At-risk youth at a mentoring program
At-risk youth at a mentoring program

UOW students help secure funding for a local youth mentoring program

UOW students help secure funding for a local youth mentoring program

Mentoring program to support youth self-development for at-risk young people of the Illawarra

Since 2019, Lake Illawarra and Wollongong Police Districts have collaborated with Youth Justice Wollongong and UOW on identifying appropriate interventions to address Youth Domestic Family Violence (DFV). One of their recent research findings was that involving young people in a 12-month mentoring program designed to target domestic violence offending behaviour may prove successful in decreasing youth crime rates.

With more than 35 years of experience, the Australian Community Support Organisation (ACSO) has long worked in the Illawarra to support youth self-development and employment programs. When approached by NSW Police and NSW Youth Justice to help find tangible solutions to the at-risk youth challenge, ACSO joined forces with the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) student talent to develop a specific, youth-oriented mentoring program.

For this project, ACSO became an industry host for the Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) subject, CRLP200. UOW students who were instrumental in co-creating the mentoring program allowed ACSO to approach the issue with a fresh perspective.

As a result of this collaboration, ACSO received funding from the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources to run a youth mentoring intervention pilot project in the Illawarra called Boost. Launching on 1st September, the project is set to service 65 young people, supporting them to understand their AVOs (Apprehended Violence Orders), develop skills and techniques to enable behaviour change and set them up for success in life.

“At ACSO, our vision is for a community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and prison truly is the last resort. We are excited to be able to pilot and evaluate an innovative, collaborative program with such committed partners in the Illawarra. This mentoring program will lead to better outcomes not only for individual young people but for the whole community,” said Larissa Daniel, ACSO’s Chief Strategy Officer.

WIL provides students with the opportunity to enhance their employability by applying knowledge and skills acquired in their tertiary studies in professional work settings. Nuala O’Donnell, UOW Associate Director, Student Engagement & Employability, applauded the results of student participation in the program.

“When creating WIL subjects, we want our students to get the taste of the real world, to learn how workplaces operate and what challenges they may need to overcome in their professional lives. In this case, the students not only learned a lot themselves, but they also contributed to this very important project that will be transformational for many underprivileged young people of the Illawarra,” said Ms O’Donnell.


  • The program will help young people to identify the thoughts, feelings, triggers and stressors that may lead to breaches of AVOs.
  • It will link young people and their families and significant support networks with mentors who will support them in finding strategies to reduce the likelihood of AVO breaches. The participants will practise these through experiential learning activities.
  • The Boost program is a safe place where young people will feel supported by their mentor to make meaningful changes in their behaviour and their relationships. 
  • In the spirit of piloting, ACSO will continue to collaborate with NSW Police and Youth Justice, NSW Children’s Courts and other relevant stakeholders to build cohesion between ACSO and these government services.
  • 6 mentors and one program facilitator supported by the program manager will work intensively (up to 15 hours per week) with individuals at high risk of breaching an AVO.


Employers can find out more about hosting UOW students and accessing employer services via UOW Careers Central.