Our People.
Our Communities.

The Y Ballarat Community Impact Report 2022/2023

Towards Vision 2030



A Just


Board President's Report

It is with immense pleasure to present and welcome you to the Y Ballarat Community Impact Report for 2022/23.

It highlights our commitment to empower young people and to stand by them to create a brighter future.

It is in our DNA; to educate, amplify their voices and support them to flourish in a united and sustainable world.

With success and challenges a part of any journey, it is the people who that matter most and I send my sincerest thanks to all of the Y staff, my fellow board members, and the Senior Leaders and Executive Team for your continuous dedication and commitment to the communities of the Y.  

CEO's Report

This year we worked to implement our new strategic plan – Towards Vision 2030, which will drive us towards our 4 key ribbon areas; Community Wellbeing, A Just World, Meaningful Work and a Sustainable Planet.

In a year full of change, including the pandemic’s continued impact, cost-of-living challenges and workforce shortages, we have remained agile and innovative in our commitment to young people and communities.

As we reflect on the achievements of the past year, I wish to acknowledge all of our incredible staff teams for their energy, passion and dedication to our mission. I know that with the support of our people and our communities, we can look forward to a successful year to come.


This year marks a significant milestone for Y Kinders, as we celebrate 20 years of managing and supporting kindergartens to deliver inspired early education.

Starting with a handful of Kindergartens in Central Goldfields Shire, we have grown to be the State’s largest Early Years Manager with a reach from Mildura to Inverloch to Mallacoota.

Our innovative approach to early childhood education has meant that we create strong foundations which set the stage for a lifelong love of learning. We are brave and bold and generate initiatives to make sure that we have inclusive and engaging programs and environments designed to nurture each generation of learners.

We’re immersed in our localities and proud to be part of the fabric that strengthens and connects these communities.

“We now see children as our future leaders and educate them as such. The focus on the environment and inclusion, is building a better future for them and the children to come.”

“Avoca Preschool was established in 1970. I've definitely seen some significant changes while I've been connected with the preschool, including the construction of a new kindergarten. In the early 2000's, we became one of the first kinders in the area to join Kindergarten Cluster Management with the YMCA of Ballarat. It has been a privilege to be a part of the Avoca Preschool journey over the years at this amazing service.”

welcomed in 2023

Introduction of Kindergarten Cluster Management
Introduction of Kindergarten Cluster Management by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD).
YMCA Ballarat manages 4 kindergartens in Central Goldfields.
YMCA Associations become Cluster Managers (KCMs)
YMCA Ararat becomes a Kindergarten Cluster Manager

3 Ararat kindergartens join this Cluster (YMCA Ararat later becomes YMCA Grampians which merges with Y Ballarat).

Government Policy for increased hours of 4 year-old kindergarten
The Australian Government introduces Universal Access to Early Childhood Policy aiming to provide all children with access to 15 hours of quality early childhood per week in the year before school.
All YMCA Ballarat kindergartens offer 15 hours of funded 4 year-old kindergarten
Universal access to 15 hours of funded 4 year-old kindergarten begins at all YMCA managed kindergartens.
Early Years Management replaces Kindergarten Cluster Management
Early Years Management (EYM) is implemented in Victoria to enhance the management and governance of early childhood services with the aim to improve the quality of early childhood education. YKCM becomes Y Early Years Management.
YMCA Ballarat and YMCA Grampians merge
YMCA Ballarat and YMCA Grampians merge, with 49 kindergartens now in the Early Years Management portfolio.
Best Start, Best Life reforms:
15 hours of funded 3 year-old kindergarten roll-out
Roll-out of 15 hours of funded 3 year-old kindergarten commences, providing increased access to 2 years of kindergarten prior to starting school.
Y EYM grows to include Metropolitan Kindergartens
35 kindergarten services in Metropolitan Melbourne are transferred to the Y Ballarat from another provider. 85 Kindergartens in regional, rural and metro Victoria are now part of the Y Kinders' family.
Y Kinders: A new name for Y Ballarat's EYM
Y Kinders is officially the name for Y Ballarat's Early Years Management. The new name is complemented with the roll-out of new branding for the Y's early learning services. Now numbering 88, Y Kinders are located in 21 Local Government Areas.



Y Learn and Swim is a unique model of early years education for Victoria, providing convenience for families by offering long day care, swimming lessons and kindergarten all under one roof.

The growing Ballarat community was in need of another facility offering swimming lessons with long wait lists at existing Swim Schools.

Additionally, with 114 ELC places, the centre caters to an increasing demand for childcare and kindergarten in the area. Substantial sector reforms such as changes to Child Care Subsidy, the introduction of free kindergarten and the roll-out of Pre-Prep are supporting greater accessiblity for families and the need for more early learning programs.


At Y Kinders, 53% of our services currently offer a Bush Kinder or regular environmental experience such as nature walks. Rain, hail or shine, our kinders are out discovering, exploring and learning.

Bush Kinder is one aspect of nature pedagogy, a part of the curriculum which forms an essential component of Y Kinders’ inspired early education. While not every Y Kinder has easy access to a natural wilderness, our services meet nature where they find it and incorporate it into their programs where ever possible.


For the team at Nangiloc and District Kindergarten, having an under utilised area at the back of the kinder was too good an opportunity to miss. They turned their dream of having a natural bush environment within easy reach into a reality.

Creating a bush kindergarten program from the ground up and involving local Council, schools and communities, has led to a remarkable space which other education and care services visit to observe nature pedagogy in practice. 

The kindergarten was nominated for the 2023 Victorian Early Years Awards for their approach to nature pedagogy.



“We created our own Bush right on our doorstep. We had a really big yard that was not being used to its fullest so we cleaned it up, did extensive planting with over 60 donated trees and also installed irrigation. All the children love our Bush area space, as they can climb trees, play with rocks, mud, sticks and just go on an adventure and use their own imagination.”


Located on the edge of a public green space containing sports fields and parklands, for Barngeong Reserve Kindergarten, it was not a case of whether to incorporate Bush Kinder, it was a case of once committed, when it could commence.

The service, children and families were delighted when following the evaluation process, a Bush Kinder program was established in 2023. Our services are creative and venture into a whole range of outdoor environments to deliver quality nature play experiences.


“We started investigating Bush Kinder in early 2023. There’s a natural Reserve about 200m from the Kinder that we use. It’s such a wonderful experience and we have seen noticeable increased confidence, responsibility and team work. The children loved it from the very first time and didn’t want to leave. It creates a sense of calmness amongst the group.”


Nature brings with it its own unique smells and textures. The squish of mud, the unmistakable fragrance of a split eucalyptus leaf, the feel of stones and cold water underfoot.

From yarning circles, to mud kitchens, to natural playgrounds and inside displays with stick insects, we encourage children to observe, feel, connect and learn from nature.

In the last year, 5 more of our teams took part in customised Bush Kinder coaching learning about how to create nature experiences suiting their own circumstances and environments. Wayapa Wurruk training was undertaken by 10 kindergartens focusing on increasing opportunities to connect with Country.

IT STARTS EARLY: Inclusive Communities


For Grace Berglund Kindergarten, in Warragul, their approach to inclusivity is much more than their curriculum and program. It extends beyond the walls of the kinder.

The kindergarten entered their local Show’s Scarecrow Competition, with a number of carefully constructed characters clustered outside the entrance of the service. Embraced by the community, their entry led to an incredible result.


At our kindergartens, new approaches and creative solutions are often required to ensure that we connect with and support all our learners. And at Drouin Primary ELC,  their latest successful initiative has four paws and a tail!

Tiggy is a Y Kinders’ therapy dog in-training and is working to soon be fully officially accredited.

The introduction of the friendly Cavoodle in late 2022, has brought enormous benefits, encouraging children to engage and communicate more, process their feelings and self-regulate. 

Tiggy’s attendances several times a week are much anticipated and a favourite topic of conversation. Children talk through, to and about their kinder canine friend. 


Avoca Preschool, a Y Kinder in the Pyrenees Shire, and located on Dja Dja Wurrung Country, has been on a journey over the past two years to explore, understand and incorporate Indigenous perspectives into their early education service.

Steps along the way included identifying a totem animal and plant and creating a special place in their playground – Kookaburra Corner.

 While their voyage of learning is far from over, they found that the process of discovery has brought them closer to their community and a deeper understanding about caring for the land, animals and people.

Pride in Schools

Over the last year, a number of incredibly impactful initiatives have been implemented as part of our Diversity and Inclusion Project. We responded to youth research which identified that there was not enough support in the Ballarat community for LGBTIQA+ young people. Findings highlighted an urgent need to create opportunities for connection for young rainbow people, both within schools and to the broader queer community, as well as additional avenues to access information, advice and support.

Working with Pride Groups in Secondary Schools, our team designed and delivered the very successful Pride in Schools event in November 2022. It was so well received that another event, which attracted additional schools and built on the outcomes of the first, was held in June 2023. 

Creating safe spaces where young people feel recognised, valued and accepted is vital. These provide the backdrop for essential connection and empower young people with the confidence to advocate for themselves and others.

An Annual Pride in Schools event will now be part of the Y Ballarat’s Youth Team’s calendar.

Young People Participated



Community Volunteers


We recognise that our achievements would be less without our valuable partners and supporters.

Through working with other not-for-profit and community organisations, local Councils and businesses, we are all stronger together. Throughout the last 12 months, we saw our teams out and about, and especially after a few years of absence due to Covid, now reaching out and re-connecting with community. Our Kinder teams in particular, enthusiastically contributed to and attended many Expos, local events and activities.


Grants are key in supporting the enhancement of our environments and programs, as well as contributing to the professional development and strengthening of our staff teams.

These funds from Federal, State and local governments, alongside those from other funding bodies, further our ability to deliver the best possible outcomes for our communities. During 2022-23 we were successful in our applications for grants totalling over $1.1 million.

Strengthening Communities

Flood recovery support initiatives.

Community connection events.

Programs connecting and providing skills for young people.

Increasing Inclusivity

Additional resourcing of inclusive equipment.

Increasing access to information for LGBTQIA+ young people.

Creating 21st Century Environments

Improved outdoor spaces, kitchen gardens and sustainable practices.

Facility upgrades and refurbishment.

Technology and infrastructure improvements.

Investing in our Workforce

Increased opportunities for Professional Development and training.


Sometimes it takes the smallest spark to fire up ideas and a passion for the future.

Jump Start is a hands-on engagement program designed to give young people aged 14-24 skills and experience in the automotive sector. During the sessions, which take place in a relaxed and safe environment, participants are supported by an experienced mechanic and a Youth Worker.

Now in its third year, the program receives enthusiastic feedback and thanks from Jump Starters, their families, schools,  job providers and other organisations. Past participants regularly contact the team to give updates on their progress and entry into the workforce.


The Hamilton community faced a challenging situation when their After School Care Program closed. Families struggled to find suitable care, impacting their ability to work or extend their employment hours.

Following a survey by a local primary school and with an established reputation for quality Outside School Hours Care, we were approached to provide a new program at Hamilton (Gray Street) Primary School. 

In 2021, Y Hamilton OSHC opened its doors, quickly expanding to serve four local schools as our numbers and staff grew.

The program delivered much more than care, promoting community connections, new experiences and learning opportunities. However, families still acutely felt the gap in care provision in holiday periods.

In January 2023, we launched the Vacation Care program, to excited and incredibly appreciative families. 

We’re so proud to support all our OSHC communities, providing this vital service for families at 8 locations.


When the ReCranked program commenced in 2013 in a small shed at the back of what was Wendouree Youth Centre, no one imagined that 10 years later it would become the well established, widely-known and well loved program it is today. 

The idea started out simple – keep unwanted bikes out of landfill, refurbish them and donate them back to members of the community who may not otherwise have access to one.

Thousands of dedicated volunteer hours later, the program has now evolved into something much bigger, with so many benefits: for the recipients of ReCranked bikes, those in the volunteer team and communities both in Ballarat and afar. It has expanded beyond recycling bikes and into a program that empowers and engages young people through education, delivers bike maintenance workshops for the community and continually comes up with new initiatives to facilitate transport options, exercise and access to employment and social connection.

Gathering pace over 10 years


“We’ve stopped thousands of bikes from just getting ploughed into the ground. Apart from recycling bikes and getting new riders for them, for bikes that really are no longer usable, we salvage, reuse or recycle everything we possibly can from them. The rubbish that we throw out from the Workshop really is negligible. We literally have one rubbish bag every five or six weeks.” Wallace Martin, ReCranked Coordinator.


“Keeping children and young people safe is engrained in our organisational culture, daily practices and commitment to continuous improvement.”

In February – March 2023 our organisation went through a Safeguarding Independent Review process to assess compliance against our 58 internally developed Safeguarding Licensing Standards, which occurs every 2 years.

Being independently reviewed is a significant process, however, very worthwhile and we were proud to have received an overall Exceeding rating. Our Lead Reviewer made comment that he would happily send his child to one of our services! It’s rewarding to have confirmation that our practices are of such a high standard.

A highlight of the process was seeing the organisation enthusiastically come together to proudly showcase their achievements and commitment towards providing safe environments for our children and young people. I’m proud to work for an organisation where safeguarding is genuinely everybody’s responsibility and the wellbeing of children and young people is a number one priority and held to such high regard.

Bianca Slater,
Safeguarding Manager
Framework Elements Rated Exceeding
critical standards evidenced
Y Ballarat Service across the state represented
Safeguarding Framework Elements evaluated


“Safeguarding is not just a tick the box exercise for our staff to do daily. It’s about educating children and young people about their own voices, their body safety and to help them to feel safe and be safe while being supported by safe adults.”

Sam Smith,
Safeguarding Officer

Safeguarding is a huge part of the Y Ballarat and our organisational culture. It is so great knowing that every person in the organisation treats the welfare of children and young people as seriously as our Safeguarding team does.

It makes our jobs so much easier with everybody already on board, committed and with expectations of a high standard of Safeguarding throughout the organisation. However, we don’t stand still, and continue to create change through Safeguarding practices and to champion the voices of the children and young people at The Y.

It’s about them growing and thriving at such crucial ages and helping them develop into strong individuals who can further advocate for themselves and other children and young people around them. Our aim is for these behaviours become established and passed on to others, as children themselves become young adults and role models.


We recognise that when building a successful, meaningful career that there are many steps along the way, right from the beginning. And that having strong support structures, professional development and an inclusive culture can make all the difference when entering the workforce.

During the last year, we invested in multiple initiatives designed to create dedicated pathways and layers of on-going support for those studying, training or preparing for their futures in early childhood education.

Strengthened partnerships with educational providers, improved mentoring practices, comprehensive support planning and multiple connection points has led to better, smoother and more rewarding experiences for our newest employees.

Once people join us, they want to stay!

We set up our graduates for success
Over 90% of our 2022 Graduates stayed with us.

40 new teachers supported to full registration.

Growing traineeship program

Study local, work local
20 Trainee places in 2023, in
9 LGAs across the state.

Evolving Structured Workplace Learning

with proactive support
13 regional schools involved, with
24 students taking part.

Smoothing pathways

Increased partnerships with key educational providers
Strong relationships established with
15 different educational providers, leading to
135 university student placements.

Broadening opportunities

More workplace experiences
43 secondary school students
hosted in
24 locations.
"I love seeing what our Educators and Teachers can do. They all have different skills, passions and ideas. Together, I love thinking about how we can make the best educational service possible."
Ben Leersen
Area Director, Sunraysia
"I’ve learned so much during the past 18 months. There’s a huge focus here on helping us expand our knowledge base.”
Paula O’Bryan
Educator, Robinvale Preschool

Thank You

We warmly thank all those who have supported and partnered with us over the last year, as we stand with and for young people.

 The support of government partners, local Councils, community groups, agencies and businesses has magnified the impact of our programs and services and crucially, helped us empower young people and their communities.

We also thank the wider Y family and everyone who participates in or cares for those who attend our programs – the children, young people, their families and community members.  Your incredible support over the last twelve months has allowed us to continually evolve, increase impact through inspired programs and help shape bright futures.

The Y acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures; and to Elders past, present and future.

We would like to acknowledge the past failures to protect children and young people and the trauma that was inflicted upon the victims, survivors, and their families, especially if they were under the Y’s care.

We are committed to addressing and learning from the wrongs of the past and assure all survivors who suffered abuse that we are dedicated to doing everything we can to empower all children and young people- to feel safe and be safe at the Y, in their families and in their communities.

The Y Ballarat is independently reviewed by the Australian Childhood Foundation to ensure our services are safe for all children and young people.

At our first Pride in Schools event, we saw young people create connections across Pride groups, and meet LGBTQIA+ adults who are active in the community space. Having that visibility to see people for the first time who identify the same as them, can be incredibly validating and assuring in their own journey.

After the first event, youth voice directly shaped the second and the increased confidence of the young people was incredible.

Arlie Jace Barwell-Chung Diversity and Inclusion Project Worker

“There was a strong sense that the young people trusted the Y and understood that they were going to be contributing to something meaningful. It’s important that adults are listening and working on the things that matter to them.

All of the volunteers in this program are committed to supporting young LGBTIQA+ community members to grow into healthy LGBTIQA+ adults. This program by The Y Ballarat is building the capacity of schools to more consistently support our young people, showing them that they can be proud of who they are and that they are not alone.”

Ange Elson Tiny Pride, Community Volunteer