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Northern hub welcomed

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A new education and community services village proposed for Davoren Park by the Adelaide Archdiocese and Catholic Education SA has been welcomed by the Playford City Council.

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Playford Mayor Glenn Docherty said the council was excited to see investment in the city that would support a new type of learning community.

“In Playford we celebrate a diverse community and recognise parents, families and community play an integral role in a child’s education,” Mr Docherty said.

“The proposed development will play an important role in supporting this diversity, engaging the community and modelling education around the needs and aspirations of children, young people and their families.”

The bold plans for the 4ha site on Peachey Road were announced last month.

The City of Playford State of the City Report November 2018 highlights the need to break existing cycles of disadvantage in Adelaide’s northern suburbs.

The report reveals Playford has some of the highest unemployment and youth unemployment rates nationally, rates that are likely to be much worse now due to the impact of COVID-19 on the economy.

At June 2018, Playford’s unemployment was 13.1 per cent compared with Adelaide’s 6.1 per cent. Davoren Park unemployment rate was 17.6 per cent and in Smithfield/Elizabeth North it was 22.7 per cent.

The national youth unemployment rate in March 2018 was 12.2 per cent; Adelaide’s north at the time was 18.4 per cent, with Davoren Park and Smithfield/Smithfield Plains in the highest postcodes for youth unemployment, with one out of four young people looking for but out of work.

Playford has a higher proportion of young people aged 0 to 17 years compared to Adelaide (30.9 per cent to 21 per cent).

It is estimated that in Davoren Park and surrounding suburbs, there are more than 2000 young people of school age (5-17) currently disengaged from formal learning and unlikely to finish school.

Measuring from Year 8 enrolment, graduation from government schools in Playford can be as low as one in five students.

Another frightening statistic from the report is that a baby is born to a teenage mother every three days in Playford.

The grim outlook is expected to worsen as the full impact of a downturn in local industries, particularly the manufacturing sector, is felt in the northern suburbs.

Not surprisingly, the region has been on the radar of the Adelaide Archdiocese and Catholic Education SA for some time.

“Ever since the Holden closure, we have been thinking about how we can respond as a Church to the growing need for a circuit breaker in the Playford area,” Fr Marshall said.

“We looked to our strengths which are in education and community services and after a lot of discussion and consultation, about two years ago things started to crystallise.

“It will be a different approach to education for disengaged youth with wraparound services for families.

“We want to create something really beautiful, that the local people can have pride in,”

The first stage will be a ‘northern flexi school’ run by Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA) based on the successful FAME model in the south of the city and its existing flexible learning school for 70 students at Elizabeth TAFE Campus.

The latter will relocate to the new site during 2021 and will continue to cater for students aged 12-17, with plans for two other schools on the same campus, one for young people aged 17-24 and another for primary school-aged children for whom school hasn’t yet been successful.

Speaking on ABC Mornings Radio recently, Fr Marshall spoke passionately about the project and the need to break the cycle of generational disadvantage.

“There’s a whole world of human beings who at the moment are getting a bit lost in the system,” he said.

“We’re trying to create a whole package that might transform lives.

“Sometimes these people just don’t have the pathways to get to where they’re born to be.

“There are good people out there and we want to support them.”

Fr Marshall said the plan was for the village to be ‘birth to work’ but initially would be for secondary and late to post-school aged students who would come largely through referral from other services.

“The founding principle is that a young person has every right to every possible opportunity to become everything they are born to be,” he said.

“Sometimes circumstances make that hard for people so we want to offer a whole community of services that will give a young person out in that area the chance to be what they dream to be.

“It’s tremendously exciting, it’s one of the best things we are doing.”

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