Improving educational outcomes in a disadvantaged community: using AEDC as a reference point for cross-sector collaboration

Ms Liz Chapman1

1Tomorrow Today Foundation, Benalla, Australia


Children who live in disadvantaged communities do not do as well at school as children who live in more advantaged communities. Benalla in northeast Victoria is highly disadvantaged, sitting in the lowest decile of disadvantage in Victoria, and second-worst decile nationally.

A community-driven approach to measurably improve child development and educational outcomes at the population scale is ten years into a twenty year endeavour.   The Education Benalla Program consists of multiple, coordinated and complementary projects and activities. It is driven by ‘Tomorrow Today’, Benalla’s independent community foundation, and is supported by preschools, schools and 140 collaborating organisations.

The AEDC has been instrumental in helping Tomorrow Today to focus the attention of organisations in Benalla that relate to children and families.  Tomorrow Today, local government and the Vic. Dept. Education together hosted AEDC forums in 2016 and again in 2019.  Attended by representatives from education, health, welfare and community organisations, the forums discussed the Benalla data and planned cross-organisational activity for the next three years.

Tomorrow Today’s approach includes running weekly parent-child facilitated playgroups and actively addressing vulnerabilities identified in the AEDC community profile.  It also encourages and coordinates the collaborative effort in the belief it takes a village to educate a child.

From having the worst rates of child vulnerability of any Victorian local government area in 2015, to a significant turn around in 2018, AEDC provides the reference point for a united effort. This infiltrates myriad decisions and actions weekly across civic, government and private sectors.

The overall approach is “whole of community, child by child”.


Liz Chapman OAM ran a rural development consulting company.  Her qualifications include Master Applied Science (Agriculture and Rural Development). She lives in Benalla and is now retired.  Liz is the Convenor of the Education Benalla Program at Tomorrow Today.