Walking through Mt Druitt shopping centre in Sydney’s south-west, school principal Glenn Sargeant saw a teenager pushing a pram. A year later he spotted her again with her second baby. ‘It really hit me. There’s got to be something I can do to help these kids make something of their lives, get an education and off the welfare cycle.’
This thought led to one of Australia’s most admired educational programmes: the Plumpton High School Young Mothers’ Programme, which takes in young mums, gives them support and counsel and helps them complete their schooling. A third of the 200 girls who have participated have since gone on to university, others to successful jobs and happy marriages.
Today, Glenn’s programme is being emulated by schools in NSW, Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland and the UK. Glenn’s contribution has benefited the Mt Druitt area by supporting young mothers and encouraging them to stay engaged with the school and the local community.
Teenage pregnancies are a worldwide issue, says Glenn. ‘And round the world, school principals and education departments typically respond by turning the kids away - creating future welfare problems. It’s an absolutely huge issue. It affects city, country and indigenous communities. It is due to popular prejudice.'
For his compassion, leadership, service to education and to youth, Glenn Sargeant was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2004. The Medal recognises achievements of people like Glenn who are making a difference to their local community and contributing to a better Australia.