Individuals making a difference – an Ascham Old Girl in Melbourne

With the buzz of last night’s moving Valedictory Dinner for our Year 12 leavers still ringing in my ears, and as our Year 12s prepare for their final examinations and for life beyond school, my thoughts turn to Old Girls and the enormous breadth of activity that Ascham Old Girls undertake. It would be impossible to select and describe a typical Old Girl; there are, though, many stories of incredible achievement and positive impact on the world.

Continuing a theme that runs through many of these blogs about how what individuals do can make a real difference in the world, I thought therefore that I would write today about the work of Kate Barelle and her partner in Melbourne. Kate – an Old Girl of Ascham – is a clinical and forensic psychologist with a fascinating CV; she is also one of the co-founders of STREAT, a food-focused social enterprise based in Melbourne. I met her in early August when I was visiting the city, and I was inspired by what I saw.

Fundamentally, STREAT is about making a difference in the lives of young homeless people, aged 16-25, who have multiple barriers in the way of allowing them to make positive change in their own lives. These barriers may stem from dysfunctional families, or from mental health issues, or from drug and alcohol abuse … whatever they are, they are hurdles in the way of personal success, and often these hurdles, without help to overcome them, can seem completely insurmountable. STREAT offers programs to train young people in the hospitality business; the profits from the cafes and coffee cart that they run are fed back into developing the programs. With careful oversight, nurturing, further program and not a few risks along the way, STREAT is proving extremely successful, and as each cohort moves through, and feeds back into both the enterprise and the wider world, so the success proliferates.

You can read about STREAT here. The personal link through our wider Ascham community aside, it is an inspiring story, because it shows what individuals can do to make a difference. It shows how ideas formed in other parts of the world can be creatively adapted to form the basis of projects closer to home. It shows how the human spirit is indomitable and how belief in this spirit can transcend difficulty.

We can learn an enormous amount from the lives and works of others; let us always keep our eyes open to what is around us, and we will be inspired ourselves.


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