After a series of car accidents, Assunta Arioli was no longer physically able to work. “I live with pain every day,” she said.


Assunta became isolated and her mental health suffered. “Being a career girl, and then no longer being at that level, the depression built up,” she said.

Wanting to re-engage with her community, and with education, Assunta entered St Vincent de Paul Society’s Clemente program.

Warwick Fulton, President for St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn, said, “The Clemente program is a free university education program, run in partnership with Australian Catholic University, that supports marginalised and disadvantaged adults to reconnect with education to support personal growth, potential job opportunities and further study.”

Chris Shortis, Director of Special for Works for St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn, said, “The Clemente program is designed to support learning by building self-esteem, communication skills and social skills. There are currently 40 people enrolled. Students are supported by teaching staff and volunteer mentors to develop a range of soft skills for success in the program and outside.”

For Assunta it has been a great opportunity to leave the house, and meet other people, though, after more than ten years since she was last in a classroom, she was originally a bit intimidated by the idea.


“I was scared. I think it scares people thinking ‘oh it’s uni’ and I think that’s why, before, I was really scared to come and do it. But now that I’ve started, I really love it,” she said.

“The people here are just wonderful; they couldn’t do enough for you to keep you coming, and the people in the class themselves are so nice,” said Assunta.

After completing the initial ‘Pathways’ program which helps students learn generic skills and relearn what it means to be a student, Assunta intends to complete Clemente’s Certificate Program which would allow her to graduate with a Certificate in Liberal Studies.

Asked what else she wanted to say about her experience with Clemente, Assunta said, “I’d say to people ’look, if you’re at home, give it a go! And when you do that first step you might be surprised.’”


3 September 2018