Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

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Case Study: Banksia Gardens Community Services

ProjectProject REAL (Re-Engagement in Education And Learning) / Northern Centre for Excellence for School Engagement (NCESE)

Amount$180,000 in total

Date2016 & 2019


This grant was approved under previous grants policy
Building organisational capacity Develop a solid therapeutic engagement framework utilising performance arts and new trend sports as key tools
Extending opportunity Provide young people disengaged from the mainstream school system with an opportunity to complete their education and reach their full potential
Collaboration and partnership Outer Urban Projects, The Gateway School, 15 local primary schools, Dianella Community Health, Brotherhood of St Laurence, Berry Street Education Program

An innovative community-led initiative deals with the emerging problem of school absenteeism at a young age

Project REAL responds to the alarming increase in the number of young people in the Hume region disengaging from primary school education before they are even into their teens. The ultimate goal is to re-engage students in their education and build the capacity of all the partner schools to appropriately respond to the needs of students impacted by trauma.

Image Project REAL operates from two donated portable classrooms in the grounds of Banksia Gardens Community Services.

An alarming number of young children aged 9-12yrs in the Hume region are spending extended periods of time away from school, either as a result of absenteeism, suspension or expulsions. Without adequate supervision, many of these at risk students engage in highly problematic and challenging behaviours. The core aim of Project REAL is to provide them with an alternate education setting and connect them to health and other services as needed before ultimately re-engaging them with mainstream education. The Northern Centre for Excellence in School Engagement is an extension of Project REAL which builds the capacity of teachers and schools to foster attendance and positive engagement

  • Since opening its doors almost three years ago to some of the most vulnerable children in the community, Project REAL has established an alliance between local organisations including Banksia Gardens Community Services, Berry Street Childhood Institute, The Gateway School (Roxburgh College), Outer Urban Projects, the Department of Education and Training, and fifteen local primary schools.
  • The program provides students with an alternate education setting, connects their families to health and other services they identify as needed, and ultimately returns them to their mainstream schools.
  • A capacity building, specialist support and peer review component to support local schools is included. Berry Street Childhood Institute is delivering the Berry Street Education Model, a Trauma Informed Positive Education (TIPE) module, to teachers to support the students in their mainstream school.
  • Outer Urban Projects plays a key role in reconnecting students to schooling through their arts engagement programs.
  • By June 2020, more than 250 teachers from local schools had participated in training in the Berry Street Trauma Informed Education (TIPE) or additional professional development opportunities provided by the Project REAL team, and over 75 educators from all partner schools had joined the NCESE / Project REAL online Community of Practice.
  • The Gateway School is establishing a specific program for secondary students under 15.
  • Brotherhood of St Laurence has developed a rigorous evaluation framework to assist with ongoing sustainability.



Updated July 2020.

"The grant was absolutely instrumental in the Project REAL journey. Not only was HMSTrust the first philanthropic organisation to financially support our proposal, they also provided us with resources, advice and contacts that allowed us to make this project a reality." Jaime de Loma-Osorio Ricon, Deputy CEO, BGCS