Bendigo program offers students a new start

EIGHT central Victorian secondary students will next term take part in an eight- week course aimed at introducing them to community and volunteer work and re-engaging them in their education.Operation Newstart Central Victoria is supported by Victoria Police and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. It offers “disengaged” students an opportunity to participate in education, recreational and vocational experiences.The program will launch in Bendigo at the start of next term, after successfully being run in Melbourne since 1997 and in Shepparton since 2008.To help the program get started Variety and Freemasons Victoria yesterday handed over the keys to the Variety Club Sunshine Coach, which the program leaders will use to transport students to and from activities that will be held across the state during the school term.Program co-ordinator Leading Senior Constable Peter Bullock said Operation Newstart had been successful in forging relationships between police and other community members and at-risk young people in metropolitan regions and hoped the local program would continue in the same manner.“The aim of the course is to assist [the students] to broaden their horizons through community involvement and also through outdoor activities such as canoeing, rock climbing, and bush walking,’’ he said.“We will supervise the students for the term ... work to re-engage them and get them interested in school again.“We’ll also aim to introduce them to TAFE courses, steer them towards a trade, VCAL or VET or even full-time employment.’’Leading Senior Constable Bullock said he and fellow course leader Vern Hardie, a qualified outdoor education teacher, are still setting up the classroom at the old Kangaroo Flat police station and have asked anyone in the community who may be able to help with furniture and other necessities to contact them. “Also if any members of the public think there is a community project that the students could assist with and take part in we would be happy to hear from them,’’ Leading Senior Constable Bullock said.Leading Senior Constable Peter Bullock can be contacted on 0457 540 003 or by email at peter.bullock@police.vic.gov.au

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