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Mary MacKillop’s dream lives on

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Following the feast day of St Mary MacKillop on August 8, we celebrate the work of the Foundation which continues the saint's legacy by providing education programs and tertiary scholarships for the 'poorest and most neglected in God's vineyard'.

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Only a year after Mary MacKillop opened her first school in a stable at Penola in 1866, she began classes in Adelaide. Until the Sisters of St Joseph commenced teaching these children of the poverty-stricken working classes, they never had the opportunity to learn how to read or write. It was this need to which Mary responded.

This month we celebrate the feast day of St Mary MacKillop and we will no doubt be reminded of this extraordinary Australian’s most famous saying, which also summed up her philosophy on life: ‘Never see a need without doing something about it’. Throughout Australia today, as in South Australia in the 1860s, there still exists a need for access to education that will lead to a better future for the vulnerable and marginalised in our community.

The Mary MacKillop Foundation continues the saint’s legacy by providing educational program and tertiary scholarships for those who Mary described as the ‘poorest and most neglected in God’s vineyard’.

Since the Foundation’s inception in 1997, its community grants have helped more than 30,000 individuals to acquire skills and knowledge to improve their engagement with the community and take advantage of life opportunities. Over that 20-year period, scholarships have enabled 101 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to graduate from tertiary institutions with qualifications in a diverse range of fields including medicine, nursing and education.

The Foundation’s community grants program funds innovative and practical grassroots projects that struggle to find funding elsewhere. They aim to assist those who have been pushed to the margins of society such as asylum seekers and refugees, Indigenous people, those living in rural and remote communities and people living with disability.

The Mary MacKillop Foundation also provides scholarships that address the social and economic disadvantage experienced by Indigenous people by giving them the resources to gain a tertiary education. Many scholars are mature age students with life responsibilities such as children, so assistance with expenses for rent, electricity, textbooks, and IT make higher education possible. Throughout the term of the scholarship, the Foundation provides students with personal support when needed and as a result in 2016 their completion rate was 30 per cent higher than the national average.

By removing barriers to completing a tertiary education, the Foundation helps create better employment opportunities, better health outcomes and future leaders. These scholarship students are changing their own future and that of generations to come.

Kingsley Edwards is donor development manager, Mary MacKillop Foundation.

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