The weight has been lifted from the shoulders of the Portland Secondary College’s re-engagement program, albeit temporarily, with the announcement of $100,000 in funding from the Andrew Jack Trust.The 11th-hour reprieve saves the program from imminent closure, securing the positions of 40 students until the end of 2016.Trustee for the Andrew Jack Trust, Portland lawyer Pat Howman, said the re-engagement program was a worthy cause, having seen first hand the effects of disengaged youth."In my role as a lawyer I’ve often seen the impact of kids dropping out of school.
This program tries to bring them back on track for a more positive outlook," Mr Howman said."From a personal view, I understand the importance of the re-engagement program. You don’t want to see people fall through the cracks."Mr Howman said that if the re-engagement program were to close, the prospects of the young students could be dire."How much does it cost the community if there’s no re-reengagement program? If you think about it, it costs more than $100,000 per year to hold someone in prison, so this is money well spent."While visiting the re-engagement program’s Glenelg St centre on Monday, Mr Howman said he hoped the one-off grant would help the secondary college find sustainable funding."I believe the government should fund this type of program for the benefit of local society in general; it shouldn’t have to rely on a charitable organisation," he added."Hopefully this will show the level of local support and need for the program and convince the government to provide ongoing funding."With the program funded for now, supporters are not under the illusion that the program is permanently saved; school principal Toni Burgoyne said the program could still close if long-term support is not found in the next year."It’s great to have this support; however, work still needs to be done to ensure the future sustainability of the program," said Mrs Burgoyne.
"It is now funded to December 2016 but unless we can secure recurrent funding for years to come from the government, we will be in the same position and by July next year will again have to make a decision on its future."It’s clear that this is a stop-gap measure and a one-off grant to help us pursue sustainable funding."Mrs Burgoyne said the school council was continuing to pursue discussions with the Victorian Government to secure ongoing funding."We believe this program is essential considering the high level of disengagement in the Portland community. We’ve made great headway in addressing this important community problem since it was established in 2011, and would hate to see that good work undone because we don’t have any ongoing surety in our school budget."
The Andrew Jack Trust was set up after the death of Portland identity Andrew Jack in 2011. It has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Portland health and education needs.
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Photo courtesy of the Portland Observer.