A burning passion for education
2 July 2012
“The most important advice I give young people is get educated – knowledge is power. Education levels the playing field and once you have skills and a qualification, no-one can ever take it away from you.” – Rebecca
Helping to educate close to 60 homeless young people each year through The Salvation Army Oasis Youth Support Network, full-time teacher Rebecca says: “I truly believe education is the key to changing your life.
“I’m proof of that,” she smiles.
Although Rebecca is very careful not to superimpose her own experiences of homelessness and foster care onto her students, she says it does give her a deeper sense of understanding, and explains that her own childhood “wasn’t always smooth sailing.”
“We moved around a lot so my early life lacked structure and security. Bills wouldn’t get paid, so we were just constantly moving, and always in the dead of the night.”
When Rebecca was aged eleven, her mother passed away and so began an even more painful journey through a range of various foster carers, and through to homelessness.
After high school, working hard, but still struggling to find some stability, her turning point came when a workmate told her about Vera Loblay House (now managed by the Salvos), which offers long-term accommodation for homeless young people committed to pursuing their education, training or employment.
Rebecca says: “Being able to live in the house gave me the chance to feel that security I had been craving.
“It allowed me to start making a future for myself which was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been offered.”
It was while living at Vera Loblay House that Rebecca decided she would become a teacher.
With no family or financial support, the road ahead was challenging, but, in 2008, she realised her ambition and proudly graduated from university with a double degree in Education and Arts.
Not surprisingly, in 2010, when the teaching position to help young people struggling with pain, poverty and disadvantage became available, Rebecca jumped at the opportunity to teach at The Salvation Army Oasis Youth Support Network. As well as teaching, she is now a passionate advocate for further official recognition of alternative education and an advocate for youth homelessness.
“With more than 32,000 young Australians having no place to call home, youth homelessness remains a largely hidden issue, requiring urgent attention,” she says.
“Oasis has a profound understanding of the needs of homeless people. It holistically addresses all of the issues of the young person – right from their education to mental health, to housing. It is just extraordinary.
“The young people who access this school have been cast aside in so many areas, it is unthinkable that education wouldn’t be available to them!”