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“The key is unconditional positive regard”

11 September 2023, Impact of Our Work

Putting kids’ rights first even if they’ve been in contact with the law

It’s the kind of work where each day is not the same. As teacher for Out Teach, a service for young people in contact with the youth justice system, Rob’s work is led by the individual needs of its participants. 

Rob says, “There's absolutely no typical day in Out Teach. We try and see three young people for about an hour and a half each, but quite often they've got different needs and different wants. So we have to be really dynamic in how we go about working with them and change up as they need it.” 

The support could be as varied as taking them to a dental appointment, school or to the local café to check in on their physical and mental health. It also includes linking them to education, vocational training and employment.

Helping meet kids’ needs

“Young people come to us with quite complex needs. So a typical young person who comes into the program is someone who has recently offended, is between the ages of 12 and 18 and someone who is long term disengaged with education or employment,”  Rob explains.

Teacher Rob helps Leo get a few essential personal items.

“We look at what their needs are and what they believe their vulnerabilities are, and then we start to develop an individually tailored program in order to address those needs and vulnerabilities.”

For 17-year-old Leo,* it’s about going to school and help with getting work. With his partner due to give birth soon, it’s also about preparing for his new role as a father. 

Youth Worker Cass works in tandem with Rob and has been helping Leo get into an apprenticeship. Cass shares, “He’s really wanting to better his life and we’re just supporting him in that and he’ll ring up and make his own appointments and he will do everything … It’s just getting him a little bit of extra support, but the credit needs to go to the young people because they are amazing. They’ve overcome so much.”

Youth worker Cass talks to young people about their mental and physical health.

Helping kids become their best self

Underpinning the work of Out Teach is the belief that kids who are in trouble with the law have the same rights as anyone else. 

Out Teach changed my way and I started making my life better with my education … So I've got the motivation up, like seeing better things in life.


Putting the rights of young people first in youth justice helps address the root causes of harm. It’s an approach that results in better outcomes both for young people and the community. 

For the 46 young people who have already taken part in the voluntary 12-18 months program, the results have been positive. Since Out Teach started, 85.7 per cent of the young people who remained in the program beyond six months have increased their connection with school or employment.

Rob says, “I think the key to Out Teach is unconditional positive regard. So constantly reaffirming with a young person that they are cared for, they are valued, they are loved within their community, that we want what is best for them, that we empower them to make decisions, we support them to make good decisions.”

He continues, “We encourage them not to make bad decisions. And when inevitably a young person makes a mistake, we don't cast them aside. We make sure that we have a way for them to reintegrate themselves, to re-establish those connections that they may have otherwise lost. And to feel like they actually belong.” 

Lee Joachim, Regional Manager for 54 reasons, reaffirms the important role of Out Teach to the young people in the Greater Shepparton area. “It allows them to be listened to. It's about them developing their own activity plans. And it's about them recognising just who they are and their right to plan their life.”


Out Teach is delivered by 54 reasons, part of the Save the Children Australia Group. 

*Names have been changed to protect identities.
Photos: Lucia Ondrusova / Save the Children.

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