a national level.

“The mums here are not unique to Ballarat,” he said.

“It shows that if you’re flexible in how you do it, in how you fund these things and you get the community in partnership working together, any community in Australia can do this.”

Mr Dixon said the greatest benefit was that it enabled marginalised and vulnerable women to believe in their own potential.

“Through their involvement in this place, they believe in themselves as a worthwhile human being,” he said.

“Therefore, they then have the ability to start to learn to do formal education, to think in terms of a future, career and looking after their family. They can’t do any of that without believing in themselves first.”

Founding member Ashlea Peterson was just 17 when she joined the group after giving birth to her son Jordan eight years ago.

“There were times when I felt completely alone and isolated,” Ms Peterson said.

“I remember girls joining the group who had been abused on the street because they had children and they looked young. They felt ostracised and alone.

“The group completely change my life. It became a safe place where I could go, where I could vent and where I didn’t feel alone or judged.”

Ms Peterson, 26, said the group also helped her gain employment after enrolling her for a Certificate IV in Alcohol and Other Drugs.

She now works as a youth support worker, assisting vulnerable youth in the Ballarat community.

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