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Colin Thompson, President of the Board and Brooke LeSueur, CEO of the Y Ballarat
present their reports and reflections on the 2020-21 year. 

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Rising to the

Our extraordinary frontline

We pay tribute to our amazing staff who have held our frontline over the last 12 months.

There’s no doubt that without their dedication and commitment to deliver quality early childhood education, outside school hours care, and when able, youth, recreation and community programs, that our organisation and the children, families and young people in the communities in which we work, would have had a very different experience and be in a very different place today.

We know it’s our frontline staff who turned up every day and who navigated the myriad of continually changing guidelines, permits and lockdowns. Who went above and beyond and continued to be adaptive and creative when we were all suffering Covid fatigue.

They continued to find new ways to connect and innovated with inventive formats and approaches. It’s our incredible staff and teams who make the Y Ballarat the organisation it is today, and will take us into the future. You’re our heroes. Thank you.

Jump Start ignites automotive futures

The first Jump Start program sparked enthusiasm and new ideas for the future in the 10 young people who took part in the pilot automotive program in November, 2020. The 14-18 year olds completed this unique Y Ballarat program which aims to re-introduce learning in a fun, hands-on way and emphasises involvement, skill development and empowerment.

Designed to help build confidence and work-ready skills in young people that may have disengaged from formal education, the training course prepares participants for future pathways, such as an apprenticeship, work experience or employment in the automotive or mechanical specialist industries.

The Jump Start program is planned to recommence late 2021.

Young voices at OSHC drive innovation

A fundamental aspect of believing in the power of inspired young people means listening, learning and innovating when they express a desire to be involved in their own education and development. At the Y’s Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) venues across Ballarat, Bacchus March, Ararat, Hamilton and Portland that’s exactly what we’ve done.

Responding to feedback from children and families, our OSHC leadership team decided to incorporate new aspects into their programs. Educators heard from children that they were keen to have more specific information in advance regarding what might happen during their time at After School Hours Care. 

Children were encouraged to nominate their ideas of potential activities. At the different venues groups were assisted to decide which ones were to feature as “star attractions” on specific afternoons for the duration of each term.

The “activities selected by children for children” have proved to be incredibly popular. Children have been keen to attend and participate in their favourite afternoons, especially those featuring cooking, art and science experiments. Planning still incorporates intentional teaching, other activities and time to build in spontaneous ideas as they arise.

Across our 10 OSHC services, our teams have overcome many challenges over the last 12 months, including varying participation numbers and working within ever changing restrictions and guidelines. They have steadfastly focused on children and their families and have delivered many positive outcomes across their services, and importantly, celebrated as children have embraced the power of their young voices.

Preparing every child
for school

School Readiness Funding (SRF) is a significant, long term investment by the Victorian Government to give our Early Years educators additional support as they prepare children for life-long learning and the important transition to primary school.

Through SRF, our Early Learning workforce has benefited from training with experts, learnt about the most current approaches and been able to introduce a host of improved resources into their services. Our teams have embraced the opportunities and are seeing wide ranging positive results in their programs and in the wellbeing and development of children at their

Y Early Years Management has received one of the highest levels of SRF funding in the State. And having more highly skilled Educators means improved specialised support for children and responsive practice so that every child is better prepared for school.


349 Teachers and Educators coached to support children’s development.

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Over $1 million in funding across our kindergartens in 2021.


of additional funds to support Allied Health mentoring and training at 58 centres.

33 centres have purchased additional books and games to promote language development in the home.


45 additional educators employed to support children’s learning outcomes in priority areas.


$36,500 supported the development and delivery of Home Learning Packs during Covid restrictions in 2020.

Responding to the call
of the wild

During the pandemic, with lockdowns and restrictions, many children were spending less time outdoors, playing with friends or exploring natural spaces. It was also a time when our Early Learning programs decided to reset and innovate.

Welcomed by families and children alike, Bush Kinder programs allow important time for children to connect with the natural environment and are being implemented by increasing numbers of our services.

Bush Kinder allows children to experience uninterrupted play in natural settings and learn about their local flora and fauna through exploration and discovery.

Experiencing the outdoors is an essential part of kinder programs. “The importance of time spent immersed in nature and developing a fundamental respect and relationship with the environment cannot be underestimated. Bush Kinder offers so many opportunities outside the everyday, such as bush walking, sliding down a ‘bush slide’ and jumping in muddy puddles. We see children’s imaginations stimulated, confidence increased and so many learning opportunities arise,” Emma Davis, Pedagogical Leader, Y Early Years Management.

Y Bush Kinder programs provide a long list of benefits for children – including the development of physical and social skills and contributing to improvements in health and concentration and reducing stress. Bush Kinder supports children’s school readiness through investigation, problem solving, risk taking, creativity, collaboration and self-regulation.

SWISH Intercultural Basketball Tournament

The SWISH Intercultural Basketball Tournament was a much anticipated event, providing a highlight for young people in a landscape of lockdowns and separation.

When restrictions eased, young people came from all over the wider Ballarat region and travelled from neighbouring areas in the Wimmera for four hours of coaching and activity, culminating in a round robin tournament. 

Planned and delivered by an enthusiastic team of young people, the event’s central focus was providing an inclusive and safe environment for participants to get together, be active and enjoy a day out.

Our Impact

Growing our reach

The last year will be marked in the Y Ballarat’s history as a momentous one. As we entered the second year of the global pandemic, we continued to constantly adapt to keep our staff, participants and communities safe.

While it was a year of challenges, it was also a year of growth with 35 kindergartens joining our Y Early Years Management portfolio and opening their doors as “Y Kinders” in term 1, 2021.

Two new OSHC services also launched, providing much needed After School Care to the communities in Lucas, Ballarat and Hamilton. With services throughout the state, from Mildura in the north, through to Portland in the south, across metro Melbourne and as far east as Mallacoota, we greatly value the opportunity and privilege to strengthen, support, engage and make a real difference in over 100 communities.

Paving the way for Gen Alpha​

Quality early childhood education provides a strong foundation for lifelong learning and development. Y early learning services have embraced the roll-out of two years of funded kindergarten and welcomed facility improvements including new buildings, upgraded inclusive playgrounds and the latest equipment and technology.

The Victorian government commenced implementation of funded three-year-old kindergarten in 2020 with five Y Ballarat Kindergartens within the Buloke and South Gippsland areas leading the way. In this, the second year of the rollout, the Y Ballarat has exceeded expectations with 18 services delivering 15 hours a week of funded 3 and 4 year old programs. A further 25 of our services have offered at least 10 hours weekly of funded three-year-old kindergarten in 2021. All these services also received a $10,000 equipment grant to support the inclusion of the 3 year old cohort.

From 2022, every 3 year old child at a Y Ballarat kindergarten will have access to at least 5 hours of funded kindergarten per week, with all services reaching two years of funded 15 hour kindergarten programs by 2029.

We look forward to providing “Generation Alpha” with two years of funded kindergarten, which when combined with safe, inclusive and fit-for-purpose environments gives children the best educational start.

Celebrating young creatives

During National Youth Week 2021, it was more important than ever to celebrate the achievements of young people, especially after the challenges of the previous 12 months. Young people had especially missed out on so many important milestones and social occasions.

Aware that many young people used time during lockdown to be creative or take up new artistic endeavours, we were keen to provide an opportunity to exhibit their work during National Youth Week.

The community space at our Head Office in Barkly Square, proved a great backdrop in the vibrant hub. The month long exhibition featured a diversity of styles, with many pieces sold.

A special youth-led celebration event featuring young musicians was held on 20 April, 2021. Friends, family and the wider community attended and supported the 44 young artists who proudly showed their work.

Bolder, fresher, brighter

The refreshed Y brand rollout gathered pace during 2021. Heralded in by the ‘the Y’ Masterbrand in late 2019, the new logo pays tribute to our heritage and history. It maintains the critical triangle element of the Y’s ‘Body, Mind Spirit’ Mission, but also signals a new direction that is fresh and modern.

The next stage of our National rebrand sees the introduction of four key service lines for the organisation; Early Childhood & Learning, Outside School Hours Care, Recreation, and Youth Development, Innovation and Leadership, with each differentiated by their own colour palettes. At the Y Ballarat, developments such as bringing 35 new kindergarten services into our portfolio made it necessary to introduce service line branding ahead of schedule. Our updated Y Ballarat website also launched mid-year, featuring the new branding and providing greater integration and an improved user experience.


Bags full of joy

With the generosity of the community, 2020’s festive season was brighter for 175 local children and young people. Our Boxes of Joy initiative took on a new format this year, transitioning from boxes into bags, but still packed to the brim with donated gifts of stationery, toys, active games, personal care and small clothing items.

We saw an unprecedented number of requests from local organisations, reflective of the impact of shutdowns, lockdowns and the subsequent economic effect on families. Older children and teens were particularly represented as many organisations focus on supporting the younger age group. However, the local community rallied and generous donations ensured that staff volunteers were able to pack the bags ready to be distributed by agencies and schools just in time for Christmas.

Jessy Malham’s original idea has grown over the last 6 years to make the difference it does today, providing gifts to those who may not otherwise receive anything at the festive time of year. While Boxes of Joy may have changed to bags, they still brought more than a few smiles to children and young people.

Simone, from Yuille Park Community College told us about the impact that they made, “Your Bags of Joy brought sunshine to 10 of our students, they giggled and wowed over their gifts – we loved the addition of the hygiene products – such a self-caring touch. Big gratitude to your team.”

To donate to the 2021 Bags of Joy appeal, click here.

ReCranked changes lives in lockdown

Our amazing ReCranked bike recycling program celebrated 8 years of operation in 2021.In that time, our dedicated team of staff, volunteers and young people has refurbished and distributed over 2,300 bikes to new riders, both locally and overseas. The ReCranked program reduces landfill and continues to change lives, providing bikes for transport to school and work, exercise and vital connection.

While the ReCranked workshop was closed as required for periods during the last 12 months and the ReCranked in Schools program put on hold, quantities of bikes were still reconditioned when restrictions allowed. These were collected by grateful recipients, often keen to have another CovidSafe way of exercising during lockdowns. 

The program continues to grow in reputation and recognition, and attracted a number of welcome donations to support the purchase of workshop supplies, bike locks and helmets. This meant that those experiencing hardship and those most needing a set of wheels, could collect their ReCranked bike complete with accessories and were all set to go!

Outdoor pools enter a new era

The Y has been a part of the communities in the Corangamite and Moyne Shire for over a 20 year period which has included the operation of outdoor pools, stadiums and recreation facilities. We’ve had the privilege of managing Corangamite Shire’s outdoor pools located in Skipton, Lismore, Camperdown, Terang, Cobden, Timboon and the Mortlake and Macarthur pools in the Moyne Shire. 

After two decades of management of outdoor pool facilities in these regions, the Y Ballarat’s tenure ended at the conclusion of the contracts ending in June, 2021.

We have been proud to be trusted as the first employers of many young members of these local communities. Always aiming to empower young people, our outdoor pools provided employment and training over the summer months well beyond the traditional lifeguarding positions. We’ve been thrilled to hear how their outdoor pools’ experience has assisted them to progress with their endeavours at university or prepared them for employment at other Y facilities.

During the Y’s time of management of the facilities, a multitude of programs and activities have run to engage and encourage local people to be more active and connect with others.  

Popular outdoor pool movie nights, swimming lessons, inflatable sessions, Aqua aerobics, water therapy, swimming clubs and pool parties have welcomed members of the community and visitors from across the state.

The Y Ballarat wishes to acknowledge and thank the incredible communities in the Corangamite and Moyne Shires for their efforts, energy, enthusiasm, involvement and contribution to their local recreation facilities.

Whether community members were part of pool committee groups and enthusiastic fundraising efforts which ensured many fun afternoons of programs and activities took place; or arrived every day to complete their laps; or brought their children to learn essential water safety skills at swimming lessons or came along just to see friends, socialise and be a part of the season, we thank you!

We congratulate YMCA Victoria (Association), who will be taking up the reins. They will be continuing the operation and management of the facilities under the Y banner and we’re excited to see the Y’s ongoing engagement with these communities into the future.

Creating Safe

Safeguarding children and young people

At the Y, we believe in the power of inspired young people. We know for young people to be inspired, they need to feel safe and be safe.

Over the past year we have seen some significant developments in our approach to safeguarding children and young people at the Y Ballarat. A National initiative called the ‘Stay Safe, Tell Someone Program’ was implemented aiming to empower all children and young people to speak up and tell someone if they see, hear or feel anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

With more young people studying and spending time online, to extend support into the virtual world, Y Safeguarding’s free, interactive training suite, ‘Stay Safe Online, Tell Someone’ was launched. This training has reached over 25,000 people and educates children, young people and adults on the actions to take if they have online experiences that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe. After completion of the training, 90% of children said they feel safer online and 89% felt more confident.

Nationally, we now have a Y Safeguarding team. They work alongside our Y Ballarat Safeguarding Committee and with our Safeguarding Lead to ensure our staff have access to the latest training and are supported to create safe environments and experiences for all children and young people.

Thank You

The support of government partners, local Councils, community groups, agencies and businesses is crucial to maximising the impact of our programs and services, empowering young people and strengthening communities. To all our supporters and partners, we thank you.

We also warmly thank all who have attended our programs and services – the families, patrons, children and young people, for your resilience,  patience and understanding and tremendous support as you worked with us to navigate the last twelve months in our changing world.