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Engaging with Parents, Families and Community

I worry about my children a lot. They are caught between two cultures, now. I can see my son as a leader but I ask myself where he will go to build, learn and practice leadership skills, and I worry a lot. This program will help my son to develop leadership skills, and help him create a connection within the community. He will learn life lessons that will help him manage both his past and also the future.

African refugee parent

Research around the world over the past twenty years in particular emphasises the overwhelmingly positive benefits of families, schools and communities working together with a shared understanding and focus on the needs of young people.

Rupert Macgregor
Manager, Families Matter

The central focus and purpose of Future Voices programs and partnerships is to create an effective, flexible framework of support to the positive personal development of young people, particularly but not only, migrant and refugee young people, promoting their:

  • total well-being
  • resilience
  • social and emotional development
  • sense of self-worth
  • connectedness
  • belonging
  • a positive outlook
  • sense of purpose in their lives

Future Voices strategic programs provide a new model and structure for engagement of parents in the education of their children. The programs have been designed in collaboration with those same parents, addressing their concerns and needs about what additional learning and knowledge their children need to support their positive education experience and life outcomes. Future Voices commit to coaching members of the migrant and refugee community in the planning and delivery of these projects, providing further community ownership, employment opportunities and improved employability skills in line with the social inclusion goals of learn, work, engage and “have a voice”.

Future Voices understands that an effective engagement and partnership process cannot be imposed from outside the community, nor based upon a deficit model or mindset, in which partnership remains an academic set of concepts and premises, with external authority figures talking down to parents and families, and telling them how they should think, feel and behave. The process is necessarily interactive, participative, owned by the parties themselves and relevant to them and their communities.

Research tells us that children growing up in poverty and disadvantage are less likely to do well at school. This feeds into disadvantage in later life and in turn affects their children. To break this cycle, we need to address the attitudes and experiences that lie behind social differences in education. The complex web of disadvantage ensnares many generations of  Australians and that despite strong economic growth; some communities remain caught in a spiral of low school attainment, high unemployment, poor health, high imprisonment rates and child abuse. In Victoria, nearly one-third (33.1%) of all communities suffer from ‘low social cohesion’ – where inadequate levels of community reciprocity, trust and resources make it more difficult for individuals and families to overcome the individual and family problems that lead to poverty.

There is much rhetoric and research which supports the need for families and educators to work in effective partnerships but the reality is often very different. Parents and educators come at the issues from very different perspectives and motivations, which can put them on a collision course. Recognizing and working through the blockers and limitations requires a considerable sustained level of understanding, commitment and goodwill founded on the clear shared premise that all parents and families want the best possible outcomes for their children.

Future Voices recognizes that effective and sustainable engagement, involvement and partnerships with parents and families must be on their terms and be based on a respectful recognition of their special role as the first and continuing educators of their children, and responsive to their needs and expectations. The engagement process must be flexible and adaptable to the particular community context and circumstance.

Future Voices work holistically with the family and community groups because we understand that parents and communities coming together and discussing issues about raising and educating children can value add to their own coping and parenting skills. Often they find a new self confidence and develop improved personal and life skills and understandings.

Research tells us that young people who succeed well and have high aspirations say they receive more emotional support from their parents or a significant other person than do others. In most situations, sustained academic achievement is underpinned by positive self-image, sense of purpose and positive outlook, an appropriate level of resilience and coping which is also being fostered and supported by high levels of positive parental / carer involvement and emotional support.

Young people who are not feeling OK, who feel depressed, isolated or alienated, with no sense of direction or purpose, tend to exhibit negative behaviours which affect their learning and academic progress, including patterns of truancy and absenteeism, poor concentration and retention.

In our diverse societies, there are many things that are not explicitly taught, either at school or in the family and community. They are “assumed pieces of knowledge” about cultures, society rules, norms and incremental l(basic to complex) learning. Some young people absorb this type of knowledge just by living in environments where this type of learning is reinforced in practical ways or by discussion and mentoring by elders. Others miss out for many reasons. We try and teach all the unspoken rules of society and we never assume. We try and teach all the things that we wish we had learnt when we were younger. This is about sharing life lessons and learnings.

Jennifer Hippisley
Former CEO, Future Voices