For the past five weeks, a diverse group of students have been participating in a unit of study called Art and Design History and Theory. But the course, run by ACU in partnership with CatholicCare, is far from the ordinary.
The students participating in this course come from all different walks of life. Their ages vary by the decades, and their talents, their hobbies, and their life stories are all vastly different. You may be thinking – you could say the same for all tertiary students! Well the answer is yes, but the difference is this; for these students, tertiary education was never on the table.
Clemente Fitzroy is a program offered to those who have experienced disadvantage, who may be experiencing physical or mental health issues, and who have either been unable to participate in tertiary study or who have struggled to complete tertiary education due to the lack of support for their individual situation.
Yesterday a group of 10 Clemente students visited the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, and among them was a woman named Janaya.
Janaya completed her secondary education several years ago and has since tried a range of tertiary courses. Janaya struggles with severe anxiety and depression, so finding the support she needed to help her complete tertiary study has been difficult.
‘I have so much support at Clemente, I have Tiffany our coordinator, Gerard our counsellor, and I also have a learning partner and a peer support partner.’
Most recently she participated in a TAFE course for floristry, but she found that she was falling behind and there was a major lack of support, both for assignments and for mental health. Due to these reasons, she decided to pull out from the course.
Clemente recognises how difficult it can be for some students even just to turn up to class, and so the biannual units offered at ACU provide wrap around support and encouragement to help every student get through their study and manage whatever life throws at them.
Janaya experienced a difficult time last year when she was hospitalised around Christmas. She said that every day there’s a struggle, but she brushes off any negative feelings and goes about her schedule. When asked if she was okay with talking about this, she had an inspiring answer - ‘mental health isn’t something that should be silenced.’ It is indeed so important for us to remove the stigma around mental health, because so many of us (in fact one in three) will experience mental health issues at some point in our lifetime.
Janaya discovered Clemente last year when her friend recommended it to her, and she has since achieved many great things. She has already completed one out of four units of study in Clemente; she’s doing weekly volunteering at Vinnies for retail experience; and she has just applied for two jobs! Janaya has a very kind, thoughtful and open personality and witnessing how far she has come is a real eye opener.
Janaya is just one of the many students who continue to participate in Clemente, and they are all currently preparing for their next assignment which will be a written piece on their chosen famous artist. They all spent the day admiring the art displays, engaging in thoughtful conversation and participating in a lecture run by NGV about the MoMA exhibition and the artwork included.
CatholicCare is grateful to the Noel and Carmel O’Brien Foundation for their support of the Clemente Fitzroy program.