Ms Louise Rak
Widening Participation Programs Manager
Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Ed.
- Phone:(02) 40339231
WORKING TO HELP CARE LEAVERS ACCESS HIGHER EDUCATION
Developing and implementing a revolutionary program, Louise Rak is breaking down barriers to higher education for students from an out of home care (OOHC) background.
Over a decade of professional experience in community service roles across the Hunter has well-equipped Louise to implement a new program that is the first of its kind in Australia and internationally.
Live, Learn, Grow launched as a pilot program in 2016 and is providing students from a care experience with a range of tailored support services.
The program was developed in consultation with representatives across the sector and identifies some of the known issues that prevent care-leavers from accessing higher education.
“We’ve learnt that support systems, relocating and finances are some of the factors that have a huge impact on the decision to go on to higher education,” Louise said.
“Through the program, we provide subsidised on-campus accommodation and supported employment for the students who want it. We also created an on-campus role to help students navigate university systems and processes throughout the year.”
“All of our 2016 participants indicated that they wouldn't of made it past the first four weeks of University had it not of been for the support of the program, in particular, the individual support offered by our designated mentor role. We’ve been able to secure employment for those who were interested and heard anecdotal feedback that some students wouldn’t have considered going to university if it wasn’t for the program,” she added.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Louise’s focus is also broader than just a student level. She is working to create systemic changes across institutions, organisations and policies.
“The program has involved an active consultation group made up of government and non-government groups. We’ve also held on-campus days for people in care and caseworkers and we continue to talk with agencies to develop better ways of passing information along to better support the kids they are working with,” Louise said.
“By engaging these different cohorts in the program, carers, case workers and agencies are starting to think about how they are incorporating and communicating the importance of education into their work.”
“The program has been able to provide information to both students, carers and case/care workers about going to university and how to support education pathways, which is hopefully the start of a systemic change in how information is shared and accessed,” she added.
In 2017 the program is looking to work with young people in care, their carers and OOHC agencies to develop new areas of research that will better inform practice. This research and the educational outcomes will be guided and co-designed by those living and working directly in OOHC to reflect the realities and complexities of the system.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
There are no real limits on the possibilities for Live, Learn, Grow as a model to be taken up by other universities or adapted for other underrepresented groups in higher education.
“Ultimately we would like to see the program grow and become a fixture at the University of Newcastle (UON) and all other Australian universities,” Louise said.
“We’ve seen the potential the program is having and the difference it is making to the participant’s outlook of their future,” she added.
As Widening Participation Programs Manager, Louise is looking to affect positive change in other equity groups as well.
“My role is quite diverse and varied. As well as overseeing Live, Learn, Grow, I also manage the other widening participation programs provided by the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education (CEEHE),” she said.
The programs cater for students at all stages of school, and are also moving towards supporting university students from diverse backgrounds, such as a refugee experience.
“Through these programs we are able to reach thousands of people every year and inform students and community members about their options for life long learning,” Louise said.
“There is still a lot we could be doing at an institutional level to change certain processes and services to ensure all students can access and successfully participate in higher education. We’re really striving to ensure the right foundations are set so students are properly supported into and throughout higher education according to their individual circumstances,” she added.
Live, Learn, Grow was initially funded by a Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme (HEPPP) 2016 National Priorities Pool Grant and is now fully supported by CEEHE and UON.
Louise Rak is the Widening Participation Programs Manager and Project Lead for the Live Learn Grow Program at the University of Newcastle, Australia
Louise Rak is Widening Participation Programs Manager for the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education. In addition to managing stakeholder relationships and the strategic development of programs, Louise is also Program Developer for the Live, Learn, Grow project that supports students from an out of home care experience to access higher education.
Prior to her current roles, Louise was Operations Manager – Community Services at CatholicCare Social Services Hunter Manning where she was responsible for the operational and financial management of four program areas that involved working with some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people within society.
Her time as Early Intervention and Intensive Support Manager at CatholicCare Social Services Hunter Manning also saw Louise develop and implement another program first that assisted young people exiting court ordered care to find housing and develop living skills that supported a smoother transition into adulthood.
Louise’s extensive experience in community services has driven her commitment to equity and social justice within the higher education sector. She believes that access to and participation in higher education is one of the most powerful ways to ensure a nation’s social equity, cultural cohesion and respect for difference.
- Master of Counselling, University of New England
- Bachelor of Social Science, University of Newcastle
- Graduate Diploma in Social Science (Psychology), University of New England
- Postgraduate Diploma in Psychology, University of New England
- Grad Diploma in Counselling for Health&Social Care, University of New England
- Graduate Certificate in Business, University of Southern Queensland
- community development
Fields of Research
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For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.
Journal article (1 outputs)
Rak L, Fuller EA, 'Live, Learn, Grow: Supporting young people with a care experience through higher education', Student Success, 8 95-99 (2017)
Report (1 outputs)
Rak L, Fuller E, Munn B, Blakemore TJ, 'Live, Learn, Grow : Final Report', Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme, (HEPPP), 2015 National Priorities Pool, 25 (2017)
August 22, 2016
An on-campus experience is being held at the University of Newcastle's (UON) Central Coast campus on September 20 for young people currently in out-of-home-care (OOHC).