The Smith Family is calling on the community to support the education of disadvantaged children this Anti-Poverty Week (15-21 October).

More than 1.1 million children and young people are living in poverty across Australia[1] and without the tools they need for school and access to extra learning support, these children are at risk of a lifetime of poverty, The Smith Family warned today.

Supporting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to continue their education is key to breaking the cycle of poverty, with those completing Year 12 more likely to go on to further study or work. Yet recent data revealed one in eight young Australians will never attain a Year 12 qualification[2] – putting them at higher risk of unemployment and reliance on welfare support.

The Smith Family’s CEO Dr Lisa O’Brien said a range of factors – both in and out of school – can help shape a young person’s likely pathway through life, with parent engagement in their child’s learning shown to be particularly influential.

“Disadvantage isn’t destiny,” said Dr O’Brien. “We know that given the right support at the right time, children can really thrive.

“Early intervention is critical to help a child keep up in school. However, for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, supporting them in the early years is not enough. The research shows balanced, long-term support throughout a child’s schooling years is the most effective – and cost-effective – way to ensure positive educational and life outcomes.”

The Smith Family advocates for a whole-of-community approach to supporting young people’s education, citing the strong results being achieved by its Learning for Life program. By engaging students, parents, schools and the wider community, over the last five years the program has supported more than 8,500 students from the lowest socioeconomic backgrounds to complete Year 12.

“Learning for Life combines three components of financial assistance, student and family support to overcome barriers to participation at school, and access to learning and mentoring programs. Our evaluation shows students on the program are more likely to stay in school and finish Year 12, with four in five students engaged in work or further education a year after leaving the program,” said Dr O’Brien.

“This adds to the evidence that investing in effective strategies and proven programs – both in and outside the classroom – can help young people break that poverty cycle.”

Individuals or businesses wanting to sponsor a child or volunteer to support The Smith Family’s Learning for Life program can find more information at

Why completing Year 12 matters

Education is a key predictor of a person’s engagement in lifelong work and study. Higher levels of education are associated with higher paying jobs, better general health, lower reliance on welfare and less likelihood of engaging in crime, as highlighted by the statistics[3] below:

·         Highest education and employment: In 2016, 67% of Australians with Year 12 as their highest education were employed, compared with 44% for those with Year 11 or below, and 80% for those with a Bachelor degree or above.

·         Welfare support: Australians aged 15-64 years without any qualifications are almost twice as likely to live in families dependent on government income support, compared to those with a qualification.

·         Prisoners: In 2015, 16% of Australian prisoners had completed Year 12 or equivalent compared to 63% of the total adult population.

The Smith Family is a children’s education charity that helps disadvantaged young Australians to succeed at school, so they can create better futures for themselves.


[1] ACOSS & SPRC (2016) Poverty in Australia, 2016, Australian Council of Social Services, Sydney

[2] Lamb S & Huo S (2017) Counting the costs of lost opportunity in Australian education, Mitchell Institute, Melbourne

[3] Hampshire A (2017) The Australia We Want Education Forum: Background Paper, The Smith Family, Sydney.