With more than 57,000 charities in Australia, there are thousands of fantastic stories about the impact charities have on their community.

We recently spoke with registered charity Concern Welfare Australia Inc. about their work, the milestone they're celebrating this year and how the charity sets its priorities.

A photo of a young lady holding a cardboard sign that says 'give them hope'.

What does your charity do?

Founded in the early 1970s, today Concern Australia works in partnership with young people and children, creating opportunities for them to enjoy full and meaningful lives. Our programs focus on assisting children and young people (5-21 years) to overcome barriers that inhibit them from achieving their potential, through three key areas:

Education

  • Hand Brake Turn - provides young people with life and technical skills in automotive repair, developing pathways for education, wellbeing and employment
  • LiveWires - providing an after school care and holiday program based at Collingwood Housing Estate
  • Values for Life – delivering school seminars on topics such as resilience, leadership, cyber-bullying and more.

Housing/Homelessness

  • Inside Out - supporting young people transition towards independent living
  • Steps Outreach Service - supporting young people experiencing homelessness.

Youth Justice

  • Chaplaincy services at Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre.

What is the most rewarding part?

Seeing the achievements and successes of some of the young people that we have helped. While some of these might seem to be small steps, they are massive milestones for young people that have come from disadvantaged backgrounds and have become disengaged with school and community. We are proud of Phil, who was a student with Hand Brake Turn and was nominated for Apprentice of the Year last year. We are proud of Bernie who saved up her own money to get her Drivers Licence and to buy her first car through our Hand Brake Turn fiXit social enterprise. We are proud of Manny, a young person who finished with our Inside Out program and has since taken on an apprenticeship at Charcoal Lane, a renowned indigenous restaurant.

What is the biggest challenge faced by your charity?

We long for a community where young people and children have access to opportunities and supports regardless of the suburb in which they live, their personal circumstance and the income bracket of their family. 1.1 million Australian children are living in poverty, which can negatively affect their ability to achieve positive life outcomes.

Like many small not-for-profit organisations, we have no shortage of innovative ideas, but face the challenge of needing to diversify our income, continue to trial responses and realise our aspirations. Many of our niche programs do not receive government funding and we continue to look for solutions and partnerships that have maximum impact.

What is the most exciting development from your charity recently?

This year we celebrate 25 years of Hand Brake Turn - a major achievement! Starting from humble beginnings in a car yard in South Melbourne back in 1994, we moved on to train 10,000 young people in automotive and life skills through this program. We have also further developed our fiXit social enterprise initiative where we fix cars donated to Hand Brake Turn and resell them or repurpose them for community good. We expect to see increased growth in Hand Brake Turn Mobile where we deliver automotive training workshops for young people in school and community settings.

Your charity offers a wide range of programs - how does your charity set its priorities?

Our VISION2020 set our strategic goals and priorities for the past three years – to be people centred in all we do; a leader who responds to the needs of young people; a partner to young people, children and stakeholders; and a steward with quality systems, resources and efficient processes. Later this year we will start visioning and planning towards setting our priorities for the next three years. This will involve reviewing our programs in terms of relevance, need, effectiveness and impact, along with consultative engagement with all of our stakeholders and young people.

Find out more about Concern Australia Welfare Inc. on their website, or via their social media handles:

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