Youth Insearch Program | Youth Insearch

Youth Insearch Program

The Need

Suicide is the leading cause of death for young people aged 12-25 in Australia. Many young people in Australia today are impacted by problems stemming from poverty, dysfunctional homes, domestic violence, sexual, physical and emotional abuse, death and grief, and other traumatic events.

Trauma and life's challenges can impact a young persons education, employment, homelessness and mental illness, and may lead to self-harm, suicide ideation, drug and alcohol abuse, crime, and violence. This has the potential to impact these young people long term and into the next generation.

There is a well-established need for mental health and education programs that intervene early and assist at risk young people to improve their lives.

The Solution

The Youth Insearch solution has come from the young people themselves who, with the founder, devised the program in 1985. These young people identified their need to:

  • Have the opportunity to talk about their issues and concerns in a truly caring and trusting environment
  • Be listened to and affirmed by their peers, thereby getting a sense that they are not alone (a crucial step for those with suicide ideation)
  • Have the opportunity to gain insights into their own lives by listening to the experiences of others
  • Be part of the solution, empowering themselves to solve their own problems into the future

Program Summary

The Youth Insearch program was developed based on the principles above and refined over time. It is an award-winning, proven, comprehensive early intervention program of counselling, support, mentoring, and empowerment for at-risk young people aged 12-25, delivered through weekend workshops, support groups, peer support and leadership, and individual care.  

We run Weekend Workshops, Weekly Support Groups and Individual Support for young people to connect and develop life skills. Our workshops are a place where young people form meaningful and lasting peer connections, experience a safe space to talk about the issues in their life and receive support from trained youth leaders, peer workers and Social Workers. Our programs are delivered with youth, supported by expert adults. Our program is wrap-around support. Each young person is supported by a local Social Worker or Peer Worker and a network of peers (young people and trained youth leaders) and has access to local support services, workshops, and leadership training opportunities


Youth Insearch transitioned from a wide reaching volunteer coordination model to a focused Place-Based Model, placing a social worker in each community. Each Social Worker will embed the Youth Insearch peer-to-peer program in the local community. Youth Insearch is currently delivering the Place Based Model across locations in NSW, VIC and QLD  through partnerships with community organisations.

Participant Profile

About 30 per cent of young people who attend the Youth Insearch program are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and 10 per cent are Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD). Our Youth Leaders are from these diverse cultural backgrounds and are all trained in cultural sensitivity. 

Many young people enter the Youth Insearch program with significant problems. Independent reviews have confirmed:

"Multiple and diverse risks factors, and a high incidence of multiple at risk indicators, among the young people in the program”. This included a high prevalence of: broken and dysfunctional families, drug and alcohol abuse, trouble with police and crime, self-harm and suicide, struggles with education, and low self-esteem” (Urbis: 2003: pg.12 & pp.65-66). 

“The majority have experienced, or are experiencing, problems stemming from broken and dysfunctional homes, sexual and physical abuse, drugs & alcohol, grief and other traumatic events” (Urbis: 2008: pg.6). 

“There is a relatively high prevalence of drug and alcohol use and of a perpetration of violent behaviour and crime among young people attending the [program]” (Urbis: 2008: pg.8). 

Further detail on the profile of the participants can be found in our recent internal statistics and findings of the independent reviews


We aim to have a sustained positive impact on at risk young people's:

  • Behaviours, including self-harm, suicide, violence, crime, drug and alcohol abuse, family relationships, and engagement in education and employment
  • Wellbeing, measured by mental health indicators such as self-esteem, hopelessness, motivation, anxiety, depression and stress

Partner Referrals

Youth Insearch provides a program in partnership with primary service providers, which deepens the work these service providers do with their young people, and provides a means for real change to occur.

The program provides environments (such as the weekend workshops, support groups and positive peer support networks) where young people feel able to address the issues in their life that they may have been avoiding. Referring services find this particularly beneficial for resistant young people and those with deep trauma.

Examples of services that refer to the Youth Insearch program include:

  • Relationships Australia
  • Department of Education (schools, TAFE, etc.)
  • Department of Family and Community Services
  • Department of Juvenile Justice 
  • Police, Judges and Magistrates
  • Youth Refuges and Shelters
  • Youth and Social Workers
  • Counsellors and Psychologists
  • Community Centres
  • Youth Services
  • Out of Home Care Agencies
  • PCYC
  • Life Without Barriers
  • Anglicare
  • headspace
  • Pathways
  • Wesley Mission

Youth Insearch is able to accept referrals through other means (such as family and friends). To make a referral please follow one of these links:

Target Group

Youth Insearch's principal target group is at-risk young people aged 12 to 25. This group will ordinarily be coping with the issues including:

  • Parent and adolescent relationship issues
  • Family conflict, dysfunction or separation
  • Neglect
  • Homelessness
  • Domestic violence
  • Drug and alcohol abuse and addiction
  • Sexual, physical or emotional abuse
  • Grief and loss
  • Self-harm or suicidal ideation
  • Bullying
  • Gender and sexual identity
  • Low self-esteem

Recognising that at-risk young people have diverse needs and multiple problems, the Youth Insearch program takes a holistic approach dealing with a wide range of issues, with a focus on strengths and well-being.

Although the principal target group is at risk young people, any young person may attend the program to increase their self-awareness, self-worth or to help others. In fact, the crossing of experiences is a valuable learning tool for all participants. 

Youth Insearch is often successful for young people that have failed to improve through other programs or counselling.

Youth Insearch does not accept young people who require detox if it is dangerous for them to go a weekend without drugs or alcohol, or young people in an acute episode of mental illness until they are stable.