Where it all began

In the early 1980s the north-western suburbs of Melbourne had a predominantly Mediterranean and Eastern European migrant population attracted to the area by affordable housing and a strong, mixed manufacturing sector.

Around the same time, many manufacturers were closing their doors or moving out of the area and unemployment support systems were changing from city to more regional-based services. Community activists became increasingly concerned about a steep rise in youth unemployment.

Growing numbers of unemployed young people were hanging around with very little to do.

In 1981, the Broadmeadows City Council provided a vacant space at Hartington Street (Glenroy) with support from charitable trusts and Commonwealth authorities to establish a drop-in centre where young people could feel welcome and comfortable to talk about any problems or issues they had.

Broadmeadows Taskforce was established and officially opened by the Hon. John Cain, then Premier of Victoria, on Tuesday 28 August 1984.

A new committee of management was elected at a public meeting toward the end of 1984 and in a bid to gain greater community support, the name was changed to Broadmeadows Youth Projects.

Incorporation was granted on 7 February 1985 and the agency became, as we stand today, Youth Projects Inc.

Not long after incorporation, tragedy struck the newly established Youth Projects Ltd when a fire tore through the premises and all but destroyed the building.

With damage in excess of $400,000 and insurance not enough to fully rebuild and refurbish the centre, all programs were suspended.

The then Premier John Cain launched a public appeal for funds, and with additional support from the centre’s original financial backers, the Youth Projects centre was slowly rebuilt and re-opened by Charles & Diana, Prince and Princess of Wales who were on an official tour of Australia at the time.

Early initiatives

Whilst Youth Projects had been established as a drop-in centre for unemployed young people, it soon became apparent that there was more to solving the unemployment problem than just job training.

People’s personal circumstances played a crucial role in their outlook and level of participation in the community – with many young people facing significant barriers to achieving their goals.

Another area of concern was growing alcohol and drug use in the area – particularly injecting drug use amongst young people.

In 1985, Youth Projects opened its own Drug and Alcohol Counselling, Assessment and Referral Unit – the first to be established in the north-western suburbs and the only service in Melbourne that specialised in adolescent drug and alcohol problems.

Fast forward to March 1990 and Youth Projects established a Needle Syringe Program, known as the North West Outreach Service (NWOS).

The program was delivered via an in-house exchange at Hartington Street coupled with mobile outreach that serviced the municipalities of Broadmeadows, Brunswick and Coburg.

This free, confidential and non-judgemental service provided new, clean injecting equipment, condoms, lubricants, information and referral services to active users in those three suburbs.

An analysis of usage figures in 1991-92 showed that Victorian rates of injecting drug users with diagnosed HIV/AIDS infection were the lowest in Australia.

The results clearly indicated that the introduction of a Needle Syringe Program led to a reduction in needle sharing and a lower rate of HIV infection in the IDU community.

Responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic

In 1987, the Australian Government launched its infamous national AIDS education campaign that sent shockwaves across the country.

The 60-second television commercial showed images of death in the form of the Grim Reaper callously mowing down a range of victims in a bowling alley.

Although the campaign was widely criticised, it arguably succeeded in raising awareness and created a discussion about AIDS in the wider community.

Unlike many countries (including the USA) which promoted a policy of abstinence, Australia adopted a model of prevention – and it worked. Youth Projects played a crucial role through the NSP and educational material in informing our local community about preventing the spread of blood borne virus and other transmissible diseases.

Thirtysomething years on

By strengthening linkages between services and recognising that peoples’ lives are complex, not neatly compartmentalised, Youth Projects has continued to innovate and respond to challenges as they present.

We have become a company limited by guarantee, espouse the highest level of quality accreditation and continue to be widely recognised for the high impact support we provide.

We have expanded our services and programs to respond to a new plight of social issues that have emerged in our communities. We’ve grown to have operations and co-locations beyond just Glenroy. From Melbourne’s CBD, Craigieburn, Sunbury, Broadmeadows, Coburg, Melton, Epping, Preston, Greensborough, South Morang and Whittlesea. Our mobile outreach services now extend into almost 60 suburbs in North and North Western Melbourne.

What has not changed, and will continue guiding us into the future, is our mission to provide high impact support, without judgement, full stop.

If you love the work that we do consider paying it forward and donate today. All contributions help us reach more young people, and change more lives.