Partnerships are an important mechanism for building and sustaining your school’s capacity to support students and families of refugee backgrounds. This section provides information and resourceful links to support your school to build partnerships with services and agencies, communities and with other schools.

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Benefits of partnerships

School communities play a vital role in re-establishing connections for children and young people of refugee backgrounds and their families. Building partnerships with services and agencies increase opportunities for students and families to connect with their local community and access supports.

Some other benefits when your school develops partners include:

  • Direct casework or telephone advice
  • Service collaboration, including specialised programs
  • Effective referral
  • Funding sources
  • Professional development
  • Lunch, after-school or holiday programs
  • New events and venues for activities.

The VicHealth Partnership Analysis Tool and Checklist allows you to assess the effectiveness of your school’s current partnerships. It will help your school to:

  • Develop a clearer understanding of the range of possible partnerships and their benefits
  • Reflect on the partnerships you have already established
  • Focus on ways to strengthen new and existing partnerships.

Making partnerships work

If partnerships are to be successful, they must have a clear purpose, enhance the work of the partners, and be carefully planned and monitored.

What you can do:

  • Conduct an audit to ascertain with whom it is best to partner.
  • Develop a memorandum of understanding (MOU) or partnership agreement template.
  • Hold a workshop, individual consultations or other meetings with key services and agencies, and communities.
  • Participate in local opportunities and initiatives.
  • Join regional advocacy initiatives.
  • Join or establish regional advisory/steering groups.
Good Practice Snapshot: School careers program

A secondary school developed a program in partnership with the Local Learning and Employment Network (LLEN), local council, a community health service, and local employers. The program offered students of refugee background a broad picture of the employment opportunities available in the local area and showed how they could be accessed.

Students completed preparation activities at school that included exploring their interests and strengths. A dinner event gave parents/carers the chance to learn about the Australian education system and career/training pathways. Students then experienced a three-day road trip exploring workplaces (e.g. hospitality, building and construction, automotive, police). After that, students completed work experience in a chosen field, and received assistance to build portfolios and write resumés.

When considering partnerships with services and agencies, it helps to think broadly:

  • Local government (e.g. leisure centres, libraries, parks).
  • Child, family, carer and multicultural services.
  • Youth, disability, financial and counselling services
  • Health and wellbeing organisations and programs (primary health care; dental; community health; women’s, youth and refugee health nurses; nutrition; ‘walking bus’; reproductive and sexual health; drug and alcohol services).
  • Out-of-school programs (homework clubs, playgroups, school holiday, after-school care).
  • Community groups (men’s sheds, rooms for hire, community centres and kitchens, computer access stations, support groups).
  • Sports clubs, grounds and facilities.
  • Education and art programs (including adult education).
  • Employment networks.

Families often value communal approaches to supporting their children’s development and addressing problems. This includes your school consulting and working with their community.

Students and their families are likely to identify with a community who share ties around culture, language, country/region of origin and refugee experiences. In such communities, respect for elders, connections and obligations to other members of the community play a role in each person’s identity.

During settlement there is collective trauma for such communities related to the impacts of their refugee experiences. Our consultations with students indicate they think there is little connection between their school and their community. To remedy this, your school can reach out and support students’ communities to recover by facilitating connections and restoring dignity. This will primarily mean practically nurturing partnerships with the local network of family groups to which students belong. It may also involve connecting with formal community associations.

What you can do

  • Employ a multicultural education aide (MEA) or family liaison worker to assist with identifying and engaging parents/carers and their communities. They are well placed to liaise with members of the community and foster communication.
  • Invite communities to share their cultural life and story with your school community and to celebrate significant days.
  • Provide communities with access to school meeting rooms and halls without hire costs.
  • Seek advice and help from communities with the development of culturally relevant policies and practices (e.g. establishing a prayer room, and culturally appropriate food for the canteen).
  • Invite community members to a staff meeting to share their knowledge and skills.
  • Invite community representatives to give speeches and present awards at school occasions.
  • Partner with an agency and community leaders to offer interpreted information sessions that deal with key issues communities of refugee backgrounds face.
  • Try to have as much of your school’s written material as possible translated into community languages.
  • Call upon recommended community members to act as cultural mediators and to assist with problems as they arise.

Some schools have been enrolling and welcoming students of refugee backgrounds for a number of years, while others are new to it.

Either way, schools have much to gain from partnering with other schools in their locality and beyond.

Benefits include:

  • Improving your school-wide strategies for supporting students and their families by learning from other schools.
  • Promoting your staff’s wellbeing through networking and learning with staff from other schools.
  • Contributing to sector-wide improvement to supporting students of refugee backgrounds.
  • Enhancing school pride through sharing your struggles and celebrating achievements with other schools.
  • Developing collaborative programs around supporting students’ transitions and pathways.
  • Working together and combining resources to hold special events for students and staff.

Partnerships can take a variety of forms, including:

  • Networking and exchanging information.
  • Planning activities and events for a common purpose (e.g. transition programs, student voice activities).
  • Sharing resources (e.g. facilities, buses, enrolment templates).
  • Enhancing the capacity of the other school/s for mutual benefit (staff mentoring and coaching).

The Refugee Education Support Program (RESP) is a partnership between participating schools grouped in geographical clusters. The schools work together around their action plans by meeting once a term to workshop their practices and progress.


DET’s Multiple School Partnerships for information about building partnership with other schools.

School Focused Youth Service (SFYS) partners with schools to strengthen the support for students from Years 5–12 who are attending school but are showing signs of disengaging.

VicHealth Partnership Analysis Tool and Checklist is a resource for organisations entering into or working in a partnership to assess, monitor and maximise its ongoing effectiveness.

The Australian Student Wellbeing Framework highlights the importance of partnerships to ‘support student learning, safety and wellbeing.

Newsboys Foundation provides grants to community organisations working with young people aged 11 – 21 years in Victoria who are experiencing disadvantage.

Victorian Multicultural Commission provides a range of grants to support Victoria’s multicultural and multifaith communities.