Melinda in a black top standing in a greenhouse watering plants.

Young mums supported to achieve through education

The Swinburne Young Mums program provides a safe space for mothers aged 15 to 20 to complete Year 11 and 12 qualifications. It also offers a range of vocational qualifications, from Certificate ll in retail services to Information Technology Services and trades. This combination provides mothers with valuable transferable skills and a potential pathway for future employment.

The program exists to fill an important gap in the education and welfare system.

Program Director, Louise Shilling, explains that “Schools often can’t deal with pregnant students, so it’s lucky that we exist for them. Typically, a school might be able to keep them there until they’re about seven months pregnant, and then they send them home.

"After they’ve given birth, they are meant to return to school without their baby, and just be a normal student. But that’s just not right – they are mothers now, and it disconnects them from their babies in that important first year."

The students come from varied and diverse backgrounds. Some are from quite dysfunctional backgrounds with parents who have always been on welfare. They may never have been told that they’re doing a great job or being a good mum. Some only feel safe within our program and it’s important for them to connect with peers in similar situations.

Grateful for support

A community service initiative, the Young Mums program is grateful for the support it receives from Swinburne alumni and the wider community.

Funding allows for the purchase of toys and baby accessories, as well as programs like Mother Goose music, early literacy outreach and mental health visits to the classroom.

Helen McPherson Smith Trust

The Helen McPherson Smith Trust provided a generous grant to the Young Mums program in 2011. Expansion of the program to sites in Cranbourne and Maribyrnong was made possible by the grant. This was an important step in providing more young mothers with the options in life that education provides.

Making a difference

Since launching, the program has helped over 100 young mothers obtain their Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning.

The program makes a difference and changes lives by offering a safe, non-judgmental, educational environment along with a little bit of love. The program also connects young mums to new opportunities, such as collaborating with Business without Borders, and learning about horticulture through creating community garden spaces.

Award winning program

The Young Mums program has been recognised and awarded for: 

  • Victorian Training Initiative of the Year, Victorian Training Awards 2009
  • National Association for Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN)
  • Diversity at Work Awards.

Photo: Ms Louise Shilling, second from the right, with some young mothers and their children. Photo by Peter Garnick.



Louise Shilling, Program Director

I’m here because I know what we do makes a difference and changes lives

Louise Shilling, Program Director