Our aim is to help people realise their aspirations and awareness towards higher education, and providing them with the knowledge and skills to achieve their career goals.

Who the RPPPP program will focus on

Stage 3 to Stage 5 school students and their families in public schools focusing on building their capacity and aspiration to pursue higher education and dignified careers and assisting the transition of students through their final years of primary school into junior years of high school. The programs key attributes will be informative, provide real world contexts, and ongoing mentorship. There will be a requirement for face to face to ideally be a minimum of one day per term in schools or in school holidays and provide all required food, transport and resources to its participants. Mentorship of students in the program from high school and university will provide to students “how” in a context that is realistic to them and will provide reflections on lived experience in the Macleay Valley. Lived experience is a significant contribution that disadvantaged people can make in solving the endemic and emerging issues at play in providing mentorship and guidance.

Stage 6 (year 11-12) students will fit into the UniFuture program and working closely with their Careers Advisers.

The importance of this focus

The impact of low socio-economic status on school-aged students’ low university aspirations is evident in the Macleay Valley, as is the need to work with children from an increasingly younger age to capture their imaginations and prepare them for thinking about a future in higher education as well as careers. The prolonged exposure to concepts of higher education will not only increase students’ confidence and understanding but also the wider community reducing issues like tall poppy syndrome.

Disadvantage in Kempsey is not only in students being rural, regional and remote and first in family but also facing significant issues in satisfying their most basic needs. Poverty, food security, transgenerational trauma, poor mental health, maldistribution of resources and education reduced to employment outcomes that do not adequately prepare our community for the future. For these students, a holistic approach that guides a student’s physical and mental wellbeing as well as informing and building capacity to pursue higher education.

Meeting these materials needs is seen as a key precursor to successful inclusion in higher education for previously excluded persons and sectors of the community. A program that connects and strengthens our community by building cultural capital and role modelling, particularly for those who are first in family and are breaking with generations of disadvantage. Any attempt to nourish aspirations of those traditionally excluded from higher education would have to take place alongside a concerted effort to address the significant material barriers to access and engagement that are compounding this problem.

Has anything been previously attempted in this selected area?

The Macleay Valley hasn’t been involved in university outreach, apart from university roadshows that are aimed at senior high school students. There is also the Science and Engineering Challenge which is the longest running event that builds aspirations for students to pursue higher education and build their knowledge around diverse careers.

What community consultation occurred?

Consultation has occurred with key stakeholders from our local school leaders from primary to high school, Kempsey Shire Council leadership, RAD Mid North Coast, TAFE, NSW Health local organizations such as HeadSpace, Macleay Valley Support Services and Youth Programs. Consultation has also occurred with local high school students at Melville High School and Kempsey High School.

Outside of RPPPP, what other expertise or support are we looking for in a university partner for our community?

RPPPP will focus on stage 3 to stage 5 students, outside of this engagement with stage 6 student to assist in their journey from year 11 and 12 to higher education including applying to university, enrolling in university and going to visit university campuses. Opportunities to collaborate in research are also welcomed in the Macleay Valley.