Bee a mentor

Bee a Mentor!

We know that the MATES Mentoring program has made a huge difference in the lives of many young people in our community, but it is not just the mentees that benefit from the program. We hear many stories from mentors about the benefits of being a part of the program.

Mentors and mentees often report that when they meet for the first time, they are quite nervous. Mentor, Suzanne, said, “I was nervous because my mentee’s mother was there. I was worried about what her mother would think, but her mother was lovely and seemed very appreciative.”

The mentoring relationship between Suzanne and her mentee lasted well beyond the required one-year commitment to the program. Suzanne commenced mentoring when her mentee was in grade 5 and they continued to catch up during the transition to secondary college. Suzanne was able to be a friendly face and help her through the transition period. She was also there to support her mentee as she started her first job. Suzanne said, “At one of our catch-ups my mentee took me out to lunch where she now works casually and was proud to introduce me to her work mates”.

Mentoring can have some surprising benefits for the people who volunteer. Being a volunteer mentor helps you to reach out to a young person and make their world a better place. You expand your understanding of those around you and can provide support and certainty for the young person you work with.

Volunteers help hold a community together.

Helping others also raises your own happiness and this carries over to your self-confidence and sense of accomplishment.

Mentors in the MATES Mentoring Program have made the following comments:
MATES was a great way to volunteer in the community. The experience I got out of it was positive and I would do it again. It’s not very time consuming and it was very flexible.

I have found the MATES program very rewarding and always have a smile when I meet my mentee.

“It’s a great opportunity to give back to the community and to make a small difference.

While I am not sure if I had any real influence on my MATE, I have spoken to his teachers and they assure me that I have.

Our time together is very relaxing for me and I use it as part of my self care plan.

Evidence also shows that volunteering within your community may well benefit your physical and mental health. Make a start, sign up to volunteer as a mentor today. Learn about your community. Become part of your community. Support your community. Our rural towns are great places to live – help make them even better.

Bee a mentor!

Contact us by email 
Phone 03 53810122

Or fill out an online application form now!

Benchmarking and market leader concept. Manager (businessman, coach, leadership) draw graph with three lines, one of them represent the best company in competition.

Impact of Mates Mentoring

MATES has the potential to shift the long term trajectory of these young people’s lives.

The outcomes of the program have proven to be profound for all parities involved. Schools report that for students that have participated, there have been evident behaviour improvements; increased connection with schools; stabilised relationships and enhanced life skills amongst may other benefits.’

These were the findings of in independent review of the Mates Mentoring program conducted in 2016.

MATES has been designed as a model which is easy and effective for all schools to implement and this is reflected by the high rate of program uptake. There is no cost to schools to run the program.

The program connects vulnerable young people (mentees) with positive role models (mentors) and aims to increase the engagement of young people within their school and local community

While is too early to assess the full extent of the impact that the MATES Mentoring program will have on the long term life outcomes of the program participants, a Social Return on Investment (SROI) study of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program which has been running for over 30 years in Australia and which has similarities to MATES Mentoring has shown a number of important life benefits for program participants when followed up at an average of 37 years.

The study found that for every $1 invested in the program, an average of $18 was returned in the social value. For the most disadvantaged young people that participated in the program the social return value was calculated to be as high as $23 for every $1 invested in the program.

If the average social return value for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program was applied to MATES Mentoring Program, it could be estimated that the $89,100 investment made into the program between 2013 and 2015 would likely return a social value to the Wimmera Southern Mallee Community in the vicinity of $1.6 million dollars over the next twenty years.

Over the 2013 and 2015 period it is estimated that a total of 6,667 volunteer hours were invested by [MATES] Mentors in mentoring and participating in training. Assuming that one hour of each volunteer’s time is valued at the minimum casual award wage including 25% casual loading of $21.61, it can be directly calculated that the total value of volunteer time of $157,169 has been invested into the program by the Wimmera Southern Mallee Community.

In an earlier survey carried out directly by Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN to assess the impact and benefits of the MATES Mentoring Model, the LLEN found that of the students surveyed:

  • 93% agreed or strongly agreed that having a mentor increase their confidence
  • 70% agreed or strongly agreed that having a mentor contributed to their improved behaviour
  • 56% agreed or strongly agreed that because of their mentor they now get along better with their teachers
  • 62% agreed or strongly agreed that because of their mentor, their attitude towards school is better
  • 61% agreed or strongly agreed that because of their mentor they attend school more often

Based on the review and the on-going assessments and surveys, MATES is a model with proven return of investment for social impact.  The Wimmera Southern Mallee Community is supporting and improving outcomes of our young people through mentoring.

To get involved and be part of the team that is having this kind of impact, contact WSMLLEN on (03) 5381 0122, email Mary Bysouth, or visit

2017-09 MATES Facebook Post 21

Volunteering – The Social Impact for Business

Throughout Australia we are seeing a new brand of social responsibility from business that is using employee volunteer programs to ‘invest’ in community and as the key to attract and retain staff, which then feeds into operational efficiency and profitability.

The Wimmera’s business community is pretty savvy; recognising that business is more than just about the bottom line when you work and live in a close community. You see and hear about sponsorship contributions, ‘meals on wheels’ rosters, and a plethora of ‘great ideas’ being supported.

According to Volunteering Australia:

  • 96% of employees said they felt happier as a result of volunteering
  • 94% of companies believed employee volunteering raised staff morale
  • 66% of employees reported a greater commitment to the company as a result their Volunteer Program.

However, businesses are not charities and the general belief is that community-mindedness has to give way to generating profit at some point.

Given the input of volunteering is worth billions to Australia, overcoming the barriers of time and commitment for staff to volunteer is an instant value-add to our community as well as in-house productivity. (Locally, the volunteer hours invested in the MATES Mentoring program from 2010 – 2016 was estimated to be valued at $157,169.)

Locally, MATES Mentoring presents as an ideal Employee Volunteer Program. WSMLLEN has a list of “Community Champions” using the program and releasing staff during work hours to ‘mentor’ young people. Community Champion 2016 Award Winner’s, Hindmarsh Shire Council, provided flexible work arrangements for 7 staff during the year who all mentored young people through the MATES program.

MATES has been designed as a model which is easy and effective to implement and this is reflected by the high rate of program uptake.


For further information on using MATES as an Employee Volunteer Program, or to enquire about becoming a mentor, please contact Mary Bysouth, visit,
or call (03) 5381 0122.

2017-09 MATES Blog 1 (2)

We all need a mate

To call someone ‘Mate’ is a term of endearment in our Australian language. Our ANZACs and servicemen perhaps understand the term ‘mate’ at a deeper level than most of us will ever know.  We hear stories of ‘mateship’, forged in the horror of war, that endures for life.  A good mate is someone who stands by you through a difficult time – someone who is dependable, someone you can trust and in whom you can confide. 

The MATES mentoring program is appropriately named. For young people in our community today, life is full of pressures and challenges that can be quite overwhelming. The MATES Mentoring Program was developed to support young people through the challenges and to reduce the risk of disengaging from education. 

The program was developed right here in the Wimmera. It began as a pilot program at Dimboola Memoria Secondary College in 2010 and was further developed by the Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN, and rolled out to other schools across the Wimmera and the rest of the state. 

The program has proven, time and time again, the power of being a ‘mate’ and the difference it can make in the lives of the young people who participate in the program. 

The program is simple. An adult volunteer spends one hour a fortnight for one year, with a student in a local school. That is all it takes to make a huge difference in the lives of young people who need that extra person in their lives. It is almost too simple.  

We know the program works, we know it makes a huge difference in the lives of young people and we have many success stories that support these claims. 

Mentors say: 
“I really feel I am doing something valuable, my time will make an impact”
“When I visit my Mentee, I have five other kids asking to come with me!” 

Mentees say:
“Thank you for making me feel more confident.”
‘My mentor helped me to come out of my shell and now I feel not so scared talking to adults and older people.”
“My mentor has made me feel happier.” 

Schools say:
“The reality is that all students would benefit from a mentor.”
“We are a school of 560 students with at least 20 needing mentors now.”
“The student’s engagement and behavior has improved since being matched with a mentor.” 

Over 400 volunteer mentors have participated in the Mates Mentoring Program since its inception in 2010, which has made a significant impact on 400 young people in our community. 

The reality is that the challenges faced by young people are not going away or becoming easier, so there is an ever-increasing need to find more mentors. 

If you or someone you know could spend one hour a fortnight with a young person in a local school, please contact us at Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN. 

Contact us by email 
Phone 03 53810122

Or fill out an online application form now!


Pathways to Employment

Navigating a pathway from school into employment can take many turns. This was very much the case for Horsham College student, Grace Christian.

Grace studied Cert II VET (Vocational Education and Training) Hairdressing at Federation University one day per week. She also undertook one day per week of on-the-job structured workplace learning (SWL) in a salon. After wondering if hairdressing was the career path she truly wanted, she tried another work placement in Community Services. At the end of year 11 Grace decided hairdressing was what she really wanted and enrolled in Certificate II Salon Assistant for  her second year VET course.

Many young people do not have a set career path and change their mind many times before they eventually settle into a career. Some students aspire to complete year 12 and head to Uni to further study, some take a GAP year and work to save money or travel and some participate in a VCAL (Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning) course during their VCE years and do on the job training and gain industry experience to find their passion. This can then lead to apprenticeships, traineeships or employment.

In year 12 Grace commenced a work placement at Sirs and Hers Hair studio, which has now had a revamp and name change to George and Co. After only two weeks into her placement, an apprenticeship became available and Grace threw her hat in the ring. “I wanted to finish year 12 but I was really enjoying my time in the salon and my dad was really supportive of me leaving school for an apprenticeship”.

Owner of George and Co, Michelle Shanks, offered Grace a two-week full-time trial to ensure leaving school was the right decisions. “I didn’t want to stop Grace from completing year 12, I wanted her to make sure this was what she truly wanted”. “Grace is so mature for her age and she reminds me of myself. She has great work ethic and fits in with the team here at George and Co”. Grace was offered the position and is now employed full time as a first-year apprentice.

Reception duties, smiling and greeting the clients that come into the salon, learning the product range, washing hair, general cleaning duties and helping assist other stylists apply colour are all tasks Grace is learning while on the job. “I have a passion for creative colour, I would like to specialise in colour when I qualify. I really enjoy working with the staff here. They are so friendly and willing to share their knowledge with me”.

Grace will be required to attended trade school as part of her apprenticeship. There is still some discussion as to where that will be but Geelong is looking promising. When asked if there were any things she found challenging, Grace replied, “Being independent and doing it on my own. I’ve never had to stay away from home before, but it will be a great learning curve for me”.

What a great outcome for Grace, exploring opportunities offered through her VCAL Program at Horsham College to help shape a positive career path locally.

For any further information on VET courses offered or Structured Workplace Learning opportunities, contact Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN on 53810122

1000BBS hero image

1000 Books before school

Reading just ten minutes a day can instil a lifelong love of books and learning in young children. Research shows that children who are read to every day from an early age have extended vocabularies, increased reading readiness and improved cognitive skills when they enter school.

Wimmera Regional Library is participating in 1000 Books Before School, the first statewide program in Australia designed to work with families to promote early literacy skills and combat the scourge of adult illiteracy in our communities.

“The ability to read is an essential life skill for everyone, and a child’s development in the early years is so important. Through this reading initiative, public libraries can empower parents to be effective first teachers, and prepare their children for school,” said Kate Torney, CEO,State Library Victoria.

Wimmera Regional Library is implementing this early literacy initiative to engage parents in reading 1000 books with their children from birth until they begin school.  the campaign calls for families to provide positive and nurturing early learning experiences by sharing stories with their children every day.

“the more a child is read to in their pre-school years, the better prepared they are when they start to learn to read and write. We encourage all families to join the program and begin their reading journey with their children and have lots of fun doing it.”

“Public libraries play a vital role in supporting families with their children’s early literacy. We’re delighted that this program encourages parents across Victoria to read to their kids regularly, and help them to develop a love of language and reading”, said Jenny Puffy, Vice President, Public Libraries Victoria Network.

A child’s brain goes through an amazing period of development in the pre-school years. Studies have shown that by the age of three, the brain has reached 80% of its adult size. Early literacy forms the basis for future learning that can last a lifetime.

Through the 1000 Books Before School program, Wimmera Regional Library will support reader and literacy development by providing families with a framework and incentives to encourage a reading habit, and a love of stories in young children.

1000 Books Before School is designed to encourage reading and contribute to building confidence in children from birth to five years and their parents and caregivers. The program will complement the Wimmera Regional Library’s existing early years reading and literacy programs such as Storytime, Rhyetime and Kindergarten visits.

1000 Books Before School is a joint initiative of StateLibrary Victoria and Public Libraries Victoria Network. contact your local library to register or for more information.

Participating library branches are: Dimboola, Edenhope, Horsham, Kaniva, Nhill, St Arnaud and Stawell.

Article from ‘Off the Shelf’, Wimmera Regional Library Corporation, January 2017

Find out more from State Library Victoria

Travis Perkin, Keenan Marra, Warracknabeal Secondary College's Hope Dempsey who is doing an SBAT at Woodbine, and Veronica Farrugia.

Hope for Success

Warracknabeal year 11 student, Hope Dempsey is celebrating her success which all began with a mock interview at school. During the interview she made a positive first impression on interviewer, Bernie O’Connor.

Woodbine’s CEO Bernie O’Connor commented, “Hope presented well and on time and was clearly taking the interview as a genuine opportunity to learn more of the job seeking process. Towards the end of the interview, my fellow panel member, John Aitken, asked a completely unscripted question of Hope. He asked what three positive learning experiences she could say about her casual work at McDonalds. Immediately, Hope replied along these lines; to dress neatly in uniform to present a positive image, work diligently and never serve food I wouldn’t be prepared to eat myself- There was the next School Based Apprentice.

Woodbine provides a comprehensive range of services and day activities including supported employment, shared supported accommodation, outreach and respite, and recreation and  leisure. The range of day activities includes the popular adventure and discovery program, information technology, communication, commercial catering, plant nursery, craft shop, arts, music, retail clothing shop, opportunity shop and meals on wheels, to nominate a few. All Woodbine services are managed with a genuine philosophy of maximising inclusion and seeking to contribute to the local community.

Bernie explained, “The School Based Apprenticeship is one half of Woodbine’s trainee program. The program involves the nomination by a secondary college of a finishing year 12 student who does not plan to continue on to tertiary studies. This trainee will be supported in real full-time employment for two years whilst they are fully assisted to obtain Certificate IV in Disability. At the same time, comes the nomination of a finishing year 10 student to take up the School Based Apprenticeship. “

School Based Apprenticeships allow young Australians to get a head start with their careers by beginning an apprenticeship while still working towards their senior secondary school certificate. School-based Apprenticeships are a great career option, allowing young Australians to commence training for a vocational qualification and earn a wage while still at school.

Hope said “I love it here. I have two days of on-the-job training and a half a day of working, so it’s 19 hours all-up in a week.” Hope is studying for her Vocational Certificate of Applied Learning at school. “I struggle with classrooms—I always have, but being out in the workplace, I’m learning more than I was at school. It’s a lot more hands-on.” she said.

“I started here in October of 2015 and was thrown in the deep end.” she said. “No two days are the same.” Hope assists clients with daytime activities. “We go out into the community, we go out to Pharmacino and have a coffee and a scone or we’ll go for a walk up the street and get the newspaper. I had my first day in the kitchen last week and today was my first day in music and it was really good.” she said.

Hope has been on steep learning curve. “One of the things I’ve been learning is patience. Some of the clients are a bit slower at completing tasks than others, so you’ve got to be really patient with them and give them time.” she said. Life just keeps getting better for Hope. “A couple of weeks ago I was doing lunchmaking and Bernie, the CEO, called me out and offered me more work!”

Asked if he’d recommend School Based Apprenticeships to other businesses and organisations, Bernie replied, “This program seeks to support a healthy balance of experience and youth at Woodbine. Only a few years ago, there was just one staff member under the age of 30 years. With this measure and its flow-on message, there are now 35 people in the younger age grouping. If you are interested in maintaining a line of youth to match experience and see it as a long term plan, then a is a very workable and extremely rewarding solution. It is not necessarily a solution to address immediate skill deficiencies in your business. For Woodbine, it is a strategy to balance the workforce in a way that is a real support to the community and individual young people whilst enhancing the perception of people with a disability.”


Life’s Good

Eddie Nsanzimana and Nexus

Life’s motoring along pretty fast for 19 year old Eddie Nsanzimana from Rwanda.

He spent his childhood in a refugee camp in Tanzania after being forced to flee from the Rwandan genocide in the mid 90’s, before moving to Australia in 2006 with his mother and siblings. Eddie’s now studying Certificate IV in Community Services and has gained a full-time traineeship at Nexus Youth Centre in Horsham.

First living in Adelaide, Eddie remarked “It was all a bit new for us, just a little boy from a refugee camp, living in the big city”. Eventually the family moved to Horsham. “I never wanted to come to Horsham. I hated the idea of moving here. I asked what do teenagers do here?” he said. “I’ve been here for the last four years. Now I love this place. There’s no place I’d rather be than Horsham.”

Eddie has certainly fallen on his feet of late. “It was 18 months ago that I came across Nexus at the Careers Expo. I didn’t have a Structured Workplace Learning placement and my teacher encouraged me to try Community Services at Nexus. So I spoke to Alois and he said he’d love to take me on board, so I’ve worked here as part of my schooling every Tuesday from mid 2014 to the end of 2015.”

During that time Eddie assisted with organising events. “They let me lead a project- a camp at Lake Mungo in the outback for Young G and Freeza kids” he said. “The main idea of the camp was to get the multicultural Young G kids together with Australian kids to spend a whole week together and learn about each other and their cultures” he said. “Lake Mungo was crazy-no phone, no showers, no nothing for two days. I was surprised. The kids didn’t care about phones though and we just sat around the campfire talking and playing games. There was a bit of storytelling and it was amazing. We discovered a lot of talents in each other.”

Eddie’s now moved into a full-time traineeship at Nexus and is studying Certificate IV in Community Services after finishing Year 12 last year. “What I like about Nexus is the culture here-it’s really chilled.” he said. His favourite part of the job is the satisfaction he receives when an event comes together after lots of planning and organising. “It feels good seeing the reaction on the kids’ faces. Seeing them happy keeps me going” he said.

Eddie’s manager, Alois Kneibess had only good things to say about him. “Eddie’s been fantastic. He connects really well with the young people. I think it’s really good having a young person, on the staff in a training capacity. Work placements are a great opportunity to invest in a young person’s life and they bring a fresh dynamic to your organisation. As a youth centre, it’s good to be involved with young people that are starting to transition from education to employment. It’s exciting to have someone like Eddie on board- he’s dynamic and enthusiastic.”

“Eddie’s done a lot of work coordinating our Youth Week activities this week, working with different musicians, artists, logistics, catering, accommodation and transport,”Alois said.

Asked for his advice for other students thinking of doing a work placement, Eddie replied, “It’s all about having a passion and sticking your neck out. Sometimes you can fail but just keep trying. When you stick at it and keep going. It may lead to traineeships and apprenticeships. Just keep going and don’t give up.”

Some facts about Structured Workplace Learning

  • The minimum payment for students completing structured workplace learning is just $5 per day.
  • Students completing work placement are covered by Work Cover
  • A Working With Children Check is NOT REQUIRED if the student is over 15 years of age
  • If the student is under the age of 18 and paid less than $112 per week the employer is NOT required to withhold tax, collect a TFN declaration, issue a payment summary or payslip or report payment details to the ATO.
  • Structured Workplace Learning allows students to gain hands-on skills related to the course they are studying at school as part of their VET or VCAL qualifications
  • Placements for structured workplace learning can be undertaken in one week blocks or on a one day per week basis.

How do I find out more information?

Contact Structured Workplace Learning Officer, Melissa Powell at Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN on Ph 53 810 122


Talk About Lucky

Lauchlan McKean, Lucky to his mates, has had a cracking start to 2016 securing a full-time apprenticeship with Mick Cramer Smash Repairs.

Lauchlan enrolled in the VET in Schools Cert II Automotive program in 2015 through Skillinvest, as part of his VCAL qualification through Horsham College. During his work placement Lauchlan was able to demonstrate some of the basic skills he had learned in his VET course, a good attitude to work and an ability to follow instructions and work well with others. This resulted in Lauchlan successfully securing a school-based apprenticeship, leading to a full apprenticeship in 2016.

“I never pass up opportunities for work. I just tried to get into the work force a lot quicker because I couldn’t handle school. I found it really stressful, but at least here, we’re all free and get to do our own thing,” Lauchlan said.

“I’d never even thought about being a spray painter. I wanted to do automotive and work on light vehicles, Genni Smith from school said I should suss out my options and see what’s around.” Lauchlan said that within a couple of weeks, he loved it. “It’s hard work, but at the same time it’s part of the job, you’ve got to suck it up and do it and the guys around here make it enjoyable. Mick’s a really good boss, but you’ve got to get the job done right. He’s willing to teach you if you want to learn. You have to listen and take in what he’s saying, if you’re not going to show him that you want to listen then he’s just not going to bother trying to teach you. I’ve learnt a lot from Mick himself, by showing him that I’m listening, I’m dedicated and I want to learn.”

Mick loves having Lauchlan as part of his team “I personally believe youth are the future, therefore they must have a chance to create,’ Mick said. “School based apprenticeships are a great way for the employer to have a good look at the possible future employee and vice versa. It gives the student a chance to have a good look at the trade.”

Lauchlan said he had learnt a variety of skills “Even the way I sweep floors or wash cars, has all changed,” he said. “You surprise yourself with how much you learn. I got to spray paint my first couple of things the other week. I painted Mick’s bird aviary for him and did all the preparation. I painted the door of my first car recently. They’ve taught me how I should be standing, how far away I should be holding everything and the speeds and how loose my body should be. To pull off the perfect job, you have to get all of that perfect.”

“Attention to detail is really important to us, so if your car is wrecked, come to Mick Cramer’s and we’ll fix it for ya!”

Interested in finding out how your business can benefit from hosting a student on work placement? Call Melissa at Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN on Ph: 5381 0122.

kids reading 009 by Weekly Advertiser

Global Pop-up Trend

The Wimmera is at the forefront of a global ‘Pop-Up’ trend with the creation of Pop-Up libraries across the region. The first Pop-Up library in Horsham is located at Wimmera Uniting Care’s Early Parenting Centre in Darlot St.

Pop-Up libraries take books to the people. They will be located in places where families go, including playgroups, shops, Maternal and Child Health centres and waiting rooms. Children and families can take a book, enjoy reading it and then return it to any Pop-Up library in the town.
The books for the Pop-Up libraries were donated by Horsham and district residents through a Let’s Read book drive. The book drive was suggested by Horsham Rural City Councillor, Robin Barber. Donation bins were set up by the shire at the shire offices, Horsham library and the Horsham Plaza. More than 740 children’s books were donated. Another 200 books were purchased from the recent Horsham College book fair. The Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN has sorted and branded the books and set up the Pop-Up library tubs for use throughout the shire.
The first Pop-Up libraries were successfully set up in Warracknabeal early in 2015 by the Warracknabeal Oral Reading Development Strategy (WORDS) group. The Wimmera wide Pop- up libraries are an initiative of the Let’s Read programs set up in the Hindmarsh, Horsham, West Wimmera and Yarriambiack Shires.
Coordinator at the Early Parenting Centre Wendy Brown said “This will be great for our families. We read books to the children every day and they will now be able to take their favourite book home to read. Reading and talking to children is really important for their development.”
The Pop-Up libraries will ensure that all families have access to a wide range of books. They will also increase the community’s awareness of the importance of reading daily to children.
The Let’s Read program provides families with a Let’s Read bag at 4 different child age points. The bag contains a new book, a ‘read aloud’ DVD, a reading tips sheet, a recommended book list and a Library flyer. Families receive the resources and support from Maternal and Child Health Nurses for their children at 4 months, 12 months, 18 months and 3 ½ years.
Let’s Read is an early years literacy program designed to support families to read to their children from birth to improve their language and literacy development. The program was developed by the Centre for Community Child Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and The Smith Family have partnered to implement Let’s Read with communities across Australia.
Pop Up libraries will be progressively rolled out to Wimmera Southern Mallee communities in the new year. It is an exciting initiative that will see thousands of books made available to all families in the region. This initiative will encourage families to join their local library and access the wide range of books, DVDs, CDs and online resources available at no cost.