What we do:

Operation Newstart addresses the needs of students at risk in the middle years of their secondary schooling.

Operation Newstart is an innovative re-engagement program for young people aged 14 -17 attending Victorian State Secondary schools who are at significant educational risk. Many are at risk of expulsion, have failed to attend school regularly and are at risk of not completing their secondary education.

Using a combination of experiential learning, wilderness therapy, family group work, mediation, counselling and community interconnectedness, our goal is to prevent students from disengaging prematurely from their families and schools and to prepare pathways to further education and employment.

A key feature is small group work (maximum of 8 or 9 students) under the direction of highly skilled professionals who provide a multi-layered intervention focusing on the young person’s relationship with self, family, school and community.

Programs run for a full school term, with students attending their home school for two days each week, and the program for the remaining three days. Each of Victoria’s 5 programs link) provides its services to a maximum of 8 or 9 students each per term.

Why we do it:

Those who disengage early from school tend to be significantly more disadvantaged in later life with:

1. Increased likelihood of experiencing unemployment
2. Lowered lifelong income
3. Poorer outcomes in health, accommodation and social status
4. Greater risk of offending behaviour
5. Greater suspectibility to the influences of drug and alcohol misuse
6. Homelesness and anti-social behaviour.

A recently published (September 2014) Law Reform, Drugs And Crime Prevention Committee Inquiry into the Supply and use of methamphetamine, particularly Ice, in Victoria found that:

Schools can be particularly effective in developing programs that address risk factors leading to drug use and other antisocial behaviours of young people. The aim of any school or youth oriented prevention program should be to develop resilience and encourage school retention or provide pathways to employment opportunities.

Research also indicates there is a direct correlation between increased school engagement and a reduction in youth crime – e.g. Youth Crime and Education Expansion.

How we do it:

We re-engage young people with their families, schools and their communities. We do this by assisting them to recognise their strengths and helping them to build their resilience, respect for themselves and others and building their self-esteem through achievement. Go to Your Say to see what students, parents, teachers and other professionals say.

Programs run for a school term, with students attending school for 1-2 days weekly and Operation Newstart for 3-4 days. Eight students enter each program working alongside a teacher/coordinator and other professionals.

Each program provides a multi-layered intervention, focusing on the young person’s relationship with self, family, school and community. Activities engage students in a proven process of change utilising experiential, vocational and therapeutic activities which include:

• outdoor/adventure-based activities,
• work place visits,
• problem-solving,
• skill-based activities
• therapeutic group work with parent involvement.

Nearly 2500 students have graduated since 1997, when teacher Paul Kill developed the first Operation Newstart program at Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula. See Early History of Operation Newstart. Respected contemporary research demonstrates substantial improvements in emotional symptoms, conduct and peer problems, hyperactivity, and pro-social behaviour.

Operation Newstart programs locations:

• Operation Newstart Western (Travancore School) in Flemington, servicing the Western suburbs. Tel: 03 9345 6053
• Operation Newstart Northern (Collingwood Alternative School), servicing the Northern suburbs. Tel: 03 9419 0369
• Operation Newstart South Eastern (Dandenong High School), servicing Greater Dandenong. Tel: 03 9793 9604
• Operation Newstart Casey (Narre Warren South P-12), servicing Casey, Cardinia and Greater Dandenong. Tel: 03 8794 9577 – Follow on Twitter
• Operation Newstart Geelong (Matthew Flinders Girls Secondary College), servicing Greater Geelong. Tel: 0488 086 474