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Dorothy Hoddinott AO starts Refugee Scholarship Fund

Dorothy Hoddinott AO – Refugee Scholarship Fund

Human rights champion Dorothy Hoddinott AO, starts sub-fund with Sydney Community Foundation to provide post-secondary education scholarships for refugee youth.

“We need to give the same opportunities for everyone in our society. We need to utilise the talents of all our young people.”

“I’ve seen so many times the transformative capacity of education. Education really does change lives for the better and a scholarship can make all the difference for young people of refugee background, who have come to Australia without anything but their talent and their hope for the future.

In her current role as Presiding Pro Chancellor at the University of Sydney, Dorothy is concerned that students in the lowest 25% of socio-economic status continue to be under-represented in further education, despite university outreach programs and uncapping of enrolments in recent years.

“It’s hard to break the cycle of poverty and low expectations,” says Dorothy.

As principal of Holroyd High School until 2018, Dorothy worked tirelessly to ensure all her students were given every opportunity to reach their potential. Recognised internationally for her work, by the time she retired, the school was averaging around 60% first round university offers in a school where most of the students were recent immigrants or refugees and most in the lowest quartile of socioeconomic advantage.

“We were able to shift expectations upwards,” says Dorothy.

“We need to provide young refugees with every opportunity to be successful in their education,“ says Dorothy, “I don’t think we should waste the talents of young refugees.”

Dorothy spoke individually with her students about the opportunities available to them. “Sometimes a student who had only been in Australia a short time before sitting the HSC might say to me, “I didn’t get the ATAR I needed to get into university, “so I’d say, “Well, there are other things you could do. You could go to TAFE, you could repeat the HSC, the main thing is not to give up.

“You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. Not getting into university now doesn’t mean you are a failure. Keep trying, we will support you in whatever you do.”

“The message the school has to give out is that…sometimes you do fall flat. So, what you do then is you sit up, you dust yourself off, you have another go, knowing that we will be there with you the whole way,” says Dorothy.

Early in her teaching career, Dorothy taught in a school catering to a poor community on the outskirts of London. To her dismay, students were conditioned to keep their expectations low. Says Dorothy; “I got into trouble because I encouraged the girls that I taught to think beyond the obvious. The school said to me, “You’re giving them ideas above their station.”

“I have devoted my career to giving people ideas above their station. I don’t believe your station is fixed.”

Dorothy has been very successful in raising funds to provide modest scholarships for many students to help them complete school and support their further education.

“I see that as an ongoing role really, while I can. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money; it just has to be strategic money.”

Dorothy says scholarships enable students to cover the small expenses, which can add up and be a barrier to success, such things as stationery, printer ink, or maybe a computer.

“Whether it’s internet access, or a lab coat, or the instruments you need for your nursing course, scholarships are circuit breakers, they make the difference,” says Dorothy.

In recent years, teaching refugee children from war-torn countries, Dorothy has seen the changes in community attitudes and levels of support available for refugees.

“Not necessarily just the children in school, but the adults, with English lessons and support services, having access to those services is very important for successful settlement.

“Many refugee parents have had little education, some have had no formal education at all. They don’t know who to talk to, they don’t understand what’s available for their children…lack of English can be a barrier. They don’t have powerful networks or connections.

“It’s very hard to manage if you have low literacy skills in a first world society.”

In addition to scholarships, Dorothy is constantly advocating for students, helping them with introductions, internships, interviews, jobs, citizenship and visa applications and providing support where it is needed. She recognises that many young people don’t have anyone other than their teachers who can help them in this way.

“This is what networking does. A lot of more advantaged families help their children in this way, they know somebody, and they mention their child and their child gets a job or an interview or something like that. That’s what happens,” says Dorothy.

“We need to give the same opportunities for everyone in our society. We need to utilise the talents of all our young people.”

You can help young people reach their potential through continuing education scholarships.

Make your donation to support the Dorothy Hoddinott Fund, a sub-fund of Sydney Community Foundation.


About Dorothy Hoddinott AO
Dorothy Hoddinott AO is a former principal of Holroyd High School in Sydney and Presiding Pro-Chancellor at the University of Sydney. She was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2008 and was awarded the Australian Human Rights Medal in 2014 for her work protecting the human rights of refugee and disadvantaged students.

Visit the Dorothy Hoddinott AO Refugee Scholarship Fund page…

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