CREATEC presentation presented on June 10th, 2009.

As a journalism educator, I am keen to promote engagement with the wider community and the Catalyst Clemente program provides an opportunity to do this. It is a joint initiative developed by Mission Australia and the Australian Catholic University that seeks to promote self-confidence in people at risk of homelessness or physical and mental illness, by encouraging them to take control of their lives and bring about personal change through undergraduate education. The program gives applicants the opportunity to do accredited university courses in the area of the humanities.

In January this year, I was asked to join the project at Mission Australia's Maddington office in south-east Metropolitan Perth. Edith Cowan University (ECU) provided the lecturer, while Woodside's Community Initiative Program assisted with additional mid–week educational support. All the students had passed Year 10, and if successful, they had the chance to qualify for first year at ECU.

I was extremely enthusiastic about this project and spent five hours every week for 13 weeks in first semester, 2009, teaching JOU 2111: Introduction to Journalism - to a class of 15 students. Their ages ranged from 26-60 years and classes were frequently interrupted with smoke and coffee breaks. Despite these interruptions, the unit worked because the people who came were so keen to learn, despite struggling with personal problems or difficult domestic situations.

Sometimes, it was hard work to keep the students focused and to help them pass with 15 credit points. But most of them did pass and one student will start at ECU in 2010.

Mission Australia wants to expand the program to include other universities in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. So, who's interested? It is definitely my intention to volunteer next year.


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