Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

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Case Study: Brophy Family and Youth Services

ProjectGet Connected




Rural and regional Victoria Providing support and links to opportunities for disengaged young people aged 12-25 years across the Great South Coast
Building organisational capacity Enabling Brophy to initiate a tailored response to the specific needs of young people in smaller rural communities who are disengaged due to COVID
Collaboration and partnership Youth Affairs Council of Victoria (YACVic), Foyer Warrnambool, Headspace Warrnambool, Office of Youth, Warrnambool City Council, Navigator, Reconnect, SWTAFE VCAL & others

A collaborative response to youth disengagement in regional Victoria

A multi sector collaboration across the Great South Coast provided targeted support, links to opportunities, services and community for young people aged 12-25 years whose lives have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Government, for purpose and education institutions worked together to create a responsive and engaging outreach service to bring young people who were experiencing isolation and loss of connection, back into meaningful reengagement with education, employment, peers and community.

Image Young leaders at Foyer Warrnambool. Photo: courtesy Brophy

COVID-19 has been a generation-defining moment for young people, which has had a disproportionate, long-term impact on young people’s lives. The pandemic hit young people harder than any other group, with job losses, disrupted education, mental distress and social isolation. This was particularly heightened in rural and regional areas. As a member of the Youth Sector Coalition led by Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic), Brophy secured funding to develop seven new Youth Engagement Roles for a 12 month period to assist with young people’s COVID recovery, providing a flexible and tailored response to those young people aged 12-25 years across the Great South Coast who had identified needs for reconnection.


  • While funding was received for the salaries of the Safe and Connected Team through Jobs Victoria, no funding was made available for program delivery needs. An untied emergency grant from HMSTrust was used for much needed program costs.
  • The Safe and Connected Team, and within that, the Get Connected project, was a “soft” referral entry point to community services, where Youth Engagement Workers travelled across the region, assertively connecting and making supported referrals with young people into local services for more intensive or specific support.
  • The individual youth engagement and group activities aimed to increase young people’s social and emotional wellbeing, confidence and capabilities, and reduce social isolation, enabling them to connect with others, try new things and step out of their comfort zones.
  • HMSTrust funds were allocated to youth-led projects, providing young people with the opportunity to co-design activities and empowering them to be agents of change in their community. These included:
    • Year 12 Students at Casterton Secondary School organising their own Graduation Dinner, which also supported local businesses
    • Camperdown College’s School for Student Leadership Team implementing an Indigenous themed Reflective Garden on school grounds.
    • Supporting an Art Group for young people on the Autism Spectrum to be able to provide members with particular art supplies, technology and software to ensure everyone can be involved in projects.
    • Transition to Work’s Youth Alliance Crew running a Random Acts of Kindness Project within the community.
    • Tarrington YOUth Committee purchasing equipment for use at their Community Park to encourage more young people to utilise the space.
  • Individual support costs included providing young people with food, clothing, shoes and other essentials they required over the course of the project.
  • Brophy Family and Youth Services is part of the Working for Victoria Youth Sector Coalition which is led by the Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic). The Coalition secured $6.97 million from the Working for Victoria Fund in 2020 to create new jobs to help address the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of young Victorians.
  • While this project had a limited lifespan, it provided an evidence base which will enable YACVic to advocate to government on the need for ongoing regional Youth Outreach Workers, that are not tied to a specific social issue such as mental health or substance abuse, to reach isolated regional youth at risk of disengagement.


“Governments, business, unions, philanthropy and community organisations will all need to work collectively to make serious and long-lasting investments in a youth-focused recovery.” - Katherine Ellis, CEO, YACVic