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Raising literacy among the vulnerable makes for a better community for all

The statistics are stark. Young people in foster care – or out-of-home care (OOHC) – are less likely to achieve national literacy and numeracy standards when compared with all students in Australia and 75% don’t complete 12 years of school. They are also 12 times more likely than the general population to enter the juvenile justice system and 10 times more likely to have children who require foster care.

A former sub-editor and journalist with the Illawarra Mercury, Danielle Woolage is now a team member at CareSouth, one of the state’s most dynamic charitable organisations. She firmly believes that literacy is the bridge between social-economic disadvantage and a functioning society. With 92% of OOHC children at age 7 below the average reading age, an education-based mentoring program run by CareSouth aims to break this cycle. The program has an accredited Story Dog – Buster – and students are encouraged to read books with the cuddly cavoodle to improve their literacy skills and love of reading. 

“I worked with children and young people in foster care and their birth families,” says Ms Woolage. “I noticed a real gap in their literacy skills. The Homework Hub is designed to close the learning gap for vulnerable children and ultimately increase their social and economic inclusion and break the cycle of disadvantage. Students in the program are able to experience positive peer relationships with children from similar backgrounds as well as mentors from the community and university. The Homework Hub encourages young people to stay in school and aspire to post-school education.”

Since the Homework Hub began in 2015, CareSouth has established a partnership with UOW’s Education Faculty. The partnership is mutually beneficial in that it provides placement opportunities for pre-service teachers and allows them to gain experience working with vulnerable children. In turn, the teaching students not only support at-risk young people with their homework but help them build their confidence and self-esteem.

“Teaching students are able to do 30 hours of volunteer placement in the Homework Hub to satisfy their Social Equity course requirements and many stay on after the required placement as volunteers,” says Ms Woolage. “This partnership is mutually beneficial in that vulnerable students receive the help they need both educationally and socially, while teaching students get hands-on experience working with vulnerable children.

“The Homework Hub relies on volunteer mentors, who not only encourage academic achievement but also help students develop their social skills and boost their confidence through positive role modelling. These volunteers are helping to build a better community and a better future.”

The funding from the IMB Bank Community Foundation has paid for essential tools of modern teaching, including iPads and laptops. “Many students in the Homework hub don’t have access to personal computers or Wi-Fi at home,” Ms Woolage explains, “so they rely on accessing technology in the Homework Hub to do their required school work.”

Find out more about the work of CareSouth and the Homework Hub

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Helping build and strengthen our local communities since 1999

As a mutual bank, supporting our local communities is important to us. We believe in supporting projects that foster inclusion, encourage volunteering and create sustainable outcomes, enabling the communities around us to thrive.

Over the last 20 years, The IMB Bank Community Foundation has invested over $10 million to support over 700 community projects. We’re very proud of the projects we’ve supported and each year we marvel at the wonderful achievements of our funding recipients.

These diverse and meaningful grassroots programs are found wherever IMB Bank operates — Sydney, The Hunter, The Illawarra, Southern Highlands and Far South Coast NSW.

Previous funding recipients

Farmborough Heights Rural Fire Brigade

A thermal imaging camera will enable The Farmborough Heights Rural Fire Brigade’s volunteer members to fully interpret a fire scene providing accurate situational awareness both day and night. It will also assist in search and rescue operations at any time and in any light conditions.

Giralang/Kaleen Men's Shed

The Giralang/Kaleen Men's Shed offers all men access to a range of activities including a woodworking workshop, garden, physical activity such as walking, and social interaction. Members will be trained in first aid to support shed members if needed.

Girl Guides Association of NSW

Building on a century of adventure, fun and friendship, Girl Guides empowers girls and young women to grow into confident, self-respecting, responsible community members. The project will allow Girl Guides to offer abseiling, high ropes and rock-climbing experiences in the local region providing opportunities for the girls to grow, learn and have fun in the outdoors.

See all recipients


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Established in 1880, we have been helping people achieve their financial goals for 140 years and are rated by Forbes as one of the World’s Best Banks. We offer a full range of competitive banking, including home and personal lending, savings and transaction accounts, term deposits, business banking, and can arrange financial planning, insurance and travel products.

We provide simple and secure digital banking solutions online and on mobile, and members enjoy access to free automated phone and internet banking, and a team of professionals at our locally based contact centre. With a growing branch network throughout the Illawarra, Sydney, NSW South Coast, Newcastle/Hunter, the ACT and Melbourne, we have a lending specialist in every branch and a team of mobile lending specialists who will come to you.

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