After almost three decades of helping young, pregnant and parenting women finish their high school education, Trinity Learning Centre (TLC) closed its doors on Saturday 28 February.
At the UnitingCare West premises in Victoria Park, current and previous staff, volunteers, students, their children and families gathered together to celebrate the work of TLC over the years and the difference the service has made in the lives of so many young women, their children and families.
Children present enjoyed face painting and a bouncy castle while festive sunflower decorations symbolised the seeds that were planted in young lives. Sunflower seeds were also given to guests so they could plant them at home as a symbol of their involvement with TLC.
Over 400 young women graduated TLC with a high school diploma, moving on to further education and successful careers. At the TLC Crèche the babies and toddlers received care whilst the mothers were attending school.
Past student, Amanda Loader, spoke at the event and emphasised the difference the program had made in her life. Many past students retrieved joyful memories reconnecting with each other, staff and volunteers. The walls featured photos from the mums and bubs attending TLC over the 27 years and a special history book was compiled for the occasion and all attending received a copy.
Sue Ash acknowledged the communal sadness amongst all involved with the founding and running of the program.
“TLC has made a difference in the lives of so many young women,” she said.
“It came forth from the vision of Dr Harry Cohen who saw the need for support after these young women gave birth. Together with Rev Wes Hartley and Audrey Francis they started TLC as a service from Trinity Church in Perth CBD, supporting teenage women when their lives changed dramatically, giving them an opportunity to continue their education.”
Members of the Uniting Church in the City Council attended the event and looked back with pride on all that was achieved.
Audrey Francis, one of the founders of TLC, spoke of her sadness of the closure and her gratefulness of being part of such a successful program.
“Ideas do not die,” she said. “They are simply reborn into another shape. I personally thank God for the part I have had in this long journey.”
Sue Ash acknowledged the role the church plays in finding and responding to need in the community to begin change. In the past ten years, the State Education Department has started to accommodate the needs of young women who become pregnant before completing their schooling and the support for young parents has also improved. While the additional services don’t fully replicate the TLC program, TLC has seen a gradual decrease in the number of students enrolling and the number of children accessing the crèche.