News & Events

Boost Program Empowers Young People to Break the Cycle of Violence 

July 20, 2023
Boost mentor spending time with young person

In response to the urgent need for targeted interventions addressing domestic and family violence (DFV) offences among adolescents, ACSO has successfully piloted a new mentoring program with promising outcomes. However, with the current pilot program set to conclude in August 2023, the future of Boost hangs in the balance.

In a recent ABC news article, both Children’s Magistrate for the Illawarra, David Williams, and Shellharbour MP, Anna Watson, have expressed their full endorsement of the program.

Boost’s innovative mentoring model, developed in collaboration with NSW Police, NSW Youth Justice, and the University of Wollongong, tackles the issue of DFV offences head-on. Recent research conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC, 2021) reveals a strong link between adolescent offenders involved in DFV and their likelihood of becoming adult offenders engaged in similar violence. It also highlights the concerning trend of reoffending among this group. These findings underscore the critical need for targeted interventions like Boost.

Boost is a mentoring program designed for young people aged 14 to 17 who have breached or are at risk of breaching an existing Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) and offers a promising solution to address the root causes of violent behaviours. The program was piloted in the Illawarra region of New South Wales. Based on the program’s success and at the request of the local magistrate, Boost expanded its catchment to include the Sutherland Shire. The need for mentors has exceeded the program’s capacity and there is currently a waiting list of young people wanting to engage with the program.

Since its inception in September 2022, Boost has made significant strides in engaging young individuals in the Illawarra region.

In a remarkable testament to the transformative power of the Boost program, 16-year-old First Nations male, Jason, triumphed over disengagement from education and employment. Through the guidance of his mentor, Jason experienced a profound life change, reconnecting with his culture, fostering stronger family ties, and setting ambitious goals for his education and future career prospects.

Similarly, another 16-year-old First Nations male, Ajay, confronted significant obstacles, including a lack of awareness about his Aboriginal heritage and struggles with substance misuse. With the unwavering support provided by Boost, Ajay rebuilt his self-esteem, forged a healthy relationship with his mother, obtained full-time employment, and embarked on a transformative journey of personal growth and cultural exploration.

With 40 participants enrolled in mentorship and group activities, the program has delivered over 1,500 hours of youth mentoring. Impressively, only 7 of the 40 participants (17.5%) have breached their AVO during the program. This stands in stark contrast to the alarming statistics revealed by NSW police data (2021/22), which indicate that without intervention, 23.3% of young individuals in the region receive new DFV charges, and 54.5% face additional non-DFV charges within a year of their initial offence. Additionally, among those charged with DFV offences, a staggering 59.3% re-offend within just 90 days of their first offence.

Boost is an intensive intervention spanning six months, aiming to equip young individuals with a deep understanding of their engagement in violent behaviours. The program focuses on helping them identify triggers, thoughts, and feelings that may lead to AVO breaches. With this knowledge, participants are guided by mentors to develop strategies and skills to replace old behaviours with new, prosocial, and respectful alternatives. By creating a safe and supportive environment, Boost empowers young individuals to practice and adopt these new behaviours.

Mentors are key to the program’s success as they guide young people toward improving personal well-being and developing skills to mitigate the risk of breaching an AVO. Traditionally, young people receive AVOs using legal language in court, which can be difficult to understand. However, through Boost, mentors establish close relationships with participants, ensuring a comprehensive comprehension of AVO breaches and effective strategies to prevent their recurrence.

Participants who actively engage with their mentors report improvements in personal well-being, as evaluated through the program’s formal assessments. Furthermore, they have successfully enhanced their community connections, including re-engagement with school or employment.

As the current pilot program approaches its conclusion in August 2023, the fate of Boost is uncertain. The program’s remarkable impact has garnered recognition from key stakeholders, including the NSW Police, NSW Department of Communities and Justice, and NSW Courts. These influential entities have not only praised the program but also emphasised the critical importance of its continuation. Their endorsement underscores the urgent need to sustain and expand Boost to ensure its ongoing positive influence on the community.

We’re currently speaking to politicians, philanthropic organisations, and potential sponsors to gain the support and funding we need to keep supporting young people to break the cycle of violence.

For more information, contact our Communications Lead
0499 309 916