Youth Insearch Program | Youth Insearch

Youth Insearch Program

The Need

Many young people in Australia today are impacted by problems stemming from poverty, broken and dysfunctional homes, domestic violence, sexual, physical and emotional abuse, death and grief, and other traumatic events.

As a consequence, these young people can struggle with education, employment, homelessness and mental illness, and find themselves turning 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 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 14-20, delivered through weekend workshops, support groups, peer support and leadership, and individual care.  

The program works by allowing young people to confront and deal with the reality of the pain in their lives. By drawing on the resources of other young people that have experienced the same issues, and addressing the real problem or underlying issue, these young people have the opportunity to seek positive alternatives within themselves, turning away from a life of despair and destructive behaviour. The program intervenes early allowing young people to deal with their issues as they start to appear. ​

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:

  • 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 14 to 20. 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.