Trevor Preston

Trevor Preston is a youth support officer at Lyneham High School, and is a qualified youth worker and librarian. He is committed to the development of young people, and improving life outcomes through lifelong learning. His commitment to young people is evident through his history of supporting young people, first through working with young people who were experiencing homelessness or in detention, supporting them to access sustainable housing, and improving their educational and employment outcomes. He then moved to an educational setting ten years ago, working at Wanniassa High School for almost 9 years, before moving to Lyneham High School.

Trevor provides quality, strengths and evidence based, responsive practice to young people within the high school environment. Trevor manages the complexities of young people’s stories with compassion, insight, innovation in approach and agility to his service provision. Trevor is renowned in the school atmosphere for ensuring wrap around support to young people and their families, and seeking meaningful service outcomes and responsive service supports for all his clients.

Trevor places young people at the centre of his practice, annually reviews the welfare requirements of his school community, and allows young people to self-determine what will work best for them. He also supports them to identify fun, inclusive activities that will help connect young people with each other and support services. He is a diligent researcher and applier of action learning, which enhances his capacity to work with complex needs including mental health, AOD and trauma, and provides insightful, current and meaningful practice to all of his support work with young people.

James Small

James Small is a Youth Support Worker at Belconnen Community Service. Despite being new to the sector, James is a man in demand; with his unique combination of skills and amiable personality, young people and workers alike are eager to engage with him.

As a street artist, musician, sports fiend and all around great guy, James uses his skills and interests to enthuse and encourage young people to develop their own skills. He has a strong commitment to strengths-based practice which is evident in the way he wholeheartedly empowers young people to discover and develop their abilities.

James has grown immensely as a youth work practitioner, receiving positive feedback from schools, colleagues, and young people for the work he does wherever he goes. He has a natural drive to do the best work that he can do, so is always asking questions and reflecting on ways we can improve our services to all young people.

James is teachable, willing, and particularly interested in supporting and advocating for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, playing a role in facilitating multiple Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth groups and projects. James is constantly striving for best practice, evolving and expanding his knowledge to work successfully with any and all young people, openly identifying his own knowledge gaps and going out of his way to make sure he fills them. James is driven, passionate and an asset to the youth and community sector.

Mari Benson

Mari Benson is a Youth Worker at Barnardos ACT Together. She has been working in Out of Home Care for the last 5 years, but it is her role as a mother that gives her the drive and tenacity to manage the high and complex needs of the young people she supports who are in placement. As a Youth Worker and mentor, she brings a dynamic and innovative approach to handling difficult situations, and does so with grace and ease.

Recently Mari took on additional responsibilities, assisting her Team Leader with both the operational and clinical aspects of the every day running of the house. After identifying areas for improvement, she developed a budget, plans, and therapeutic interventions to grow and expand on the existing structure of supports to young people.

Mari has contributed over and above her role, time and time again, to support her team, and is a pillar of strength to those around her. Mari takes new staff members entering the workforce in this sector under her wing. She shares her experiences with others, and teaches everyone a new way of looking at an issue or problem. Her experience and the way she supports her colleagues contributes significantly to the support they provide to young people.

PCYC Adventure Program

The Canberra PCYC Adventure program is an early intervention program for vulnerable young people who are disengaged from education, engaged in anti-social behaviour, and are highly at-risk of contact with the justice system. The 20-week program includes daily sessions addressing social and emotional wellbeing, life skills training, social skills training, goal making, followed by the “sick as” tailored PCYC adventure activities including motorbiking, mountain biking, kayaking, swimming and bush adventuring.

The program involves collaboration with other community services and government agencies, including The Junction, Street Uni, Cancer Council, the AFP, and youth centres. Prior to graduation, external services and supports are aligned to ensure smooth transition to appropriate support networks beyond PCYC.

The program has previously included teenage males and females, and in 2018, the program was adapted to include young people aged 8 – 12, in order to address the service gap for early intervention programs addressing this particular age group.

Outcomes have included young people increasing their ability to control emotions, returning to mainstream schooling, improved relationships in the family home, improved mental and physical health, having better knowledge of services, gaining employment, and gaining stronger connections to community.

YWCA Canberra Clubhouse & ACT Parks and Conservation Service

‘What’s Your Reality: A Journey Through Virtual Worlds’ is a free program delivered by YWCA Canberra Clubhouse & ACT Parks and Conservation Service. The mission is to harness the power of virtual reality (VR) to make Canberra’s natural parks and reserves accessible to all.

The Clubhouse has engaged ten students in year nine at Calwell High School to deliver this program and represent Canberra in the Parallel Parks program, where young people create virtual reality content that is designed specifically for young people with a disability.

The health benefits of adventure and being connected to nature are undisputed, but accessing Canberra’s nature-based experiences isn’t possible for everyone, especially those with a physically restrictive disability. Through the Parallel Parks program, young people with muscular dystrophy will be able to explore Canberra’s nature-based experiences through the eyes of participating students. The participants research the many activities available in Canberra Nature Parks, Mulligans Flat, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and Namadgi National Park, and have chosen fun and exciting activities that they would want to experience if they themselves had a physically restrictive disability. Using the new GoPro Fusion 360° filming technology, participants are venturing out in nature, filming their experiences, and commentating throughout. Participants are also learning how to use the GoPro film editing software and their experiences are being uploaded onto a dedicated YouTube channel that will be used by people living with a disability.

This is just the beginning for Parallel Parks, and the impact that ‘What’s Your Reality’ will have on young people throughout Australia who have a desire, but not the ability to get out and have fun in the bush. ACT Parks and Conservation Service is also in discussions with disability organisations in the ACT exploring opportunities to share these experiences.

Belconnen Community Service Youth Engagement

Belconnen Community Service Youth Engagement has a history of effectively involving young people in their service design. 2018 has seen this become more integrated and involved, with leadership and input from young people actively shaping the service.

BCS Youth Engagement runs quarterly consultations at its youth centre, which are integral to the planning of events, supports, activities and the general culture of the youth centre. When young people suggest activities, workers assist them in planning and facilitating the activity. Revitalising the planning and participation process in this way has helped young people build skills and confidence, and created a strengthened sense of community and peer support in the centre.

To create further ownership and investment in their local youth service, young people are also actively encouraged to submit potential interview questions when new workers are hired. Consultations with students are held in schools prior to commencing service delivery in the forms of surveys, friendly chats and focus groups, allowing for informed decisions about programs that align with their needs and interests.

When receiving individual support, participants are given the opportunity and encouragement to reflect on what it is they would like to achieve, even if it is in contrast to what’s been included in their referral. Ensuring that young people have full participatory control over their support is paramount to the continually positive outcomes achieved.

By placing youth participation at the forefront of their work, BCS Youth Engagement have achieved phenomenal outcomes and created a lasting sense of inclusion, respect and community among the young people involved.

Bryan Duke

Bryan Duke began working in the homelessness sector in the mid 1990’s, running a soup kitchen in the old Griffin Centre, and in the youth sector in 2001. He currently runs the Take Hold program with Ted Noffs foundation, which he established in Canberra in 2012.

Bryan builds a strong rapport with young people and never gives up on trying to support them, and connecting them with the most suitable services, workers and mentors available. He has a relaxed attitude and is real with the young people, which allows him to build a strong connection quickly. Bryan shows commitment to his clients and will often be approached from former clients about how their lives have changed, and the positive influence he has had on their lives.

Bryan not only engages with and supports young people, he also contributes significantly to the youth and homelessness sectors both formally and informally. He regularly attends meetings such as Joint Pathways, Youth Housing and Homeless Forum, and was part of the steering group to set up the Youth Worker Practice Network. Bryan regularly attends training to keep up to date with the latest knowledge and information, and uses his wisdom and experience to enhance the learning of other participants.

Bryan takes the time to get to know new workers in the sector, and gather information about the different services available, in turn improving his endless knowledge of the sector and his amazing talent for networking. Bryan is reliable and trustworthy in his approach to his work. He is well known in the sector, and has a reputation for caring for young people and youth workers, and always has a smile and friendly work for them. This is balanced by being unafraid to speak up and use his knowledge and experience to make sure that the focus of decisions are working in the best interests of young people.

Susan Pellegrino

Susan Pellegrino has been involved in the youth sector over a number of years, and is a long term supporter and collaborator of the work of the Youth Coalition. As part of her role with the CREATE Foundation, Susan supports young people who wish to be advocates on Out of Home Care issues. She has worked closely with the Youth Coalition to connect us with young people who want to engage in our advocacy work, and she provides opportunities for young people to learn and develop their leadership and advocacy skills.

Susan is incredibly insightful and intelligent, and often brings a fresh perspective to a conversation, which has been developed through her authentic engagement with and support of young people. She has a unique depth of knowledge and understanding, and seeks genuine partnerships and opportunities to collaborate. Always at the forefront of her mind is seeking better processes and outcomes for children, young people and families.

Susan genuinely cares about children and young people, and this is evident in the way she interacts with both young people and adults. Whether she is cooking a BBQ while wearing a gorilla costume or speaking in a formal meeting, Susan wears her heart on her sleeve. It is this vulnerability that shows young people that she truly cares for them, and shows the rest of us her passion for improving their lives.

Young people tell us that Susan makes them feel like things really will be ok. When she says that she will be there for them, they know it is true. Susan gives young people hope, and with her seemingly boundless energy she relentlessly pursues positive change and better outcomes to ensure that hope becomes a reality. The Youth Coalition team feel incredibly privileged to work alongside Susan.

Adam Shirley & Ainslie Macgibbon

Adam Shirley is the ‘Mornings’ presenter on ABC Radio Canberra, and Ainslie Macgibbon is a journalist and part of the production team for ‘Mornings with Adam Shirley’. Together, they have demonstrated skilled and considered engagement with young people, and about issues affecting young people.

Adam and his team have provided thoughtful coverage on issues affecting young people over a number of years, and have worked with the Youth Coalition to highlight issues, such as youth homelessness; lowering the voting age & civic participation for young people; the federal de-funding of national youth week; employment, work experience and exploitation; youth mental health; and income support.

For example, they recently worked closely with the Youth Coalition to arrange a radio interview to discuss young people’s experiences of transitioning from out-of-home care. This included talking directly to young people with care experiences, alongside the Youth Coalition. Adam and his team took care to ensure the young people felt supported and comfortable, including by pre-recording the interview, identifying key topic areas in advance, protecting the young people’s anonymity, and providing them with an opportunity to review the recording.

Ainslie and Adam’s diligent research, and Adam’s sensitivity and respectful interview skills ensure that young people’s media engagement through them is a positive experience for the young people involved. Additionally, they are commended for their commitment to raising the profile of issues that affect young people with the broader Canberra community.

Joshua White

Joshua White is a youth worker at Kingsford Smith School, and for Josh, the students at his school always come first. He approaches students with calmness, understanding and empathy. Regardless of the situation or what else he has to do, his students know that when he is speaking with them, they are his main priority.

Josh excels at building rapport with young people, identifying their individual needs, students and linking them with supports based around their strengths. If Josh can’t find the right support, then generally, he creates it. One of Josh’s greatest strengths is involving others in the support of his students. Whether it’s a new group or club, or linking them with a service that can think and move outside the box, he calls on contacts and connections from previous work and makes miracles happen for the young people he supports.

Josh is described by colleagues as someone who is “in a league of his own”. He is enthusiastic, passionate, energetic, humble, generous, positive, committed, courteous, eternally encouraging and humorous. He is a leader in positive initiatives not just in his school, but also in the local community, partnering with organisations to facilitate after school programs for students, and supporting events such Wear It Purple Day and White Ribbon Day.

He is recognised by school staff and community partners as someone who is willing to learn, and committed to professionalism. However, this would mean little if he did not have his students on his side. Josh embodies the skills every youth worker should possess, with his friendly personality and ability to develop trust with young people. It is impossible to walk with Josh through his school without young people waving and calling out, knowing they will receive a welcoming smile from someone who genuinely cares for them in return.