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Before Ways and Means I was not confident with work and was unable to hold a job confidently. Ways & Means gave me the opportunity to volunteer and slowly get back into a working environment with support. I started off working hours that other young volunteers weren’t working due to my confidence at the time which helped me slowly build my working confidence. Now I’ve clocked up a year at the café and Kate the manager has been kind enough to give me paid hours at Ways & Means. I now work hours that other young people are working and help them to the best of my ability. My experience at Ways & Means has brought back my confidence with work that I’ve previously lost which is going to help me in the future with other employment, most importantly I have achieved my goal of wanting to have a stable job which I thought I’d never be able to achieve with how chaotic my life used to be. I couldn’t be happier working at Ways & Means - Edward

July 15 is World Youth Skills Day – a chance to focus on the importance of supporting young people to develop the skills they need to thrive. We sat down with Kate McKenzie, manager of Ways & Means café in the Melbourne CBD. The café is a YSAS program and social enterprise that has supported over 92 young people to build the skills and confidence they need to thrive in the community. 

Hi Kate! Thanks for this tasty flat white. Tell us a bit about Ways and Means

Hello, no problem!

Ways and Means is a YSAS program, established just over 18 months ago on Little Lonsdale street in the Melbourne CBD.

We offer vulnerable young people the opportunity to work in a boutique café, to develop new skills and a sense of belonging.

We work in partnership with other YSAS programs and services to identify young people interested in working at a café, and create a supportive pathway for them to do that. Our ultimate goal is to build the confidence, social skills and transferable professional skills to help move young people into paid employment or study.

How does the café help young people develop new skills?

Ways and Means provides a real-life working environment, supported by patient and compassionate staff. We have a culture of peer mentoring, which basically means staff and young people support new starters to develop their confidence and understanding of how a café works.

The people at the café are a mix of young people who have accessed YSAS services, volunteers from the hospitality industry and professional café workers. By working together, the guys with more experience can share pointers with the newbies and so-on and so forth.

What drives young people to work at the café?

They can see how it will benefit them, whether they have prior hospitality experience or not – they understand there are a lot of opportunities in Melbourne in this industry.

A lot of them just want to connect and build their confidence. Often, at the start, they’ll come in with their head hung low, thinking “oh, I can’t even work” then after a few weeks or months their confidence has grown immensely. They’re starting to think “wow, I can do this!”, their juices have started flowing and it’s a lovely thing to see.

What skills in particular are young people learning?

Most things to do with café work! From barista work – which is really hard! – to short order cooks, service, cleaning, point of sale machines and fulfilling catering orders. We tend to have a good spread of young people interested in all these jobs, rather than everyone wanting to be a barista for example which makes things easier!

A couple of weeks ago we had a catering order for 200 people at a nearby business. That was a big lesson in planning for all our staff. Three hundred sandwiches later, a few new skills were developed!

Another customer ordered a load of damper for a special event, so there’s always something different happening.

Aside from these more tangible skills, they’re also learning how to interact with the public, teamwork, self-worth, workplace etiquette, trust, a sense of motivation, confidence and social skills.

You made damper?!

There’s nothing we can’t do! Sometimes the staff and young people are just like “you said yes to what?!”

What impact does the café have on young people?

Ways and Means Café has supported 92 young people over the last 18 months. Most of these people have gone on to further study or paid employment. Everyone’s different but we’ve had some people go on to paid gigs at Ways and Means, elsewhere in the hospitality industry or secured trade apprenticeships. Others have gotten into education – back to VCE or enrolling in Tafe or university courses. They’re all different.

And what about the wider community?

Our clients are mainly corporate folk and they’re really supportive. A lot of them have very little knowledge or understanding of the challenges our young people are facing, so there’s a huge opportunity for the café to help educate people about issues like mental health, to try to reduce the stigma surrounding it.

I do think the café helps raise the social conscience of the community around us.

We have a suspended coffee system our customers are really into. They basically buy an extra coffee – or sometimes five extra coffees! – when they’re buying their morning round. Those coffees can then be claimed by someone in need of it.

Often this will be people sleeping rough or young people in need of a space to just be. They know they can come in, have a coffee – and I’ll give them a meal too – just to be and find the support they need.

We also have a lot of workplaces that go out of their way to order catering from us and we really appreciate that support.

Thank you for chatting with us! Would you like to share anything else?

I’d like to take this opportunity to express how important being part of this program has been for me personally. I feel very emotionally connected to the work and feel deeply passionate about the ongoing success of the program. Having the opportunity to assist so many young people has been truly inspiring.

If you’re in the Melbourne CBD area, visit Ways and Means café at 18 Little Lonsdale St.

And if you need delicious catering, give Kate a ring on 9639 8777. She and the team can pull together morning teas, lunches, afternoon teas and whatever else you need, including damper!

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As Refugee Week winds down, we caught up with Andrew Holt, an Outreach Worker from Dandenong. Andrew works with a number of young refugees and asylum seekers within the YSAS One Community Program. Here he shares his experience of working with people seeking refuge in Melbourne’s south east.

What are some of the main needs of young refugees accessing the One Community Program?

We mainly see young males, they’ve been sent ahead by their families back home to set themselves up, earn some money and then send for the rest of the family who are still living either in danger at home or in a Refugee Camp.

Because they’re alone, they’re really isolated and the biggest immediate need is to create social connections, make human contact.

How does the program support these young people to make connections?

Part of the program is a Wednesday night shared dinner in a relaxed environment. Our setup is kind of like a lounge and they can do anything from play Uno to have an official letter translated by a worker. It’s a really relaxed, welcoming environment with a home cooked meal by other young people.

These evenings help the young people to create those positive bonds and networks in Dandenong. In a way, it’s like recreating the networks we’ve all enjoyed growing up, but for this group of vulnerable young people who find themselves alone in a new country.

What contributions do young refugees in the Dandenong area make to the community?

I think that, just by being here and working or studying, and sharing their experiences, they’re really teaching the wider community about where they’re from and the journey they’ve taken to get here.

One of the local employers who’s just taken on a young guy from the Middle East has told me his whole workforce has been really struck by this guy’s experience. He arrived in Australia after travelling overland and alone across Asia to Australia, because of war in his home country.

They kind of can’t believe one person could endure all that and still be so motivated and positive every day at work.

Just by being here and talking about their experiences refugees and asylum seekers are myth busting a lot of the really unfair things said about them in the media.

I get frustrated listening to some of the rhetoric –expecting people to go straight into full-time work after the trauma almost every refugee has experienced is mind-blowing. Rather than first allowing them to heal some pretty deep wounds.

Another young guy who is still in school and facing a few immigration difficulties has been so taken in by the community, they’ve raised over $30,000 to support his continued education – it’s incredible.

What have you learned, personally from the young refugees you’ve worked with?

They’ve helped me realise just how globally connected we are. What happens in Afghanistan affects us in Dandenong, and our government policies affect ordinary people in Afghanistan and beyond. My world view is much bigger now, I pay a lot more attention to global news and issues affecting refugees and asylum seekers.

Are there any stories in particular that young people have told you that have struck you?

Yeah, there are a lot! One young guy in particular I’ve been working with for around 24 months. He’s in his early twenties and left Afghanistan because of the war, leaving behind his entire family, including a wife and three kids. His journey to Australia was unbelievably traumatic but as the oldest male of the family, he had to make this journey out here in the hope that he could claim asylum, get a job and earn enough money to start bringing his family out here.

Despite everything he’s been through – escaping his home country because people were trying to kill him, crossing many countries alone, not understanding the languages, dealing with smugglers, arriving in Australia after a harrowing trip – he is still committed to working as much as he can to reunite his family.

He’s only a young guy, and when I was explaining how his holiday pay and leave entitlements work he was telling me he wouldn’t take time off because when he wasn’t working he was thinking about all he’s been through and the danger his family continues to live in. And that wasn’t really an option.

So the strength of this guy, just to highlight one example is incredibly striking.

If you’d like to support programs like the One Community Program in Dandenong’s work with young refugees and asylum seekers, you can donate here.

To find out more about Refugee Week, visit the campaign website.

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Sunday, 19 June is the first day of Refugee Week in Australia. It’s a time for us to come together as a community, recognising and celebrating the contributions of refugees and people who speak out against injustice, to Australian society.

So, who are refugees? According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, they are “people fleeing conflict or persecution”. There are currently over 20 million around the world.

The theme of this year’s Refugee Week is: with courage let us all combine. At YSAS, we’ve worked with and supported young refugees, from diverse backgrounds facing diverse challenges for many years.

The One Community Program in Dandenong and Emerging Communities Program in Sunshine are two programs that support young refugees in Melbourne to tackle particular issues they face while transitioning to their new community.

In the spirit of this year’s Refugee Week, we’ve met with a couple of people supporting and providing leadership to young refugees.

Andrew, an outreach worker from Dandenong helps run the YSAS One Community Program. Workers like Andrew play a vital role in building positive relationships with young people and ensuring they have the support they need to thrive in their new home.

Anita* arrived ten years ago in Australia from South Sudan. She accessed the support of the Emerging Communities Program to overcome some significant personal challenges including homelessness and pregnancy. She is now studying to become a Counsellor and role model for other young South Sudanese in Melbourne.

Keep an eye out this week for our two blogs from Andrew and Anita.

There’s a lot happening around the country for Refugee Week, check out the campaign website for events and notices, or follow #RefugeeWeek through social media.

*nb: Anita’s name has been changed for privacy reasons.

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From Simon Overland, Chair of the YSAS Board

The Board of Directors at Youth Support + Advocacy Service (YSAS) is pleased to announce the appointment of Andrew Bruun to the position of Chief Executive Officer.

Andrew’s long involvement with YSAS in a number of senior management roles, including as the acting CEO over the past twelve months, illustrates his deep understanding of and commitment to YSAS’s vision, values, beliefs, purpose and priorities.  Andrew is also widely recognised for his deep subject matter expertise and work history in relation to youth health and well-being.  The Board is confident that he will continue to provide strong and supportive leadership for the organisation.

The YSAS Board looks forward to working with Andrew to ensure we live in a community where all young people are valued and have every opportunity to thrive.

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The Board of Directors at Youth Support + Advocacy Service (YSAS) is delighted to announce the appointment of Simon Overland to Chair of the YSAS Board.   Simon was a highly valued YSAS Board member between 2007 and 2012, during which time he was a thoughtful contributor to the organisation’s strategy and policy development.

Simon has had senior roles with Victoria Police, Federal Police and currently he is Secretary of the Department of Justice in Tasmania.  He has a deep and continuing interest in the welfare of young people, and has always held a progressive and compassionate view of the wider social drivers underpinning  young people seeking help and treatment and to those engaged in the justice system.

As an agency with a national role in promoting high quality services to disadvantaged youth, Simon understands the challenges YSAS faces  and is passionate about the services that need to be available for young people to survive and then hopefully  to thrive.

Simon will bring a breadth of skills to the YSAS Board, which will be instrumental to his ability to continue to provide the kind of sound governance that supports the staff in their various roles with young people.

YSAS will be well served by having a Chair of his capacity, knowledge and values.


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