At-risk kids given new start

Operation Newstart is a proactive intervention program working with students at greatest educational risk. It functions as an alternative schools program in partnership with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victoria Police and Save the Children. Operation Newstart has been running in Victoria since 1997, when the southern program began at Mount Erin Secondary College.Each program is facilitated by a leading teacher and a police member and takes on eight students, recommended to the program by teachers, parents, police and other community members, for one school term. There is a stringent screening process once a student, who must be enrolled in a public secondary school, is recommended. I had first-hand experience of the program about two years ago when my niece was at risk of dropping out of the education system. She is basically a good kid but she was experiencing some difficulties at school which saw her disengage not only from school but also with her mother and brothers and the sport she is very keen on. She was recommended and secured a position with the Greater Dandenong program and the transformation I saw in one school term was amazing, she is back at school, reinvigorated at home and right back into her footy. More importantly, she now has a plan for the future. Newstart offered her several opportunities to explore a career that suited her and she is now working towards that goal.The Operation Newstart – Central Victoria steering committee has been working hard over the past 18 months to secure the program. We needed people to facilitate the program who were not only experienced but were highly motivated, reliable and blessed with great people skills. Vern Hardie was appointed as leading teacher. He was working with children near Alice Springs on a program when we interviewed him. Peter Bullock is a senior constable with 10 years operational experience. He served in the Royal Australian Navy for seven years before joining Victoria Police. He is a quiet achiever, flexible and a tireless worker. These two complement each other and will be terrific for the program. Operation Newstart – Central Victoria will begin in term two this year.

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