BoysTown Social Enterprises
Knowledge Circle Practice Profiles


Practice focus

BoysTown Social Enterprises (now known as YourTown) invest heavily in a whole-of-community consultation approach to devise and deliver culturally appropriate responses to assist youth to gain employment or qualifications.

Delivered by

BoysTown: A not-for-profit organisation. Information can be found at:

The information provided for this Promising Practice Profile was supplied by a Senior Research Officer, Strategy and Research at BoysTown.

Service type

BoysTown’s social enterprises are intermediate labour market programs that provide socially-excluded young people with opportunities to gain work skills, and to develop their non-vocational skills with the objective of improving their work readiness for the open labour market.

BoysTown’s social enterprises provide participants with:

  • paid employment in a real-life work environment for the experiential learning of vocational skills;
  • accredited qualifications such as Occupational Health and Safety card and First Aid Training; and,
  • individual case management addressing personal barriers to employment and social inclusion.

Logan, Ipswich, Inala, Wacol and Redlands in Queensland. Blacktown and Campbelltown in New South Wales. Adelaide and Port Pirie in South Australia. The Tjurabalan region in Western Australia.


BoysTown operates social enterprises for young people aged 15 to 25 years who live in disadvantaged socio-economic areas. The social enterprises prepare socially-excluded young people for the open labour market through the provision of paid employment, on-the-job training and work that is relevant and mainstream. The enterprises are operated in a real-life work environment where work is viewed as a large part of the therapy involved in a meaningful and sustainable reconnection. Young people are assisted to overcome their multi-faceted barriers to gaining and maintaining employment through ongoing case management and personal development workshops. Pre-employment training may also occur depending on the type of social enterprise and the needs of the participant. In addition, some social enterprises provide young people with opportunities to obtain accredited qualifications through TAFE.

In Western Australia, BoysTown operates construction, repairs and maintenance enterprises funded in remote Aboriginal communities of the Tjurabalan region. Landscaping, construction, litter collection, asset maintenance, office furniture assembly, and recycling enterprises are carried out in south-east Queensland. In Logan, landscaping enterprises are available. A cafe enterprise operates in Wacol in partnership with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). In New South Wales, there are graffiti removal, landscaping and street-tree planting enterprises operating in Blacktown and Campbelltown. In South Australia, construction and landscaping enterprises operate in Adelaide and Port Pirie.

Vocational Youth Trainers individually supervise teams of four to eight young people. The Youth Trainers are responsible for teaching the young people work skills and for acting as role models in these various real-life work environments. Participants improve their vocational skills while working on-the-job while the experiential learning covers aspects such as functional literacy and numeracy, communication and teamwork. The Youth Trainers are supported by Youth Workers who provide ongoing case management for young people in the social enterprises and deliver workshops to address pertinent issues faced by youth. Youth Workers and other staff also deliver group workshops and non-accredited training dealing with issues such as employability skills, relationships, teamwork, life skills, driver training, alcohol and other drugs, outdoor adventure, and health.


In Western Australia, BoysTown social enterprises were primarily funded by BoysTown, with additional funds received by the (then) Department of Family, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) and the Western Australian Department of Housing.

In south-east Queensland, funding is derived from from local and state government authorities and private sector partners. A cafe enterprise operates in Wacol in partnership with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).

In New South Wales, the state government provides funding for the landscaping, graffiti-removal and asset-maintenance enterprises while the street-tree planting enterprise operates on a ‘fee for service’ basis. The landscaping enterprise program is also a traineeship where participants undertake a Certificate II in Horticulture. The programs funded by Housing NSW have the requirement that participants are residents in social housing.

In South Australia, construction and landscaping enterprises operate in Adelaide and Port Pirie. The Adelaide enterprises are funded by the Playford City Council and the Port Pirie enterprise is funded by agreements with community and commercial organisations as they arise.


MOST promising aspect

The most promising aspects of BoysTown's social enterprises are the vocational experiences gained in a real-life work environment, as well as the individualised support provided to young people based on their specific barriers to employment and social inclusion.

Other promising aspects

BoysTown's social enterprises have demonstrated 'promising practice' with 60.2% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people obtaining an employment, education or training outcome. Furthermore, 90.5% have achieved sustainable outcomes by remaining engaged in their outcomes for at least 13 weeks. The enterprises have also seen positive and significant improvements in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people across areas such as aspirations, self-esteem, wellbeing and decision-making competence. Based on continuous evaluations, the social enterprise model draws on an evidence base to improve its service delivery.

Evidence base and opportunities

The findings show significant and important change in BoysTown's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants across the time of their participation in the programs. There were improvements in their aspirations for job income and autonomy, wellbeing, interpersonal skills and they reduced their offending behaviour. These outcomes are important in contributing to the longer-term capacity of local Aboriginal communities in terms of increased labour supply, increased community leadership capacity, greater involvement in community support initiatives and safer communities.

BoysTown invests heavily in providing culturally specific responses that serve to deliver positive outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups. This is achieved through extensive consultation with community members and Elders as part of a whole-of-community approach to identifying and responding to individual and group needs. This promotes community ownership over the programs and helps to facilitate trust in the programs, which provides the foundation for the programs' effectiveness in delivering practical outcomes.

BoysTown's social enterprises have been successful in assisting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to become work ready, find employment and remain in work. Future policy could consider further use of tailored and culturally competent social enterprises as a pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to address their vocational and non-vocational barriers and transitions to work. In doing so, the longer-term capacity of Aboriginal communities is more likely to be strengthened, and families are likely to benefit with safer and more productive environments to raise their children.

Cultural relevance

Involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

One of the key strategies of BoysTown is to adopt culturally competent approaches that utilise the expertise of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and Elders in the commmunities where the programs operate. The Program Managers and mentors liaise directly with young people and also inform non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff on culturally competent practices. Organisations that hire Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people from BoysTown’s programs also have the opportunity to receive cultural awareness training from BoysTown staff. These strategies are relevant to BoysTown’s social enterprises operating in metropolitan and regional areas.

In relation to the social enterprise in the remote Aboriginal community in the Tjurabalan region of Western Australia, further strategies were used to engage the community. Prior to commencing the program, BoysTown consulted extensively with the local community council and relevant state government agencies over a three year period. The primary objective of this consultation was to establish relationships and to ensure the involvement of local people in the strategic design of the program. Regular consultation then continued throughout the life of the program via phone, email and face-to-face meetings. The development of staff’s cultural awareness was ensured through a cultural awareness induction provided by BoysTown staff prior to going to the community. In addition, staff were encouraged to participate in another cultural induction program provided in Wirrimanu by local people through an established relationship with the community’s cultural expert agency. This latter induction provided more in-depth and tailored training about local kin groups, cultural practices, flora and fauna and respectful interpersonal practices. An additional strategy to ensure the program’s cultural competence was the full-time appointment of a local worker in the role of Trainer mid-way through the program. This served to provide further access to, and appreciation of, local cultural practices and knowledge that non-Aboriginal people would otherwise not be expected to know.


BoysTown’s employment programs are based on the Intermediate Labour Market Social Enterprise Model (UK) that was aimed at disadvantaged people who have difficulty finding and/or staying in employment. The program was modified to include Aboriginal mentors who provide tailored support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. Where required, there is extensive consultation with local communities prior to and throughout the programs to keep them engaged in the project and its objectives.


Evaluation status

An external/independent evaluation of the BoyTown's programs adopted a mixed-methods approach to provide measures of the programs' success in terms of work and other outcomes that were considered by the participants as significant. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected from 40 of BoysTown’s participating youth through a survey and an interview at the beginning, during and towards the end of their programs. The data were triangulated with other data collected from BoysTown staff, employers of the participating youth, and others nominated by the program participants as significant to them. The survey was comprised of demographic questions and complete scales from the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ12) and the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale. Items were also selected from the Social and Emotional Loneliness Scale, the Outcome Questionnaire (OQ45), the Aspirations Index, the Adult Literacy and Lifeskills Survey and the Interpersonal and Personal Agency Scales. Following the piloting of the evaluation in May 2008, items from the Personal and Interpersonal Agency Scale and the Aspirations Index were adapted and added to the survey to better fit BoysTown’s client group.

BoysTown and Griffith University collaborated on a four-year Australian Research Council (ARC) project entitled 'Reconnecting Disaffected Youth through Successful Transition to Work'. Prior to data collection, cultural competence training was conducted by an Aboriginal researcher from Griffith University for the researchers who would be collecting data from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in BoysTown’s programs. The key components of this training were the role play and role reversal between playing the role of the researcher and then playing the role of the research participant. From the learnings gained from these scenarios, the facilitator and researchers could then discuss environments where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people would be more readily engaged in the research process and also the environments where participants would disengage from the process.

Link to evaluation

Reconnecting Disaffected Youth through successful Transition to Work


Demonstrated outcomes

The ARC project report details the findings in relation to 542 young people who participated in the BoysTown’s social enterprises in various locations across Australia. The proportion of the total sample of participants identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander was relatively high (24.6%; n=125) in comparison with representation in the general population (2.3%, ABS Census 2006). In order to construct a profile of BoysTown’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients and the barriers they face, the data was selected from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people commencing their program prior to receiving assistance. Across their participation in the enterprises, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth made significant improvements around work aspirations, quality of life, decision-making, relationships, social interactions and offending behaviour.

EMPLOYMENT and EDUCATION ASPIRATIONS - There was a strong increase in the desirability of having work and significant shifts in the importance placed on "Having a job that pays well" and "Being financially successful." There was also a significant increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants who thought they would achieve their goal of being their own boss. Perhaps the most profound improvement could be found in the goal setting of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants, where 84.6% on exit had specific goals compared to 47.2% upon commencement. Of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants in the research project, 60.2% obtained positive outcomes. Specifically:

  • 37.9% gained full-time employment;
  • 13.6% re-engaged with education;
  • 1% went onto further training;
  • 7.8% gained part-time employment; and,
  • 90.5% of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants who obtained positive outcomes remained in employement for at least 13 weeks.

EMOTIONAL WELLBEING - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth reported greater satisfaction with themselves and a substantial reduction in their feelings of uselessness at the program's exit. Significant improvements were also seen in the individual aspects of emotional wellbeing including social functioning, anxiety and depression and confidence. By exit, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth were able to concentrate more and to face up to their problems. They also felt that they were playing useful parts in things and were reasonably happy, all things considered. Wellbeing was better in five of the six areas measured where participants reported being less concerned about their failure to overcome difficulties, unhappiness, lost confidence, worthlessness and worry. However, participants’ concerns about constantly being under strain did not change significantly from entry to exit.

DECISION MAKING - Three components of decision-making competence improved significantly in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants although not to the same degree as for the total sample. There were improvements in information gathering, data comprehension and help-seeking. Positive changes in aspirations and decision-making are associated with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths’ improved ability to reach their own goals, which are more likely to have been achieved when careful planning was undertaken.

INTERPERSONAL SKILLS - There were significant improvements in participants’ ability to display friendliness to others and there was evidence of improved teamwork behaviours. The incidence of positive social interactions increased and a significantly higher number of Indigenous young people were meeting with friends towards the end of the program compared to when they commenced. This led to a significant decrease in the number of Indigenous participants feeling lonely.

SUBSTANCE MISUSE - Incidence figures for smoking cigarettes and trouble with the police among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants decreased in the four week period prior to the survey to exit. This indicates significant, positive shifts, however, there were reported significant improvements in relation to illicit drug use, excessive drinking of alcohol, and involvement in physical altercations.


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