Young Rural Leaders Program forges new territory

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Thanks to a multi-year grant from The Ross Trust we are able to enhance the mental health components of our Young Rural Leaders program, provide certified training in Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA), and extend the breadth of Youthrive Victoria’s leadership development opportunities to include the alumni leadership conference, entitled Barra-nyanee Goopma.

Given the study commitments of most alumni, we tend to run the majority of leadership activities over summer. In December we held the alumni leadership conference, coach training and Youth Mental Health First Aid training. In January, we ran our week-long residential leadership program. Additionally, Brady Cronin, our Leadership Program Manager and alumni member, conducted a research project into the inclusion of YMHFA information in our leadership program.


Young Rural Leaders residential program

The first Young Rural Leaders program for 2020 was held between 5–11 January at Narmbool, near Ballarat. We registered 29 young rural people aged 17-21 but due to family illness and bushfires, only 25 participants were available to complete the program. A highlight was the newly developed session Introduction to Youth Mental Health First Aid which provided participants with the tools and language to recognise and respond when a young person has a mental health crisis.

Another highlight – for young and old – was a visit to aged-care facilities in Sebastopol and Ballarat, which allowed an intergenerational experience between alumni and aged-care residents. Alumni interviewed an older person about their lives and community engagement and sought advice and tips from them. In turn our young people shared insights about their own lives with a resident. We plan for this to become an ongoing part of our leadership program.

Alumni enjoyed hearing from expert guest speakers, Will Johnston (environmental educator) and Lachie Chomley (community garden entrepreneur). This added value to another activity – a hands-on exploration of environmental science at the Narmbool property through the planting of trees with Narmbool gardeners, Marty Van de Wouw and Julian Sunter.

Participants gained insights into Youthrive Victoria’s programs (Leadership, Mentoring, Alumni and Dream Seeds) and were invited to get involved as volunteer presenters as a way to ‘give back’ to rural communities by helping other young rural people.

In February the leadership and coaching teams analysed participant’s feedback, which was outstanding. Many thanks to all our volunteer coaches and the wonderful new Alumni who attended the January 2020 program.

All in all, the January program was a successful week that built upon Youthrive Victoria’s core values of respect, service and care. The impact of the bushfires and the smoke haze blanketing Narmbool made this camp particularly memorable; and the relationships forged, particularly significant.


The residential component of the Young Rural Leaders program is supported by a generous grant from the H&L Hecht Trust and partnerships with Sovereign Hill Museums Association and Village Well. We are keen to expand the scale and reach of this program and are currently seeking extra funding to do this.


2019 Leadership Conference: Barra-nyanee Goopma

A leadership conference named Barra-nyanee Goopma, (meaning ‘think’ and ‘do’ in Wathaurung language provided in 2014 by Elder, Tandap David Tournier), was held on 7-8 December at Narmbool Lodge.

This inaugural conference began with a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony by Wadawurrung artist Deanne Gilson.

22 alumni attended the conference, contributing to future planning for Youthrive Victoria and learning about financial literacy, investment and budgeting; challenges for different genders in rural communities; leadership capacity building; and environmental management.

Ultimately the alumni had the opportunity to reflect on the leader they themselves had become, how their perception has changed since the program commenced and in what ways they would like to continue to develop themselves and Youthrive Victoria.


Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) Training and Research

The Ross Trust have provided funding for important research and training. In the first year we have trained 31 young people in Youth Mental Health First Aid, and we have conducted a research project into youth mental health.

A research literature review was completed on what YMHFA is and its desired outcome; trends in mental illness in Australia; the effects of mental illness on young rural Australians; and an evaluation of 16 previous studies on Australian Mental Health First Aid training courses.

Using survey data collected pre- and post- our YMHFA training, the research project looked at how the training affected the recognition of mental illness, knowledge of the signs and symptoms of mental illness, attitudes towards mental illness, and possessing the confidence to approach and respond to those with a mental illness. Using interview data collected pre- and post- delivery of the Introduction to Youth Mental Health First Aid session in the Young Rural Leaders program, we can better understand the learnings of presenters and participants.

A report presenting the findings of the collected data will be completed by April and shared with interested parties.


Brady Cronin


January 2020 leadership camp during arts and crafts.
Entire leadership camp participants January 2020 group photo.
Youth leadership program participant talking to elders at nursing home.
Group of leadership participants in an activity blindfolded.
Coaches of youth leadership program embracing and smiling at camera.