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Supporting students to re-engage and find success in South Portland

At a house on the hill in South Portland, a satellite campus of Portland Secondary School caters for students who have disengaged from mainstream education.

For children who have left school after major challenges including trauma, mental health issues, anxiety and neurodivergence, the Portland Secondary College Re-Engagement Program improves their chances of success in life. Teachers at the program foster strong and supportive relationships and assist students to make a positive contribution to their community by transitioning to further education, training, or employment

The program opened in 2011, with 26 students. Since then, they have educated more than 200 young people. Many have completed their education and moved into employment or apprenticeships.

The FLO (flexible learning options) school has a junior and a senior class running three hours each day. There’s a heavy focus on hands on or applied learning, and improving literacy and numeracy skills.

For the past seven years, Portland Masonic Lodge and FFV have supported the Portland Secondary College Re-engagement program with grants for IT, furniture and class facilities, health and wellbeing activities, excursions and camps. In 2022, a $5,000 donation enabled students to learn about Indigenous issues and culture in the area. The students visited local Budj Bim World Heritage Area and Tower Hill in Warrnambool and planted an indigenous garden at the back of the campus. Working with local tour guide Brayden Saunders, the students learned about meeting places, trading, smoking trees for cooking eels and seasonal food gathering.

Lauren Logan, Campus Manager, one of two staff provided by Portland Secondary College, said the students were incredibly engaged with these excursions, always asking when the next one would be held.

“Connection to Gunditjmara country, which is where we are, has really improved for our students now. And that connection to community is really important for wellbeing, as well as the educational side of it.”

In 2023, a further $5,000 grant funded the purchase of table settings for an outdoor classroom and ceiling fans to keep the indoor temperature comfortable, which is important for some of the kids with sensory processing issues. It also helped find the school camp and other health and wellbeing activities.

The students appreciate these donations - they even cooked up a bacon, egg and sausage breakfast for local Freemasons to thank them for this year’s grant.

“The local Freemasons came out to Budj Bim with us one day, so it was nice to see them interacting with the students and the students speaking with another generation.”
“The FFV funding provides opportunities that the students wouldn't otherwise get - things they get to experience, being able to improve their confidence and self esteem, and getting out and interacting. The more they do and achieve, the more they can stand up with their heads held high and feel like they can achieve.”


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