Students make good neighbours

Volume 7 Number 9 September 12 - October 9 2011

Getting to know the neighbours: signalling their commitment to a formal partnership (from left) Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis, Carlton Local Agencies Network representative Mary Parfrey and Lord Mayor Robert Doyle.
Getting to know the neighbours: signalling their commitment to a formal partnership (from left) Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis, Carlton Local Agencies Network representative Mary Parfrey and Lord Mayor Robert Doyle.

Kate O’Hara takes a look at how a formal partnership is creating development and growth opportunities for students and the Carlton community.

The University of Melbourne, Carlton and the City of Melbourne have been neighbours for nearly 160 years.

While links between the three have grown and developed organically through natural pathways over the past few decades, last month a formal ceremony to celebrate the partnership really signalled a significant milestone in the story so far.

In an effort to foster closer and more meaningful engagement with the always changing, always vibrant Carlton community, University Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle and respected Carlton community leader Mary Parfrey (representing the Carlton Local Agencies Network) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), a strong gesture of support for what is seen as a key engagement link for the University.

Each year around 150 students enter the Student Ambassador Leadership Program (SALP) an extra-curricular program which provides opportunities for young people to create networks, develop leadership skills and contribute to various communities through supported projects.

SALP students Pip Peddington-Webb and Jane Nicholson know just how valuable the program is, not only for their own personal development but as a key opportunity for community-strengthening programs. Last year they were part of a project team which worked on an arts mural project in partnership with the Carlton Family Resource Centre (CFRC).

Ms Peddington-Webb, a third year history and anthropology student, says the project was designed to highlight the role that the visual space plays in stimulating creativity.

“When we met with Anita from the CFRC at the start, she was really excited at the prospect of turning what was a bit of a blank canvas at the centre into a vibrant, welcoming space for families and staff,” she says.

“The space was very inner city. It was essentially a sandpit and that’s it.”

Plenty of consultation went into the project plan – a key element of the SALP program – and the student team worked with professional artist Russell Danby to come up with a design which incorporated what the users of the Carlton facility really wanted to see.

“All throughout the project we received positive responses, and even when we were working the mural, parents or staff and children would come over and pick up a paintbrush to help out,” Ms Peddington-Webb says.

Having been through the program as second-year students, both opted to become project mentors this year, helping to guide a new intake of SALP participants.

Along with her other extra-curricular commitments – as a tutor and committee member of the University Ski Club – Ms Nicholson says the mentor role is a rewarding one.

“During our SALP experience last year we didn’t really have a mentor, so when our project wrapped up I thought that becoming one would give me more opportunities for personal development and another opportunity to help other students coming through the program,” Ms Nicholson says.

Both students agree that one of the best parts of the program is the opportunity to meet students from other faculties and areas of the University and to establish links with community members from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds.

The students’ arts mural project for 2010 was jointly funded by a University Dreamlarge student engagement grant and an Opportunities for Carlton grant from the City of Melbourne.