A home-based learning program is helping families in Indigenous and disadvantaged communities better prepare their children for their first years of education.
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31 Jan 2014 - 5:54 PM  UPDATED 31 Jan 2014 - 7:50 PM

The HIPPY program has improved learning by 30 per cent in some youngsters. Today, it has expanded into 25 new locations, focusing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The two-year home based tutoring program supports parents in disadvantaged communities to prepare their youngsters for school.

Koori mother-of-three, Janine home-schooled two of her children, Jodie and Patrick, as part of HIPPY.

She says the results in the writing, spelling and language skills were immediate.

"It involves spending 15 minutes a night. It's all about having fun with it and enjoying it and if they're enjoying it then they're going to want to do it more," Janine says.

The program has strengthened their relationship and has empowered Janine too. She's now employed as an area coordinator of HIPPY.

"My mum was part of the Stolen Gens [Generations] so she brought us up as best she could, we did have issues, you know, [as a] family of 8," says daughter Jodie. "So I didn' t, ever think I'd be where I'm at today."

HIPPY originated in Israel in 1969, and now operates in 13 countries including the United States, Germany, Austria, Argentina, Canada, El Salvador, Italy and New Zealand.

It was introduced in inner-city Melbourne 15 years ago, before growing to 50 sites across Australia.

With the help of the federal government and Brotherhood of St Laurence, it's now being expanded into a further 25 locations, with a focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, Tony Nicholson says the HIPPY program helps children in disadvantaged communities catch up to and surpass the standards of other children their age.

"It's one of the most outstanding programs for ensuring disadvantaged youngsters get a good start in school and it's by and large because it engages parents in the process."

Assistant Education Minister Sussan Ley says HIPPY also helps boost the confidence of parents, who then go on to help other families within their community.

"And what it does is make sure that the child is equiped to deal with the world of classroom, and obviously later the world of work and participating in society."

Alice Springs grandmother Geraldine Stewart used the program to tutor two of her grandchildren who lost their mother.

"I wanted my grandchildren to have an education, they'd just come from the community," Ms Stewart says.

They have now improved their English skills while maintaining their Pitjantjatjara language.

"They're six and seven now and Jodie wins awards all the time, like role model awards at the school and Jade has just excelled in her learning," she says.

"Jodie's already talking about being a teacher."

Five people will be employed in the communities included in the expanded program, along the Murray-Darling River, up the eastern seaboard to Far North Queensland, in the Northern Territory and the Kimberley.