As if education wasn’t expensive enough, Australian parents can also find themselves forking out hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars when their child eventually goes to a formal or semi-formal.
That was the scenario facing Ipswich woman Sam Harrison when her two children went through Year 12, while her family was struggling.
“We didn’t have a lot of money,” Harrison told 7NEWS.
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“We were actually homeless. We were living under a house, the three of us in one room with a cement floor.
“I spent the money sending the kids to a private school.”
Ipswich woman Sam Harrison was homeless when her kids went through high school. Credit: 7NEWS
The experience of her daughter’s formal stayed with Harrison.
She remembers that the attitude of salespeople at a dress shop “wasn’t very accommodating” when she revealed she would not be able to pay for the outfit upfront.
“That sort of stayed with me until one day I decided nobody deserves to feel like that,” she said.
Years later, she set up Formally Yours, a charity shop to give students access to cheap formal attire.
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The Redbank Plaza shop takes in donated outfits and makes them available for “really, really cheap”, saving families “hundreds and hundreds of dollars”, Harrison says.
“We have a couple of gowns there with four-figure price tags, that are brand new, that have been donated,” she said.
By removing the financial barriers to attending a formal, the initiative actually helps students graduate by giving them something to look forward to at the back end of their final year of high school.
The store holds shopping sessions for underprivileged students. Credit: 7NEWS
Not only that, students being able to dress up properly boosts “their self-esteem and confidence”, Harrison said.
She holds private shopping sessions for students from underprivileged schools, as well as for students with special needs such as anxiety and autism.
Those experiences leave the student and parents “extremely grateful”, she says.
The shop is also supported by Redbank Plaza, which provides free rent and electricity.
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