Enabling positive experiences for young people.

The MERLE Youth Development Program

Early intervention can help disengaged and disadvantaged young people reach their true potential.

MERLE – which stands for Mentor, Empower, Reflect, Learn and Earn – is an intensive two-year youth development program that supports young people to gain the life skills needed to reach their potential. Based on international best practice, the program helps create an environment where young people experience positive involvement at home, school, with friends and in the community.

The MERLE Youth Development Program helps reduce school refusal, anti-social behaviours, substance abuse, crime and gang involvement and unemployment amongst its participants. We work closely with schools, police, local governments and other specialist services to ensure culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) student participants are supported to address these issues and have access to appropriate services. In addition, the program helps ensure participants are prepared for post-secondary education, training or work-ready programs and gain employment outcomes, earn an income and have improved financial capability.

We do this by:

MENTORING: A key intervention is mentoring which supports educational, emotional and social outcomes while decreasing problem behaviours. Our MERLE mentors are trained youth workers and offer a personal and caring relationship that provides consistent companionship, support and. Mentoring is conducted in one-on-one sessions and includes outreach and case management. There are also opportunities for group mentoring in a variety of school and community settings.

EMPOWERING: The program’s empower component helps students build their knowledge and awareness of services that can support them. This includes referrals to other SECL programs and services and external specialist services in mental health, suicide prevention, family violence and drug and alcohol support. MERLE mentors act as advocates for the students to engage with these services effectively.

REFLECTING: Students will reflect on their leadership identities and potential during the program. Education and resources help students improve their health and wellbeing, create positive relationships and improve cultural awareness and connection. In addition, students are supported to engage in a volunteering project to deliver positive outcomes for the whole community.

LEARNING: MERLE helps students stay engaged with school and improve academic skills through tutoring, advocacy and homework assistance. MERLE mentors visit schools to find solutions with teachers and wellbeing teams and act as an intermediary between schools and families where needed. Students can access textbooks, technology, stationery and uniforms to ensure they can fully participate in their education. In addition, mentors provide advice regarding opportunities to build educational and vocational skills for post-secondary education, training or work-ready programs.

EARNING: Our MERLE mentors help students consider their future employment. Support includes finding a part-time job that fits with study and life goals, finding a full-time job, supporting the transition into the workforce, helping gain work experience, and conducting job searches (including interview and resume preparation).

The MERLE program embraces the spirit and passion of our patron, Merle Mitchell AM who was a renowned and respected grassroots advocate for social justice.

The MERLE youth development program is funded by the Australian Government.