Media Release

Youth Mentoring Program Reflects on Successful Year

Local youth mentoring program, Gippsland Engaged Mentoring (GEM) has commenced preparation for the new school year after a busy 2018 providing support and engagement with young people across East Gippsland.

The GEM program, delivered by Workways Australia, operates across East Gippsland and engages with young people in Orbost, Lakes Entrance, Swifts Creek and Bairnsdale. Young people who may be ‘at risk’ of disengagement are connected with volunteer adult mentors who provide friendship, support and conversation.

In 2018, 45 young people have benefitted from one-on-one mentoring, with a further 30 supported through group activities. The program has also trained 25 new mentors this year and delivered professional development training to its mentors including Youth Mental Health First Aid.

Jan Lucas and Susan Adair are joint GEM Program Co-ordinators at Workways, and are responsible for the delivery of the program and coordination with a wide range of community stakeholders.

Jan said the success of the program rests on its volunteers and community support, “This year we’ve developed partnerships with DELWP, Parks Victoria, East Gippsland Shire Council, Youth Justice and Gippsland Lakes Community Health service, while strengthening existing relationships with East Gippsland Water and Uniting Australia. These organisations enable their staff to participate in mentoring activities during work hours, all of whom bring valuable skills and experience to help support our youth.

“The volunteer mentors who give of their time each week make a real difference in the lives of our participants, particularly so for those young people who may not have a stable adult presence in their lives at that time.

“We offer our thanks and appreciation, on behalf of the program but also the community, to our volunteers and partners who make this program a success.” Added Jan.

Young people and mentors have participated in a range of group programs across the year including Take 2 Cycles, a program that taught participants how to restore and rebuild old bicycles; Equine Facilitated Learning which paired young people and horses to facilitate trust and responsibility; Animal Aid volunteering where the mentees provide assistance in the cat enclosure and learn responsible pet ownership; and Gloveworx, facilitated by Jeremy Schroder, the program provides structured and supported physical activity as an early intervention tool for at-risk youth.

As the school year wraps up, the GEM team are not content to rest and relax. “We’re still actively seeking mentors for next year, and we have a particular need in the Lakes Entrance and Swifts Creek regions.” Said Susan.

“We encourage local businesses and community members who could spare one hour per week to be a part of youth mentoring, to contact Workways Australia in Bairnsdale.

“Training is provided for all of our volunteers and mentors must pass a police and working with children check. Other than that, there are no qualifications required for these volunteer roles, just good listening skills and a passion for supporting youth in East Gippsland.” Said Susan.

The youth mentoring program continues support for non-school based young people through the New Year period and recommences in the schools on 19th February, 2019 in what will be its 17th year.