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Whitlam, Western Sydney and the promise of university

Educational expectation Educational achievement Higher education

Foreword by Leanne Smith, Whitlam Institute Director.

The Whitlam Government’s ground-breaking policies creating equal access to quality education in Australia – particularly tertiary education – are well known and today wistfully remembered by many who were beneficiaries of this access and whose futures, and families’ futures, changed as a result. As the first woman in my family to attend university, I count myself as one of them.

But in addition to providing opportunities and access to new worlds, how does access to tertiary education affect a person’s sense of expectations, identity and sense of connection, community and place? How does it empower and enable them to share that knowledge and skill acquisition to improve their lives, the lives of their families and communities?

In this thought-provoking essay, 2020 E.G. Whitlam Fellow, Dr Alexandra Coleman, draws out the experience of young people in western Sydney to help us better understand this set of questions, as well as offering some policy options for us to consider how we can ensure a person’s tertiary education experience and academic achievement enriches themselves, their lives and communities, rather than alienating them from their roots or forcing them to choose between them.

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