CHAMPIONS OF THE WEST – 100 Story Building


    By Elizabeth Minter

    One in three students is not meeting minimum numeracy and literacy expectations, according to the most recent NAPLAN data. Students who experience high levels of socio-economic disadvantage are even less likely to be keeping up. 

    Such statistics throw into stark relief the success of 100 Story Building, a not-for-profit social enterprise in Footscray that develops the literacy and creative skills of students experiencing disadvantage. 

    CEO Susan Kukucka says, “100 Story Building celebrates young people’s passion for creativity, and the critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration skills it supports – all of which are vital to tackle the challenges of the future.” 

    Research increasingly shows the benefits of exploring creativity, which is why helping children develop an identity through their writing and expression leads to better outcomes in their education and beyond. Research also shows that young people in under-resourced schools or communities often miss out on arts rich learning programs, yet it’s these very opportunities that increase wellbeing, engagement and lift educational outcomes. 

    100 Story Building was founded more than a decade ago by Lachlann Carter, Jenna Williams and Jessica Tran. The idea took root after Carter and Williams attended a talk by US author Dave Eggers at the 2007 Melbourne Writers Festival. Eggers talked about 826 Valencia, a writing centre he had set up in San Francisco where children from disadvantaged communities could get help with everything from their homework to penning a novel.

    After opening its doors in 2013, 100 Story Building’s offerings now include after-school programs; teacher professional learning workshops; and Early Harvest. For this project, staff help teachers build narrative writing units in which students create stories. Staff then bring together an editorial board of Year 5 and 6 students who curate the best stories for inclusion in a professionally published anthology. 

    The most recent, and ambitious, addition is Story Hubs. 100 Story Building staff work with students to co-design and build an imaginative space within a school that allows students and teachers to step outside the boundaries of their classrooms and take part in extensive creative learning programs.

    Rolling out Story Hubs are the focus of Susan’s work. “When I joined 100 Story Building in 2021, these were in the pilot stage and had been significantly affected by school closures due to Covid.”

    “We have now completed both the pilot and the first year of expanding Story Hubs to new schools. Our Year One evaluation reports are in and the results for students and teachers are fantastic. We’re thrilled that at a time when schools are still recovering post-Covid, and teaching is challenging, Story Hubs is having such a positive impact.”

    The external evaluators found that students showed improvements in curriculum outcomes (literacy, writing, ideas generation, collaboration and sharing); improvements in engagement (with learning, writing and relationships with self, peers and teachers); and increased agency.

    Teachers experienced positive changes in their relationships with students; improved capability to support curriculum outcomes; improved practices of lesson planning and design; and a heightened sense of joy in their teaching.

    Susan was just three when she and her family moved from Belgrade to Melbourne’s west and grew up in the quintessential cultural melting pot. “My friends were from diverse backgrounds – Maltese, Egyptian, Italian, Vietnamese, Macedonian and more.” 

    Moreover, she notes that her primary school – St Albans Heights – was ahead of its time in many respects. “My schooling felt very inclusive. It embraced the diverse cultures of its students, and the stories, music and art from these cultures. We’d have special days when we would eat traditional foods of one culture; and we’d sing songs in different languages. 

    “There were also lots of arts and cultural programs, while touring arts companies often put on shows for us.”

    Susan remains grateful for being exposed to such a rich learning environment, which informs a lot of what she is so passionate about today.

    “If I hadn’t had those experiences, I would never have been exposed to that world. As a newly arrived family, we certainly didn’t have the money to attend arts and cultural events.”

    Our programs and approaches are unique and not always easy to explain, but they are powerful experiences for participants.

    The work of 100 Story Building focuses on under-resourced schools because when schools are stretched – financially or because of staffing – creative experiences are not necessarily prioritised. 

    “Yet these programs are vital,” says Susan. “I know how much joy they can bring and how they can develop confidence, particularly for young people.”

    Susan says that coming from a different cultural background and needing to learn English, she didn’t have the confidence to tell her stories. 

    “But that is such an important way to build skills and confidence, and it is the power of the work we do at 100 Story Building. We encourage every young person that their stories are important, and we work together to explore them in different ways and share them with the world.”

    While Susan started studying social work and occupational therapy at university she kept getting pulled back to her love for literature and stories. After completing a degree in English literature, a career in the arts beckoned. 

    “It is a hard road, and for me the arts was not always valued as a secure career, especially for a migrant family like mine who made extraordinary sacrifices to create opportunities for the next generation. But sciences and maths subjects just weren’t my passion.”

    Despite the huge impact of 100 Story Building over the past decade, with almost 50,000 children and young people across Melbourne and Geelong taking part in programs, a constant challenge is locking in ongoing funding. 

    Raising the profile of 100 Story Building remains key. “Once we work with people they become friends and partners for life. Our programs and approaches are unique and not always easy to explain, but they are powerful experiences for participants.”

    100 Story Building team
    100 Story Building team. Image by Matto Lucas Photography

    Elizabeth Minter is Daniel Mulino’s media adviser.


    Champions of the West is brought to you by Dr Daniel Mulino, federal Labor MP for Fraser.
    If you would like to nominate a Champion of the West, email

    Daniel Mulino
    Federal MP for Fraser

    (03) 9070 1974
    Shop 1, 25–27 Clarke St, Sunshine VIC 3020

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