There are 1.2 million children and young people in Australia living in poverty. Let that sink in. For every six children buzzing with excitement about their first day of school, there is one child or young person who is more than aware of the financial hardships their family is experiencing at home.

Every child should have the opportunity to thrive at school and national children’s education charity The Smith Family works tirelessly to provide almost 63,000 students impacted by poverty with educational support to help them reach their full potential through its Learning for Life program.

The Learning for Life scholarship provides long-term educational support in three ways: personal support for the child and their family, practical support through extra learning and mentoring programs, and financial support to help cover the cost of school essentials like uniforms, books, excursions and devices. 

“One of the wonderful things about the Learning for Life program is we can offer it to students when they’re in primary school – the earlier the better,” says The Smith Family’s General Manager, Queensland, Alan Le May. “We’re committed to that student for the duration of their education, and in some cases, through to completion of a university degree.”

You’ll find some of those university students working the floor of Officeworks stores around the country, demonstrating a spirit and strength of character that’s a testament to the support the Learning for Life program offers them.

“I have met these students in stores, and more often than not I am overwhelmingly impressed by the confidence they carry,” says Alan, who will celebrate 10 years with The Smith Family next year. 

“We’ll talk about the impact the support had on their lives. I’ve seen it shape their worldview – young people who have this view of the world that we all should be supporting each other. They want to give back … because that’s what they’ve experienced all their life.”

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wo tween girls at school in uniform staring into the distance smiling as two younger school boys run slightly behind them, to illustrate a story on The Smith Family Learning for Life program. 

A Strong Partnership

For the past 11 years, Officeworks has proudly partnered with The Smith Family for the Officeworks Back to School Appeal, where customers can make donations to support the Learning for Life program. Alan says Officeworks’ unwavering support is instrumental to The Smith Family’s purpose; helping students overcome educational inequality caused by poverty, so they can thrive now and into their futures.

“Long-term partnerships like this provide The Smith Family with confidence to not only keep doing what we’re doing but to grow,” he says. “It’s because of the strength of a partnership like this that we can set some ambitious goals for our Learning for Life program. We’re looking to increase the number of students supported on the program to 100,000 by 2027. We wouldn’t be confident enough to set that kind of growth target if we didn’t have partners like Officeworks in this with us for the long haul.”

It’s Officeworks’ sense of family that is a perfect synergy with The Smith Family.

“Our partnership just makes sense to everybody because many families across Australia make a trip into Officeworks and buy all their stationery to go back to school,” Alan says. 

“Then The Smith Family is the means of financial resources and encouragement to succeed at school. Together we’re helping those children succeed.”

Helping Young People Thrive

Officeworks Managing Director Sarah Hunter agrees and says there are numerous stories of the students the program has helped over the years who become team members during their studies. This is just one of the many ways Officeworks and The Smith Family unite to support students in need.

“Together, we are not only making a real impact in students' lives but we’re also making a positive difference in the future of our local communities by providing opportunities to students and families who need a helping hand,” she says. 

“Seeing the amazing outcomes firsthand that The Smith Family scholarships provide to students is incredible and is something that really resonates with our team members who say it makes them proud to work at Officeworks. Our Back to School Appeal is a key event in our trading calendar when our 9,000 team members from right across Australia get involved and support the cause. It makes us feel good to do good, and that extends to our customers and partners too.”

Two teenage female students sit either side of each other at a table in a school yard laughing while a laughing teen boy sits on top of the table looking at the girl at left. 

How The Smith Family’s Learning for Life Program Works

Since the Back to School Appeal began a little over a decade ago, more than $8 million has been raised with the help of Officeworks customers – enough to support the education of more than 12,000 students on Learning for Life for an entire year.

Allira and her two siblings are recipients of this program. She says financial pressures were simply a part of life growing up in a small town. 

Support from The Smith Family has helped Allira make the most of her opportunities and find a pathway to a fulfilling future. Financial hardships often meant difficult choices, and Allira’s mother had to prioritise food on the table over a new pair of runners for her daughter. Never an easy decision for a single mother of two, at the time, to make.

“I come from a four-person family: just me, my mother and my two siblings,” Allira says. “As important as things like uniforms, new shoes and stationery are for a young kid at school, unfortunately for my mum, none of those things can feed a growing family.”

Allira has been involved with the Learning for Life program since Prep (the first year of full-time schooling in Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania), with her older sister receiving support since Year 3.

“This means that, for me, The Smith Family has been such an important part of my life – for my entire life!” she says. The Smith Family supported her education all the way through to her senior secondary qualification, the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE), and into her tertiary studies.  

“As I grew up into high school and, eventually, VCE, I watched kids around me drop out to work to provide for their families or struggle through VCE without textbooks, laptops and devices that the curriculum, especially after COVID, expected every student to just have.

For Allira, Learning for Life meant she was able to stay curious and pursue her education without fear of having to abandon her passion for learning to help support her family – and she is incredibly grateful. “The Smith Family has been vital in making sure that I had the opportunities I needed to take the pathways I was interested in, and eventually pursue a future in the areas of my life that mattered most to me,” she says.

Currently an independent university student on a Learning for Life tertiary scholarship, Allira is also participating in The Smith Family’s Cadetship to Career program – which provides her with a paid internship at a relevant organisation while she continues her studies as a Bachelor of Design student.

“It is the continued support from The Smith Family that has previously, currently, and will continue to facilitate my success in the academic aspects of my life through simply providing me with the opportunity to pursue them,” she says. 

“In many ways, my childhood as a Learning for Life scholar is exactly what allowed me to be where I am today. It allowed me to go through school as a participant in my community, to go on school camps and buy new stationery, shoes and uniforms. It cultivated my passion to seek out higher education. The support has been woven so intricately throughout my entire life so far; there is no doubt that I would never have made it as far as I have, found as much success, nor be as happy as I am today without them.”

Two teen students, a boy and a girl, sit at a table in a classroom setting while looking at a laptop and smiling, with colourful teaching resources lining the wall in the background. 

How You Can Help The Smith Family

Make a donation to the Officeworks Back to School Appeal from 27 December 2023 to 11 February 2024 to support children in need in the Learning for Life communities closest to you. Donations can be made at any Officeworks store or via the Officeworks website, and no amount is too small. Here’s how your donations can help make a difference:

  • $2 can provide an Australian child in need with a notebook for their favourite subject at school.
  • $5 can provide a pack of coloured pencils to nurture their creativity
  • $10 can provide headphones to a child in need so they can engage in online learning.
  • $20 can provide a new book to develop their literacy skills.