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On this page we collect stories of early school leveavers. If you want to add your story, please send it to

The story of Lisa

collected by Janet Taylor


Lisa is the daughter of Hmong refugees from Laos who had arrived in Australia a couple of years before her birth. Her parents had little formal education and for much of her childhood her father was unemployed while her mother looked after the seven children. The family was on a low income throughout her childhood and school fees were a problem. At 6, her father described her as healthy, a smart, quiet child who was having no problems with school and got on very well with others.

At 11, she enjoyed school though she was anxious about going into secondary school. She wanted to be a doctor. At 14, she had left home and school early in Year 9 to live with her boyfriend’s family interstate. She thought she might go to school there but needed money to pay for her keep.

December 2005 (age 15)

At 15 Lisa was living interstate with her boyfriend and his family and was working part-time in a fast food shop which she didn’t like.

Leaving school

I left school when I moved up here. I wanted to goto school, but then I had this other decision in my head like if I go to school I don’t have enough read more………

The Story of Tom

collected by Janet Taylor


Tom had lived in a low-income family throughout his childhood. At 6, the family was stressed financially and because of the mother’s ill health, but she said as a family, ‘We’ve been fine’. He had repeated prep because he had not had a good start to the year.

His mother died when he was 10.  At 12 he was having attention and behaviour problems at school and some conflict at home. He wanted to be a fireman. After this he was in and out ofthe care of different relatives.At 14 Tom left school, during Year 8, having been to a number of secondary schools. For a while after leaving school he attended a part-time youth education support program run by a welfare agency.

December 2005 (age 15)

At 15 he had finished the education support program and he was talking of getting work in a bar.

Leaving school,

It’s hard. You just settle into one school, then you’ve got to move again … Well I’m not really a school person. Just waking up early and having to go to school. I just decided second term not to go. All the kids were just real terrors. read more…..

The story of Carlo

collected by Janet Taylor


Carlo grew up in a two-parent family in which his father was employed in construction and the family was mostly on a medium income, but there were times of unemployment, health and financial problems.

At 6 he liked everything about school, but was seeing a specialist about his attention disorder.

At 12 his learning, attention and behaviour problems had meant he changed in Year 6 to a special school. He looked forward to school and wanted to be a mechanic. At 15 he left school (an alternative school) during Year 8. At 16 he had tried carpentry, concreting, a cabinet making pre-apprenticeship and was hoping to start a bricklaying apprenticeship.

June 2007 (age 17)

Leaving school I was going to this school … it wasn’t a school for me really. I was at a primary school at the start, and from there I had a lot of fights, a lot of arguments, so I had to go to a school that

Taught me to control behaviour problems. But the school that I went to, it was crazy you know, it wasn’t really for me. I was in a school at the time studying and this guy came into the school, I don’t know what it was about. There was me talking to a girl, he took it that I was talking to his girl, something like that, and he came into the school and really belted the hell out of me. I didn’t want to go back to school any more, you know, I felt fear. So I stopped going to school and tried to find some work. read more

The story of Brendan

collected by Janet Taylor


Brendan’s parents separated before he started school, and he grew up with his mother as a sole parent, with continuing support from his father as a medium-income family. At 6 he enjoyed school and was ‘quite an academic’.

At 12 he was having a range of problems including asthma, headaches and attention difficulties. He said he wanted to be a mechanic. At 15 he left school during Year 10 at a Catholic college. He had been unhappy at school and not

doing well.

At 16 he was doing a pre-apprenticeship in mechanics.

May 2007 (age 16)

The family had moved to an outer suburb. He had just finished a 6-month pre-apprenticeship at TAFE that week and was planning to get a part-time job, do VCE at TAFE the following year and then get an apprenticeship in mechanics.

Leaving school

I left school in the middle of the year, last year. I hated it there. I hated the kids. The kids were all snobs. And the teachers, they didn’t really listen to what I was saying at all. ….. read more

My Story Ameli Dominik, teacher, Studiekring, the Netherlands

Ameli Dominik, teacher,  Studiekring, the Netherlands

Ameli Dominik has  a Master’s degree in Orth pedagogical Sciences. Her study has helped her understand that intrinsic motivation, a calm and nurturing home environment and collaboration between parents, teachers, students and helpers is the best guarantee for a student’s success. That means that there is always room for improvement. She uses this knowledge to approach every student individually, but with an equally positive outlook on their future. In addition to working for Studiekring, Ameli Dominik works as a researcher and teacher of Child Abuse prevention at Utrecht University. This difficult but rewarding subject is part of her inclination to create a safe and nurturing environment for …read more

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