Carinity and Search Light partner to provide ECEC and continuing support for young mums
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > Carinity and Search Light partner to provide ECEC and continuing support for young mums

Carinity and Search Light partner to provide ECEC and continuing support for young mums

by Freya Lucas

November 15, 2022

Carinity Education Southside is a unique education setting that offers opportunities for young mothers to continue their education while being supported by an on-site early learning service. 


Known as Search Light Early Learning Centre, the service is a purpose-built space, overseen by Search Light Inc., operating on the school grounds. It has enabled a number of young mothers, including Justine Hopkins, to overcome barriers to continuing their education. 


Ms Hopkins’ has a unique perspective on the value of the service, having been a student, an employee, and now the mother of a current student.


After previously disengaging from school and experiencing domestic violence, Ms Hopkins enrolled at the unique all-girls school in Brisbane to complete Year 12 as a mature age student.


She graduated from Year 12 at Southside in 2007, then studied at TAFE and worked in hospitality and youth work, something she says would not have been possible if not for the support she had from Search Light.


“I dropped out of school when I was a teenager,” she explained. 


“Finishing school was not even on the cards but I wanted something in my life. One of my siblings was attending Southside school at the time and she was telling me that I could enrol there – and I could take my kids too.”


“Being a young adult with young children, studying without the support of the creche would have been hard for me. When the school said they could facilitate the care of my little ones at the creche, I had access to the children being minded and me getting an education.”


Each year, up to 10 per cent of Carinity Education Southside’s student population are young mothers. 


Fellow graduate Jacqui Clevens said the care her children received at the early learning centre while she was studying was pivotal to her graduating from school.


“I went to Southside before becoming a young mum, so I knew they had great supportive teachers and staff. Having the creche there to look after my babies after they were born was just amazing. It was another reason that I was able to graduate,” she explained.


As well as caring for babies and toddlers, Search Light Early Learning Centre also offers support programs for Southside students who are young mums. This includes: 


  • Parenting strategies 
  • A clinic nurse
  • First aid training
  • Health and nutrition advice
  • Music and reading for children
  • Water safety and swimming lessons.


Search Light is funded by two Australian Government agencies, the Community Child Care Fund and the Families and Communities Program.


“All members of the Search Light Inc. management committee are volunteers and our long-standing partnership with Carinity Education Southside has supported many young women to complete their secondary education while pregnant and parenting,” explained Search Light Inc. spokesperson Sue Chapman. 


“We are always very grateful for our partnership with Carinity as without their support we would not be able to offer many of the additional support services that we do.”


Carinity Education Southside Principal, Leann Faint, paid tribute to the Search Light Early Learning Centre volunteers.


“Each year young women who never imagined they could achieve at school graduate from Southside with their young child or children by her side. This could not be possible without Search Light. They are valued partners who journey with students as they aspire to and achieve their educational dreams,” Ms Faint said.


“The Search Light committee is run by a group of professional women – some working, some retired – who saw a need and found a practical solution to help young women with babies and toddlers. They are deeply committed and passionate about education for these girls and improving the prospects for both mums and babies.”


Search Light is now offering an annual bursary for a graduating Year 12 student, to support them in further education, done in honour of one of Search Light’s founding members, Jenny Medland, a woman dedicated to supporting and seeking opportunities for young women in need.


Learn more about Search Light Early Learning Centre here

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