Way Out There Program

MacKillop Family Services' Way Out There program improves outcomes for young people living in out-of-home care (OOHC). The program was developed in recognition of the lack of opportunities for young people in OOHC to develop independent living skills to successfully exit formal care.

Way Out There aims to engage young people in fun and interactive experiences that assist them to develop independent living skills in a safe and supportive way while being assisted by specialist staff. 

Way Out There equips these young people with the skills needed to live independently after they leave state care and to be more connected to their communities. The program aims to make the participants less dependent on long-term welfare, to know what services are available to support them, to teach them social and life skills to break the institutionalised behaviours many have developed living in care, and increase their social connection to the wider community.

Young people who are better supported and resourced with skills for independent living and employment experience a smoother and more successful transition out of care.
Generally, participants of the program are between 13-18 years of age.

The key elements of Way Out There include:

•    Drug and alcohol awareness and management
•    Budgeting and banking
•    Sexual health
•    Driving skills, road safety and care maintenance
•    Legal rights and responsibilities
•    Cooking skills, food safety
•    Personal hygiene
•    Basic first aid
•    Emotional regulation
•    Cyber safety
•    Appropriate social behaviours

Way Out There also aims to expose young people to experiences they might not have had the opportunity to have previously participated in. During the planning sessions the young people are given the opportunity to take ownership of these experiences through designing and coordinating the various elements of the activities themselves. The group is encouraged to develop acceptable behaviour during the planning stages and for the trips, as well as establish boundaries for negative behaviour.

Young people are supported to successfully commit to the program. Activities and transition plans are developed and tailored to each young person, relevant to their specific needs, thus aiming to develop self-esteem and achieve positive reinforcement.

Way Out There is a strengths-based program which focuses on concrete achievements young people can accomplish during sessions and rewards those achievements by providing adventure-based experiences that allow young people the opportunity to use their new skills. For instance; one of the required tasks for a trip was for young people to learn how to swim or gain a higher level to their current swimming skills. One young woman attended 10 swimming lessons to learn how to swim while another young person trained for his bronze medallion.

Great Ocean Road (2016)

Three images from the Great Ocean Road trip - a young person rides a zip-line, one of the cars parked beside the road in front of an impressive sunset, young people horse riding

A group of four young people coordinated a three-day camping trip along the Great Ocean Road. But it wasn’t just a matter of loading up the car and hitting the road. The young people first had to identify a personal goal that they would achieve (e.g. attend school every day, maintain a clean bedroom, be responsible for a completing a household chore). They also had to raise money to contribute to the costs of the trip which they did by running a lunchtime soup stall at MacKillop’s office in South Melbourne. This taught them skills such as safe food handling, reading and following a recipe, cooking, food presentation, managing a budget, customer service, time management, and team work.

Once their personal goals were reached and they raised enough funds then it was time to hit the open road. The young people were very excited. They had the responsibility of driving for the entire three days and did a tremendous job. 

Camping was challenging as they needed to create a fire in a special fire pit. It required teamwork and, because the weather was not so good, they had to be creative. But through persistence and collaboration they got it going and afterwards huddled around the fire, listened to music and talked for hours.

Another day involved undertaking a tree surfing course. This was particularly challenging because everyone (not just the young people!) were scared of heights. The young people demonstrated an amazing willingness to work together to overcome their fears. They were encouraging each other and sharing strategies on how to approach each stage of the course.

“I was petrified to tree surf and would not have been able to do it without the support of my friends. But even if I cried at the beginning, I loved it. I would definitely do it again.” – Young person 

Horse riding posed more challenges for some of the young people, but again the same positive spirit was there. The rest of the trip involved beach walks, a visit to a lighthouse, and everyone pitching in to cook meals.

Weekend trip to Anglesea (2015)

Shot of a young man's arms as he grips the steering wheel with two hands while driving.

The main aim of this trip was to learn to surf and have a positive experience away from Melbourne. Eleven young people aged 13 to 17 volunteered to attend the trip. Two of them had their Learner’s Permit and jumped at the opportunity to increase their hours by driving all the way to Anglesea and back to Melbourne.

Most participants had never surfed before, and some were very weak swimmers. Being in the ocean and facing their fears of not being able to swim was pretty challenging. The young people’s enthusiasm defied the cold rainy weather.

The trip also included a ‘giant swing’, basketball, bush walks, visits to the light house and enjoying a milkshake in a special 1960’s café. 

Each of the young people were given a gift voucher to celebrate the positive attitudes demonstrated over the weekend. They returned home happy, with a sense of achievement.

Falls Creek (2014)

A group of nine young people in MacKillop’s residential care engaged in the Way Out There program in June 2014. As part of the program each had to complete a number of common goals/modules as well as setting personal goals including, going to school or work every day, cooking, saving money for a long term project, working on their anger management and getting their learners permit. Late July five young people who had successfully completed the program left Melbourne for Falls Creek. The young people cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner for the group, organised tasks according to their strengths and took turns in activities. A night out at a local restaurant also gave the young people the opportunity to practice their table manner, how to read a menu, and how to order appropriately.

“Snowboarding taught them resilience, agility and to adapt to a new environment. I have seen those young people falling over and over and getting up again, staying together and helping each other. The most experienced ones giving tips and moving on together to have fun.”
– Residential care youth worker


Journey to Uluru (2013)

Young people milling around two cars pulled over to the side a road in the Northern Territory.

A group young engaged in a trip to Uluru as a fun and interactive experience to utilise the skills they acquired during the Way Out There program. During the trip the young people had the opportunity to take turns driving from Melbourne to Uluru, camp, investigate National Parks, explore landmarks and participate in activities which challenged them to learn new skills. To attend the trip, the young people were required to attend and actively participate in planning sessions over a number of weeks in which they completed a number of modules around safe driving, budgeting, cooking and basic first aid. Each young person was also required to display acceptable behaviour during the program and trip.

"Our time with the owner of the Kings Creek Station was an amazing, inspirational time. Ian took us on a private tour of his station and told us his story. It started with him being one of the stolen generations [sic] and stated tit [sic] was an opportunity to get educated and to have experiences he wouldn’t otherwise have had.”
– Young person in care


Coonawarra (2013)

In February a group of nine young people who had successfully completed the Way Out There program went on a trip to Coonawarra, East Gippsland for the weekend. The occasion gave the young people an opportunity to practice their cooking skills and budgeting skills that they had learnt during the program, for some for some of the young people on their L and P Plates it also gave them the chance to increase their driving hours in the Honda Hero car.

“The highlight of the trip for many of the young people was having a ride on the flying fox. It gave them an opportunity to face their fears. By encouraging each other they all did it. They had the biggest smiles on their faces and walked around proud of their achievement. It was amazing to see how some young people, who would usually put others down, came to help the most needed ones to overcome this challenge”
– Residential care youth worker


Queensland Trip (2012)

Underwater photo taken looking up at two young women snorkelling just below the oceans' surface.

Each young person had to successfully complete a range of activities focused on learning to swim, drug and alcohol education, and cooking classes, over eight weeks in the lead up to the trip.

“Swimming was the most challenging activity the young people had to do. All had different abilities and some of them had never swum before. Most of these young people never exercise and their physical condition was just terrible. Add to this the fear of being half naked in front of each other in the swimming pool. With their traumatic history, the relationship with their body is delicate and needed to be carefully handled.”
– Residential care youth worker


Snow Trip (2012)

Snowboarder sitting in snow with a handmade 'thankyou' sign leaning against their snowboard. There's a ski lift and people skiing and snowboarding in the background.

Young people engaged in this Way Out There program completed modules around safe driving, cooking and budgeting. Those who successfully completed then planned a trip to Mt Bulla, Victoria to see the snow. The young people who were on their L Plates took turns driving to increase their confidence and required driving hours; under the supervision of trained L to P instructors. When at Mt Bulla each young person held a ‘restaurant night’ where they developed a menu based on a budget, cooked for the group and presented the meals. On their nights off as chef the young people were required to present themselves and order in an appropriate manner.

“The first rides on the snowboard were painful, falling and getting up again was not easy all the time. Dealing with frustration, learning not to give up were the biggest challenge for the young people. Eventually, after a couple of days they had their full rides without hurting themselves, they were wrapped.”
– Residential care youth worker

The Way Out There program is funded primarily through Philanthropic grants. The young people who participate in the Way Out There program also regularly conduct activities to fundraise for their trips.