Epping’s Sarah Morris is passionate about ensuring care leavers have access to higher education.
Once a ward of the state, Ms Morris is now an accredited social worker.
Sarah said after a troubled childhood and running away several times, Sarah entered the care of the Department of Health and Human Services at 13 years of age. She was eventually placed in a house she calls Strickland.
“Strickland… became home,” she said.
“It was run by some amazing staff who really cared and were authentic and genuine.
“I [had] a lot of role models, and worked through a lot of my trauma.”
After being removed from Strickland for reasons unknown to Sarah, the then year nine student had issues in schooling.
“The department and case management [staff had a meeting and] encouraged me to drop out,” Sarah said.
“When all the adults in your life are telling you that you’re not fit for mainstream schooling… and that [you won’t] accomplish anything in your life… you start believing it.”
After “bouncing around” alternative education, Sarah had other adults in her life speak up.
“[They] recognised my value… and encouraged me to do something else,” she said.
Sarah went on to complete a certificate IV in community services and protective care, and a certificate IV in foreign youth work.
Through her job at the time, Sarah heard about Raising Expectations, an organisation providing assistance to care leavers pursuing higher education.
She said the program helps care leavers shows the heights they can reach with the right opportunity.
Through her job, Sarah has recommended Raising Expectations to many kids in care.
“I was able to tell kids [about the program],” Sarah said.
“[It] can help kids understand that [university] is an option.”
Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare chief executive Deb Tsorbaris said Raising Expectations aims to change the way people think about care leavers.
“It wasn’t that long ago it was believed children from care couldn’t go into higher education,” Ms Tsorbaris said.
“We build a pathway between… the out of care situation and higher education.”
Training, Skills and Higher Education minister Gayle Tierney said the program addresses a large issue faced by care leavers.
“For some young people, going to university or TAFE could seem out of reach,” Ms Tierney said.
“The program is about breaking the cycle of disadvantage to make vocational and higher education a reality for everyone.”