The transformative power of education
24 November 2020 at 7:00 am
Education remains one of the most effective antidotes to inequality, yet not everyone has the same access to an affordable education. This is one of the reasons Bendigo and Adelaide Bank developed its scholarship program.
Australians like to see themselves as an egalitarian bunch, but we know if we scratch the surface our community hides many inequalities. There are the growing gaps between rich and poor, regional and metro, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, those who were born in Australia and those who have recently arrived, people living with disability, people who grow up in disadvantaged suburbs – the list could go on.
Not for profits see this inequality every day. They see the structures that entrench it, the societal and economic effects that flow from it, and the impact it has on people’s wellbeing. It’s part of what motivates people to work in the sector; breaking down these barriers of inequality and supporting people affected by it.
Today, education remains one of the most effective antidotes to inequality. It is the strongest predictor of a person’s life expectancy and their success in life. It empowers people to control the direction of their life, build stability and live up to their full potential. It is also a powerful tool in the global fight against poverty. Oxfam estimates that extreme poverty could be halved if universal primary and secondary education were achieved. For a country like Australia, equitable access to education has important economic and social benefits. As Erasmus said, “the main hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth”.
These benefits might explain the growing demand for higher education. In 2016, 41 per cent of 19 year olds were enrolled in higher education, more than double the rate in 1989. Despite this, inequalities (like some of those listed above) can prevent people having access to good quality, affordable education, or can adversely impact students who may be starting from a position of disadvantage. First-in-family students, students working part-time to pay their living expenses, rural students needing to relocate, students with caring responsibilities and students for whom English is not their first language can all experience additional challenges while studying.
This is one of the reasons Bendigo and Adelaide Bank developed its scholarship program. The program is available to students studying at university and TAFE around the country. Now in its 14th year, the program has provided over $9 million in support to almost 1,000 Australian students. It is one of Australia’s leading privately funded scholarship programs and supports our purpose of feeding into community prosperity, not off it. Our scholarship program is awarded to first year tertiary and TAFE students studying at an Australian university or TAFE campus for the first time. It makes a difference to these students by supporting them financially at a time when their main focus should be on their education.
Importantly, many of our scholarships assist with the costs of living expenses, textbooks, or relocating for study. In doing so, we hope to break down some of the barriers that can make deciding to go onto further education daunting. Many of our recipients speak of the peace of mind a scholarship offers them. This, and the easing of financial pressures gives students the ability to focus solely on their studies without worrying how to pay for rent, food or essential study materials while studying away from home. It means students can attain a great education, regardless of their background, helping set them up for future success and potentially bringing new skills and knowledge back to their communities.
Investing in young people and future generations is a key priority for Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, and an important demonstration of how we invest in community. Our program includes support for Indigenous students and regional and rural students, as well as various local scholarships available through our Community Bank network. More information about how to apply and eligibility criteria can be found on our website by clicking here.