The Greater Shepparton Lighthouse Project might sound odd at first: What need is there for a lighthouse in a landlocked central Victorian shire? But this lighthouse is not a literal one – rather, it’s a charitable initiative lighting the way forward for young people who otherwise may not get the support and guidance they need.
Through a wide range of programs run largely by volunteers, Lighthouse helps local kids and teenagers get ready for school, complete year 12 and find employment. Examples of programs include Conversations with Kids, a kindergarten-level language development program aimed at building vocabulary, and camps and mentoring programs for those in their teenage years.
Equity Trustees is the sole Trustee of the Foundation that helps make this wonderful work possible.
The McEwen Foundation was established via the Will of Lady Mary McEwen, the second wife of former Prime Minister Sir John McEwen. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, it might be because his term was very short – he was Prime Minister for just 26 days, stepping into a temporary caretaker role after the death of Harold Holt in December 1967. Aside from that short stint in the top job, Sir John’s political career was both long and illustrious, beginning in 1934 when he won the Federal seat of Echuca for the Country Party, to his retirement in 1971, by which time he had been the party’s leader as well as Deputy Prime Minister for 13 years.
But back to Shepparton, and Lighthouse. Through the McEwen Foundation, Equity Trustees has financially supported Lighthouse every year since 2016. In well-deserved recognition of its effectiveness, the Victorian State Government put forward an additional $3 million in funding over three years, which will conclude in 2020. However, the need to support local young people in Shepparton persists.
“We know there are many challenges faced by local students battling to stay in secondary school,” said Lighthouse Executive Officer, Lisa McKenzie.
“They include family breakdown, trauma such as family violence, bullying, and mental health issues – but we also know they are capable of remarkable resilience which keeps them at school, despite the odds. Our project recognises that ‘it takes a village’ to help our young people – and there are no quick fixes, which is why the McEwen Foundation commitment has been so important to us.”
Emily Cormack, Grant Program Manager at Equity Trustees, loves that her job includes providing continued support to Lighthouse via the McEwen Foundation. “In seeking to address disadvantage we often focus on our cities,” she says. “We forget that these issues also exist in our regional and rural areas, often with even greater impact due to the relative lack of opportunities and safety nets.
“Lighthouse has done an amazing job in helping young people in and around Shepparton, not just in terms of ‘keeping them off the streets’ but really empowering them and putting them on a trajectory to a bright future.”
For more information about the Greater Shepparton Lighthouse Project visit http://www.gslp.com.au/
Banner picture sourced from the biography ‘Black Jack McEwen: Political Gladiator’ by Peter Golding. Caption: “With Lady Mary at Chilgala, the Stanhope property which was his greatly loved refuge.”