Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

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Case Study: River Nile Learning Centre

ProjectSecuring RNLC’s Financial Sustainability: Establishment of River Nile School




This grant was approved under previous grants policy (2014-2017)
Reducing inequality Providing disadvantaged refugee and asylum seeker young women with the opportunity of participating in our community on a more equal footing through education
Enabling financial sustainability Registering as an independent school provides long term financial security enabling RNLC to become a sustainable organisation
Collaboration and partnership The City of Melbourne, Red Cross, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, secondary schools and other referral organisations Service Stars Community Jobs Alliance, AMES, Inner Melbourne VET cluster, Foundation House, Inner Melbourne Legal Centre, City LLEN

Empowering disadvantaged refugee and asylum seeker women through education

The River Nile Learning Centre has offered a VCAL (Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning) Program for young women from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds since 2008, however, sustainability and growth was an ongoing issue. A grant from HMSTrust facilitated key aspects of the rigorous process to successfully establish an independent school - the River Nile School - and ensure the sustainability of The River Nile Learning Centre.

Image River Nile School student with a volunteer. Photo: courtesy RNLC

RNLC had been successfully running its VCAL program in partnership with the Department of Education and Mount Alexander College, Flemington. A move to larger and more suitable premises provided the opportunity to apply for the registration of a stand-alone school and become eligible for government funding, ensuring ongoing viability.


  • Subsequently opened in January 2017, River Nile School is the only organisation in Melbourne offering free VCAL schooling, childcare and comprehensive welfare support to eligible young refugee and asylum seeker women.
  • With the Trust’s support, an expert Education consultant was employed to review and finalise the critical documents required by the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) for school registration as an Independent school, which demonstrated the capacity to comply with minimum standards and other requirements.
  • A separate stand-alone website for the new school, separate from that of The River Nile Learning Centre, was developed to satisfy VRQA’s mandatory requirements
  • A suite of marketing and communication materials was developed to promote the new River Nile School and to support the fundraising campaign of its sister organisation, the River Nile Learning Centre.
  • Following six months of planning and revising of Policies and Programs, official approval was given in December 2016 by VRQA for the entity River Nile School to become an Independent Specialist Senior VCAL School for young women aged 15-21 years.
  • With secure funding, River Nile School has been able to commit to contracts for teaching staff and for provision of services to students.
  • The River Nile Learning Centre continues to provide education programs for refugee and asylum seeker women whose age, visa or personal circumstances prohibit them from being enrolled in the School.



"No matter what obstacles the journey throws up, women, when educated and nurtured, will thrive," Lisa Wilson, RNS Foundation Principal and RNLC Director