The difference education makes…

Boy seeking help while learning on a computer. An Education Specialist with The Burdekin Association could help him.

“One in every five children in Australia are not completing their full 13 years of basic education,” stated the ABC News on Tuesday February 6, reporting on the Productivity Commission’s 2024 Report on Government Services.

“The dropout rate of students has reached a 10-year-high with just over half of all young Australians leaving school to participate in further education or enter full-time work,” the article continues.

The Productivity Commission’s Report outlines that in 2023 across all schools, “attendance rates decreased from 89.2 per cent in Year 7 to 84.5 per cent in Year 10. For Years 7–10, attendance rates are higher at non‑government schools (89.8 per cent) than government schools (84.0 per cent).”

Poor student attendance has been related to poor student outcomes, particularly once the patterns of non-attendance are established.

In addition to student retention, student engagement at school was measured and determined. There are significant measures of a student’s engagement as school –

  • behavioural engagement – school attendance, attainment and retention.
  • emotional engagement – students’ attitudes to learning and school.
  • cognitive engagement – students’ perception of intellectual challenge, effort or interest and motivation.

Students’ engagement at school is measured using data on emotional engagement – students’ sense of belonging at school. Higher or increasing scores on the index of sense of belonging at school is desirable.

Research suggests that students with a positive sense of belonging are more likely to stay in school longer, have less absenteeism and higher academic outcomes. Students who have a high sense of belonging in school generally put in more effort and are more motivated at school.

NSW Government’s ‘Support Students Sense of Belonging’

“Across the three literacy domains, the proportions of Australian 15-year-old students who achieved at or above the national proficient standard in 2022 were significantly lower than the proportions in 2018 for mathematics literacy, but similar to the proportions in 2018 for reading literacy and scientific literacy,” the 2024 Productivity Commission Report on Government Services stated.

An Education Specialist helping teenagers to learn.

The Burdekin Difference

Australian schooling aims for all young Australians to become successful lifelong learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed members of the community, positioning them to transition to further study or work and successful lives. It aims for students to improve academic achievement and excel by international standards.

Yet, 69 per cent of the children and young people who come to The Burdekin Association are unable to participate effectively in learning provided through the education department, due to their personal situations.

Many of the young people who come to The Burdekin Association did not attend sufficient schooling in their formative years. As a result, they have low literacy and low self esteem and need to cope with the challenges that caused their situation in the first place, such as family conflict or mental health issues.

When these children and young people attend school, the environment can become hostile or perceived to be hostile, they may become ostracized and/or bullied, partly because of their negative expectations and because they have fallen behind so much.

The Burdekin Association began addressing this gap in educational outcomes three years ago, by starting an Education Program and hiring teachers to work directly with our young people. Over the last three years, we have seen this program grow due to the demand and need.

Last year, The Burdekin Association was successful in securing very generous funding through the Allan & Gill Gray Philanthropies Education Grant to boost our Education Program.

We now employ two Education Specialists – Sarah Haywood and Rae Usman, our Primary Educator – to support children and young people in our Out-of-Home Care program and disadvantaged (yet engaged) young people in our other programs.

Our Education Specialists provide:

  • Timetabled one-on-one teaching/assessment with children and young people (12-18) who previously were disengaged with school for extended periods of time.
  • Development of a Homework Plan. Development of an At Home Learning Plan.
  • Advocacy for the young person to get into their local high school.
  • Advocacy and support for the young person at TAFE.
  • Engagement, advocacy, and support for three Individual Education Plans for school based meetings.
  • Tutors (who are hired and matched with the young people) to assist them with their learning.

The Education Specialists advocate with schools, collaborate with young people and staff, and support children and young people in our care both across the Inner West and Northern Sydney regions.

To find out more, click here.

Challenges facing young people – school

Teenage challenges - parent support

In the Mission Australia Youth Survey of 2022 young people reported their biggest personal challenges in the past year, what they found helpful in dealing with that challenge and what more could be done to help them address their challenge.

  • 41.5% reported school challenges including: academic pressure, high workload, teachers, learning difficulties and general issues with schools.
  • 41.8% of students reported barriers to achieving study or work goals.

Top 3 Barriers – mental health, academic ability, financial difficulty

From a student:

Inform parents about the stress around grades, teachers always say that marks
don’t matter but they do to our parents. Female, 17, VIC

Supporting teens with life challenges

Being a teen is challenging – they’re worried about exams and school work, decisions about what comes after school and probably most importantly (to them) the social side of school – friends, peer pressures, exclusion, bullying.

External factors also have an impact on school life – home life, financial hardship, relationships, identity, sexual orientation, extra curricular activities, social media use and cyber bullying, sleep hygiene and lifestyle habits, addiction issues – drugs and alcohol or gaming and gambling, general wellbeing including mental health and global issues such as climate change and war.

What can parents and carers do about it?

Maintain open lines of communication as much as possible. Refrain from overreacting or trivialising things that are important to the young person. Listen without judgement – use the active listening technique. Show affection but be mindful of their personal boundaries – it is normal for teens to want to pull away somewhat. Respect that they have a natural inclination to want more independence and privacy. Praise them, be light and fun as much as possible and minimise pressure and shaming. We know parenting teenagers can be difficult and most of us are time-poor these days. It is important to make time for ourselves for things we love too.

Rely on your extended network for support and seek out someone to talk to if you are struggling, whether it is a friend you can trust or a professional.

Family and teenage support

What Burdekin is doing about:

The children and young people who come to Burdekin have their own unique challenges when it comes to educational engagement for example: trauma, disadvantage, relationship problems, mental health issues, frequent moving to name a few. These unique challenges are the reason we developed the Burdekin Learning Space, where children and young people who for whatever reason are unable to engage in traditional education can receive support from a dedicated Education Specialist. You can read more about our Learning Space and how you can support it here.

We also offer a number of other programs including Family Services to assist when extra help is needed, the Dee Why Project and the Canada Bay Project, Burdekin is also the lead agency in the Avalon Youth Hub.

We are excited to hear about a new collaborative research project: Fostering school attendance for students in Out-of-Home Care and look forward to what outcomes it may bring for children and young people in out-of-home care.

When to worry about your teen:

If your teen starts acting out of character with extreme mood shifts, withdraws, becomes secretive or you note significant changes in eating habits or your teen begins to obsess over things, spends excessive amounts of time online, struggles with sleep, declines dramatically in academic performance – these are all signs that there might be a problem. Don’t wait, seek advice, it is better to seek advice and not really need it than to wait too long.

More reading:

Getting help:

There are many options, you can speak to somebody at your teens school, visit your primary care doctor and/or seek out professional help from community service providers. These include services such as ours. Our phone number: 02 8976 1777 or email burdekin.admin@burdekin.org.au.

Further resources can be found via the HubLifelineheadspaceKids Helpline Kids Help Line Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 and if life is in danger, please call 000. Local services are also listed on the Inner West Council website and Northern Beaches Council website.

10 reasons why young people are awesome

The Burdekin Association youth services

We are all about the awesomeness of young people and while we try to remind you now and then of this fact, we thought a whole blog dedicated to what we think about young people is a great idea.

Unfortunately young people often get a bit of a bad rap. There are way too many stereotypes and inaccuracies shared in general and even more about the vulnerable young people who don’t need bad publicity but really need our help.

Given that we work with young people all day every day, through the good and the bad, we consider ourselves experts and know many positives attributes that stand out.

Here are some – maybe you can think of others? Some of these might not seem like the teens you’re talking to buuuut that might be just the teen you experience in that particular situation.

  • Fun – young people are really funny – silly funny, sometimes pretty witty and even trying their hand on dark humour as they learn about the world around them and the people in it.
  • Creative – they have so much energy for things that interest them and they’re full of great ideas they may or may not share with you.
  • Optimistic – young people are mostly optimistic about life because they’re just starting out – most things they are still to experience. Even young people who have already faced multiple challenges in their lives can still see the positive.
  • Emotional – they have intense emotions and can shift gears pretty quickly, this means moods can lift in minutes and outbursts are forgotten just as quickly.
  • Social – young people are also really social – but might not seem it around adults, or in situations where they are unsure – just watch when they’re with their friends!
  • Spontaneous – young people are curious, naturally seeking out new adventures and can be pretty amazing with change. They take risks that we never would – the dangerous kind yes but also risks with life, relationships, school and identity.
  • Independent – given the right tools and encouragement, young people are actually really capable and can step out to all sorts of responsibilities.
  • Technologically advanced – do we even need to explain this one? They know everything about technology and think adults are pretty dumb when it comes to this stuff.
  • Kind – young people can be really kind and empathetic, they genuinely want to help others and care about the world around them. Young people also want to be liked, to succeed and to make us proud.
  • Loyal – young people will always stand by and stick up for their friends and family – no matter what!

I mean we think this list makes young people pretty amazing to be around – what about you? Would you add more to the list? We are continuously amazed by young people and how they can overcome just about anything!

Youth Homelessness NSW

If you know a young person who is having a difficult time, please shout out for help, there are many resources available including our own phone: 02 8976 1777 or email burdekin.admin@burdekin.org.au, at the Hub, Lifeline, headspace, Kids Helpline and local services listed on the Inner West Council website and Northern Beaches Council website.

Volunteer Week and 3 Years of our Volunteer Program

Volunteer with young people

Volunteer Week is Australia’s largest annual celebration of volunteering and will be held on 15 – 21 May 2023. The week also means the Burdekin Volunteer Program turns three!

This year the theme for Volunteers Week is The Change Makers. The week recognises the vital support that millions of volunteers provide to their communities and encourages people to consider volunteering.

The value of volunteerism within Burdekin

In the three years, since we launched the Burdekin Volunteer Program, our volunteers have added a considerable contribution to our organisation. Infact, in our 2021/22 financial report, we measured the cost benefit and estimated total savings during this financial year up of $45,000, a monthly saving of about $3,700.

But of course it’s about much more than the economic benefits. Volunteerism builds healthier, more resilient communities. The practical support provided by our volunteers often fills a gap that otherwise might not be fulfilled. Not to mention the beautiful relationships that develop between our young people and volunteers.

It’s a win win

Volunteering is bidirectional because everyone gains, whether a volunteer is helping a young person with education support, practising a skill like cooking or just going for a walk or coffee together and keeping each other company. Volunteers feel great satisfaction in making a difference and young people give something back in their own way too.

Do you live in Inner West or Southeast Sydney?

Our Volunteer Program in the Northern Beaches is pretty robust, in the Inner West and Southeast Sydney areas we need more volunteers – particularly volunteers who would be prepared to do L driving supervision hours with a young person. If L driving isn’t your thing, there are other volunteer mentoring activities available. See what else our volunteers are doing here and here.

Have you got two hours per week?

Many of our young people aged 16 or 17 want to get their Ls but they don’t have a trusted adult in their life who could drive the required hours with them. Burdekin can provide the car. In return, we seek good confident drivers who have about 2 hours each week to support a young person. All young people will have had at least 5 professional lessons before being matched with a volunteer.

Supporting a young person with L driving supervision is such a fantastic way to connect with them and to provide the opportunity to get their licence. Don’t we all remember what a fantastic feeling it is to finally get ones licence!!!

Is volunteering for you? We would love to hear from you! Please either email: volunteer@burdekin.org.au or complete the form below. Read up on all of our other volunteer related posts by typing volunteer into our search bar.

To celebrate Volunteer Week, we host our volunteers at an annual event during volunteer week, where they will be presented with certificates of appreciation. More on this soon!

What it takes to be a Youth Worker

Being a Youth Worker is believing you can, and wanting to, make a difference in the lives of young people.

Youth Workers are often those who have always been aware of others and the world around them and want to improve things.

As a child, they may have had a great sense of social justice and the confidence to do something about it – standing up for other kids, protecting animals, organising bake sales or selling their old toys to raise money for charity – you know, those kids?!

Foster Care

Others might have found their way to youth work through their professional career , life changes or may have grown up needing support services as a child and seen the difference it made and wanted to follow in those footsteps to return the favour to others who need help.

The role

The role of a Youth Worker is to advocate for young people, to give them the skills to advocate for themselves and find their place in society. Youth Workers also support young people in their own decision-making and facilitate their personal, social and educational development.

There are various pathways to becoming a Youth Worker, and Seek.com cover them here.

The personal satisfaction of knowing that you made a difference in youth work is vast; the role also comes with matching responsibilities, difficult situations and, more often than not, navigating the system.

Youth Worker Sydney

Are you a solutionist?

Becoming an amazing Youth Worker means looking at the person in front of you and figuring out what they want and need now and in the future and how to get them there.

Accomplished Youth Workers are optimistic, fearless, motivated, resourceful, passionate and have excellent communication skills.

Do you have good boundaries?

Youth Workers burn up much energy trying to find solutions, and progress can be slow. Frustration and discouragement are common, particularly with those in the earlier stages of their careers. It is important, with all that passion, that Youth Workers are aware of, and maintain their own personal and professional boundaries.

Self-care is an essential survival skill in balancing work/life and preserving longevity in the career of a Youth Worker.

Our Youth Workers provide a vital contribution to our organisation, we couldn’t do what we do without them. Youth Workers can help young people feel understood and listened to at a time when they feel like they have the least control over their lives.

Youth Worker job

What we offer

  • Career progression and training – the opportunity to build a career with a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to making a difference.
  • Salary packaging
  • Employee Assistance Program – independent free counselling service
  • An inclusive culture of dedicated, passionate and professional team members
Out of Home Care

What our clients say:

In a recent survey, 83% of our young people said they felt always or mostly supported by their Youth Worker. Comments from young people about their Youth Worker when asked how their Youth Worker could support them further were: ‘they did great’, ‘nothing, my support workers are the best’, ‘I receive great support’. You can read the entire report here.

We acknowledge the Aboriginal people of the Cadigal and Gayamaygal Clans. We acknowledge the Country on which we live, work, and gather as being Aboriginal land.

We acknowledge the lands, waterways and skies that are connected to Aboriginal people. We honour them and pay our deepest respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

We respect their rightful place within our communities, and we value their ancient cultural knowledge and practices.

Aboriginal Flag
Torres Straight Island Flag

We deeply respect that this will always be Aboriginal land and we will honour and follow the first peoples’ values in caring for the Country and for preserving their culture.

We deeply value that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the oldest living culture in the world and we will continue to work with their peoples and communities to ensure their cultures endure and remain strong.