The Education Benalla Program is an ambitious community-led approach to addressing disadvantage in Benalla district – by improving educational outcomes for Benalla’s young people.

In 2007 Professor Tony Vinson identified Benalla as one of Victoria’s most socially disadvantaged communities.  His finding that lower levels of educational attainment perpetuate the cycle of disadvantage drew the attention of the Tomorrow Today Board.  It found:

  • On average, Benalla kids do not do as well at school as students from other parts of the State
  • There is a lower level of expectation about how well our kids will do at school because of the high level of social disadvantage experienced in Benalla

As Benalla’s independent Community Foundation, Tomorrow Today was in an ideal position to bring together everyone with an interest in Benalla’s kids.

When public agencies, private business, local families, schools, local government, community groups and external philanthropy all work together, with the common focus of improving Benalla student outcomes, there’s an opportunity for real change.

Tomorrow Today has developed a long term, whole-of-community program that spans family, school and community life.  Starting in 2010, it is now an advanced Australian example of the collective impact approach to addressing complex community problems.

Our Approach

Families – Community – Schools

The educational environment in any district consists of all aspects of young people’s lives and opportunities, both within the home and the community, as well as their formal schooling.

Whole of Community

The program uses a community development model of action, with cross-institutional support across public agencies, business, and community groups crucial.

Child by Child

While collaboration is a key to the program, the whole focus is to change individuals’ educational attainment levels, child by child in Benalla and district.

Cradle to Career

Any initiative to address the impact of social disadvantage requires a long-term approach, combining a range of educational activities – from birth to career.

Measurable Change

Tomorrow Today is committed to finding ways to help a generation of children achieve their individual potential, with no negative impact on their education due to a low socio-economic status (SES) standing.  Benefits to the community will be significant, measurable and ongoing.

Downloadable Reports

‘It is difficult to deny the centrality of limited education and its impact on the acquisition of economic and life skills in the making and sustaining of disadvantage in Australia.’

Professor Tony Vinson, Dropping Off the Edge: the Distribution of Disadvantage in Australia 2007

‘The Education Benalla Program represents ‘best practice’ in the area of philanthropy-driven collective impact community intervention.’

University of Melbourne, Draft Evaluation Report: Overview of the First Phase 2010 – 2014


Improving Student Outcomes

Following the release of the Vinson Report, the Foundation began with an extensive literature review of the international research on education programs for children affected by disadvantage.  This was undertaken by Liz Chapman, Board Member and the Foundation’s inaugural Chair, who is now Convenor of the Education Benalla Program.

Early on, discussion with the Hume Regional Office of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development confirmed they were supportive of Tomorrow Today’s approach.

In 2008 the Board set up a Community Advisory Committee to investigate and recommend an Education Program that could improve Benalla student outcomes.  Over six months, the Advisory Committee examined the research: what the literature was saying, what was happening overseas, what the trends were in Australia, what was happening in Benalla.  It was clear that there needed to be whole of community program, with family, school and community projects all focused on improving student outcomes.

After two and a half years of research, collaboration between many government and non-government agencies, and the involvement of many individuals, the Education Benalla Program was launched in 2010.

Program Summary

Long Term Goal

By 2030 the education and training rates for Benalla’s 17 – 24 year olds will equal or exceed the Victorian average.


A whole-of-community development program (place-based) that spans family, community and school life.


Significant and sustained improvement in

  • Number of students completing Year 12
  • Number of Benalla’s young people (17-20) transitioning to tertiary education
  • Number of Benalla’s young people (18-24) completing a diploma or degree
  • Number of Benalla’s young people successfully completing an apprenticeship


  • All Benalla & District children start school ready to learn
  • Literacy and numeracy levels are measurably improved
  • Student-assessed levels of wellbeing improved to moderate or high
  • Family and community raise expectations for students to go on to tertiary education or training.


  • School readiness and early years (0 – 8 years)
  • Student wellbeing
  • Transition to tertiary education
  • Community grants

TTF Papers

‘Whilst the outcomes we seek are all about educational attainment, aspiration and engagement; the Education Benalla Program is really a development project that spans education, economy, child health, family support and rural development. It may not fit comfortably in any one stream, but via Tomorrow:Today Foundation, it makes perfect ‘common’ sense in our rural setting.’

Liz Chapman, TTF Board Member and Education Benalla Program Convenor


Annual Evaluation

Since 2010 the University of Melbourne has provided an annual independent evaluation of the program’s effectiveness.

EBP was designed as a 10-year active initiative that would be fully reviewed after five years. At that point a decision was made to continue with the second five-year phase.

From the outset, evaluation has been viewed as essential so that component activities can be adjusted and improved; so that funders know whether the program is achieving the desired impact; and to describe the context, implementation and outcomes so others can learn from, and adapt elements of Education Benalla Program for use in their communities.

‘The Education Benalla Program is running smoothly; it is described as ‘high functioning and well-structured’ due to the calibre and team skills of the staff, commitment to the town and its residents, and the extraordinary level of networking undertaken across Benalla.’      

University of Melbourne, 2013 Evaluation Summary                                                            


Program Delivery

To achieve EBP’s desired outcome we deliver a community-wide program, while at the same time supporting other groups and agencies to target their efforts to the same goals.

We use four different delivery modes:

  • TTF delivers the activity eg Connect9
  • Shared delivery of the activity in a partnership with a government or non-government agency or community group eg Reading Buddies
  • Another organisation delivers the activity which TTF helped shape and provides funds eg Hands on Learning
  • TTF resources an organisation that is independently delivering an activity eg Community Grants

Different Types of Resources

There are different types of resources involved in achieving changed trajectories for our children.  EBP has the support of government and non-government organisations in Benalla, as well as businesses, leaders, community groups and clubs.  Resources include:


Grants from beyond Benalla as well as local donations.

In Kind

The contribution of volunteers is central to the delivery of EBP (eg Reading Buddies and Connect9 mentors) as well as it’s research, development, funding and oversight.


A place-based approach such as the Education Benalla Program depends on strong local partnerships to collectively find solutions to complex problems.  We also have the benefit of program level funding partners who make a significant contribution of skills, knowledge and experience.

From Beyond Benalla

Funding partners from beyond Benalla have underpinned the success of the Education Benalla Program.

We thank the following organisations for their generous assistance, in some cases over many years:

  • Department of Education and Training Victoria
  • The R E Ross Trust  
  • The Ian Potter Foundation
  • The Ledger Charitable Trust managed by Perpetual  
  • The William Buckland Foundation
  • Helen Macpherson Smith Trust
  • The Yulgilbar Foundation
  • FRRR’s Rural Education Program  
  • Newsboys Foundation    
  • The Jack Brockhoff Foundation 
  • George Hicks Foundation  
  • Victorian State Government – Advancing Country Towns
  • The Kimberley Foundation  
  • The Dick & Vera Bertalli Educational Program