Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

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Case Study: North Melbourne Language & Learning

ProjectCommunity Learning Champions: Championing Learning for Engagement and Employment

Amount$200,000 over 3 years



This grant was approved under our previous grants policy (Jan 2014 – March 2017)
Building organisational capacity Consolidate the project in North Melbourne and Flemington and extend to the Carlton communities
Extending opportunity Increase participation in local learning and civic engagement opportunities, build tangible and sustainable employment pathways, and provide opportunities to participate in meaningful work
Collaboration and partnership Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre, Brotherhood of St Laurence, City of Melbourne

Empowering community leaders

Migrant and refugee communities in the inner north suburbs of North Melbourne, Flemington and Carlton experience difficulty in navigating education, training and employment systems. North Melbourne Language & Learning and Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre are implementing a place-based model that has been shown to be a highly effective way of developing and supporting lifelong learning, rooted in communities and driven by the energy, passion and commitment of local community champions.

Image Community Learning Champions outside Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre, Carlton.


  • At the heart of the Community Learning Champions approach is the principle of the supported volunteer. It recognises that much of the knowledge and expertise needed to address local issues are found within communities themselves.
  • 25 local people are being recruited and trained as Community Learning Champions to:
    – consult their communities about learning needs;
    – influence partner organisations’ program development;
    – inspire and support their communities to engage in local learning;
    – increase participation in civic engagement opportunities; and
    – help address barriers to participation in further education and employment.
  • The Community Learning Champions support their respective communities with entry points to education and training in an environment that is localised, small, easy to access, low on red tape, flexible and responsive.
  • The project significantly increases the involvement of Culturally & Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities in planning, designing and delivering courses and activities in their local settings that are tailored, relevant and build social networks.


“Our champions bring unique skills, insights and connections that complement our professional team." Tara Willersdorf, Community Programs Project Officer, NMLL