Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

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Case Study: SEAAC Youth Services

ProjectMulticultural Experiential Learning Program




This grant was approved under our previous grants policy (Jan 2014 – March 2017)
Building organisational capacity Build organisational knowledge of successful engagement programs; develop an effective evaluation tool to measure the ease of settlement for newly arrived young people
Extending opportunity Support the settlement of disengaged, newly arrived migrant and refugee young people, while developing their personal and practical skills in a school setting
Collaboration and partnership Hands On Learning Australia, Good Shepherd Youth & Family Services, Narre Warren South P-12 College

Piloting a way to help young migrant and refugee school students to settle into Australia

Located in Melbourne’s south-east corridor, the Southern Ethnic Advisory and Advocacy Council (SEAAC) provides programs for multicultural youth with a focus on supporting and empowering newly-arrived migrant and refugee young people.

Image Students enjoy pizza cooked in the oven they constructed during the program.

Running for eighteen months from June 2013 to December 2014, this experiential program aimed to help newly-arrived non-English Speaking Background (NESB) young people at risk of becoming disengaged to settle at school and in Australia more generally, through participation in the Hands on Learning (HOL) program.

It was the first time the HOL program had been specifically targeted to this demographic and was the result of a strategic partnership between Hands on Learning Australia and SEAAC. The small group approach enabled meaningful relationships with other students and adult role models, aiding in the settlement experience of newly arrived students.

Participants were provided with their own space in the school on one to two days per week to undertake “hands on” work outside of the classroom involving carpentry and building. Projects included: creating garden beds for the school’s Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program; building a shed to house tools and to provide meeting space for the HOL program; and building an outdoor pizza oven to create a recreational space for use by the students and wider community.


  • The program provided the young people with support to develop practical and personal skills in a school setting and an opportunity to put those skills to immediate use.
  • Participation enabled NESB students to build greater connections with fellow students and staff and to feel a strong sense of inclusion at school.
  • Learnings from the pilot were considerable and were able to impact the program as it developed, as well as inform future projects and programs undertaken by all the partners involved in the project.
  • Evaluation results showed marked improvements for all participants, confirming that the HOL approach supports the settlement of the young people into their schools and community.
  • The project was documented and evaluated by Good Shepherd, enabling the development of an evaluation tool to measure the ease of settlement for newly-arrived young people which will form the basis of the evaluation for all SEAAC projects in the future.
  • The evaluation of this project also informed the University of Melbourne, ARC-funded project “Building Futures for Young Australians”


“He changed quickly. He went from being quiet and keeping to himself to becoming quite relaxed and cheeky. He had lots of fun with the staff and by the time he left he had built up relationships with other people in the school and had built up quite a social network for himself.” SEAAC Program Worker