Western Chances

I rise today to speak about an organisation in Melbourne's west called Western Chances. Western Chances is a not-for-profit that seeks to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve their educational goals in life. In my time as a teacher and principal I had the privilege of identifying students and putting them forward for Western Chances scholarships, and one of the highlights of the school year was attending the scholarship recipient announcement evenings. On 12 March I had the privilege of again attending—this time as the member for Lalor. It was a grand evening of celebration for the 2014 recipients and for the organisation.

Western Chances was founded by Terry Bracks in 2003. Terry worked as a teacher in Melbourne's west and in this place for Barry Jones and Julia Gillard, and in her time in schools and in the electorate she saw all too often talented students with the will to work hard falling through the cracks because of their financial circumstances. Western Chances identifies these young people with the help of those at the education coalface—the teachers, tutors, lecturers and principals who are in a unique position to identify eligible candidates.

Mimi Huynh, a daughter of refugees, first received support in year 11 in 2007 and was supported all the way through her education to 2013. Mimi recently wrote to say thank you and to tell us she has won a scholarship to Vietnam, has published a research paper, and has finally graduated and is now a dentist working in the western suburbs of Melbourne. Stephanie Tedesco was similarly supported in years 11 and 12. She spoke at this year's event and is studying medicine at Monash. There are countless more examples of how young people throughout Melbourne's west have been supported by Western Chances. In just 11 years, the organisation has gone from strength to strength and has now awarded over 3,400 scholarships to over 1,900 students. They have been able to support these young people to the tune of over $2.4 million. Western Chances works with schools, businesses and private donors, and has an extended network of partners—far too many to mention by name.

Western Chances is run by an extraordinary team headed by CEO Rhyll Dorrington, and is overseen by the evergreen Terry Bracks as chair of the board. Its esteemed patron is the Hon. Frank Vincent AO QC. Western Chances is an outstanding example of how our community pull together and look after each other.

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