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“To everyone that’s helped me to get where I am, it’s fantastic. Thank you so much and thank you to Concern Australia.”

At our recent Annual General Meeting, we were privileged to hear from Adam*, a young man who is living in one of our Inside Out homes. He showed great courage to share some of his story in front of the gathering of staff, Concern Australia members and supporters.

Adam has faced many life hurdles, including the trauma of losing a parent, his remaining parent experiencing mental health struggles, and family conflict.

Adam was placed in the Child Protection system and was living in residential care, which he found challenging. Easily influenced, he was often led into unhealthy choices by other young people, and he disengaged from school.

Since he began living in one of our lead tenant houses with two volunteer live-in mentors and supported by experienced Concern Australia staff, Adam has been able to distance himself from negative influences, stabilise his life and start learning to live as an independent adult.

The overwhelming message from Adam was gratitude for the support that he has received from Concern Australia and the Inside Out team. He said that in the time he has been sharing a home with the live-in mentors, he has been able to return to school – he’s currently completing year 11 – and he has achieved his learner’s driving licence. These are huge steps for a young man who has experienced a life of instability.

Hearing from Adam was a moving moment for those who gathered for our AGM. To hear firsthand how our work is changing lives is always profound, but it held particular significance as we remembered a year in which our founder, the Rev. Dr John Smith, passed away after a long battle with cancer. Our work to support young people such as Adam is his legacy, and we took time to remember John’s vision during the AGM.

* Name changed

The Pioneer Award

Youth Worker Rebecca Taggart, recipient of the inaugural Pioneer Award.

To further honor and remember John Smith’s vision and legacy, this year we have created a new staff recognition award, the Pioneer Award.

This annual award recognises an outstanding staff member in a similar way to the previous James Ridgway Award, which was established to honour the contribution that Dr James Ridgway, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 82, made to Concern Australia. Dr Ridgway remains a significant and honoured part of the Concern Australia story, and his contribution and memory are reflected in this new award.

The Pioneer Award recognises a staff member who, through their work and commitment to the vision, mission and values of Concern Australia, has demonstrated a pioneering spirit to positively impact the lives of young people and children and has displayed outstanding servanthood, integrity and loyalty.

At the AGM, the inaugural Pioneer Award was presented to Concern Australia Youth Worker Rebecca Taggart.

“Rebecca is highly respected by her colleagues for the ways she invests in young people, building strong and trusting relationships with them, and thinks outside the square to find ways for them to build supportive networks and get involved in a diverse range of community activities,” said CEO Michelle Crawford.

“She is adaptable and committed, demonstrated by the way she works effectively with whole families when we are supporting a young person in a challenging family context. She is also a team player, helping out wherever she can, supporting other staff, and she was a key member of this year’s Run Melbourne team helping to raise vital funds for the Steps Outreach Service. She is a worthy winner of the Pioneer Award honouring John Smith.”

Our partnership with RMIT

Trevor Bayley from RMIT, with Youth Work students Rhys and Jade.

We also heard from Ian Dubbeld, Hand Brake Turn Program Manager, and Trevor Bayley, an RMIT Work Integrated Learning Teacher, who together spoke about our ongoing partnership with RMIT that sees Youth Work students do placements with Concern Australia to provide support for Hand Brake Turn students.

So far, RMIT Youth Work students have contributed more than 1000 volunteer hours to Hand Brake Turn. Ian said that Hand Brake Turn students often say: “I can’t believe that they want to come here and help us,” and they frequently ask the Youth Work students to attend their graduation.

And there have been benefits for the RMIT students in addition to getting real-world youth work experience. Hand Brake Turn assisted one RMIT student to purchase her own car, making her the first person in her family to own her own vehicle, and a number of the RMIT students are gaining knowledge and skills about cars for the first time.

Find out more about this fantastic partnership.

Annual Report launched, gratitude for David Eldridge’s role as Board Chair

These are just some of the great stories about the impact of our work. The meeting heard more reports about Concern Australia’s successful year from the Board Chair, the CEO and the Treasurer. You can find out more, and read more stories, in our Annual Report, which we also launched at the AGM. Download a pdf of the Annual Report.

The meeting also heard that our Board Chair, David Eldridge AM, is stepping down from his position. Deputy Chair Terry Baxter spoke for everyone associated with Concern Australia when he thanked David for leading the Board and the organisation to a place of stability and a strong foundation for the future.

Terry closed the meeting with a story from the days when Hand Brake Turn was running in Gosford in New South Wales. Terry was visiting the workshop, when a young man came bounding in and, with his face bright and alive, announced to everyone present, “I’ve got a job!”

This former Hand Brake Turn student was 22, and it was his first job ever.

“Hand Brake Turn teaches these young people how to get up every day and show up for work,” Terry said, closing the meeting.

“If we can make a difference for one, we can make a difference for a lot more.”

Thank you to everyone who continues to support us and enables us to make a difference for children and young people.

You can make a secure donation to our work here.