This is what Jim Stynes OAM (AFL Brownlow Medal winner, youth motivator and 2003 Victorian of the Year) and Australian Film Director Paul Currie believed. It was because of this belief that they established The Reach Foundation in 1994. Their vision was to inspire young people to believe in themselves and get the most out of their lives.
In 2015, Reach turned 21 years old and there was much to acknowledge, be proud of and look forward to. In 21 years, Reach has grown beyond Jim and Paul’s wildest dreams and whilst we took the time to celebrate we were, more than ever, focused on realising our vision – that every young person has the support and self-belief they need to fulfil their potential and dare to dream.
In 21 years, Reach has worked with over 750,000 young people from schools and communities across Australia. Bring on the next 21 years!
Do you know what the ‘great Australian Dream’ looks like for today’s teenagers? How often do the teenagers in your life talk to you about their vision for their future – what they hope for, aspire to, both for themselves and for their peers?
It is important for young people to dream big, to aspire, to envisage the kind of future they want and genuinely feel able to chase that dream. And it’s equally important for the rest of their community to support and encourage them to go for it.
SO…we decided to partner with Reality Check Communication Research and open up a real conversation with young people in Australia and explore their hopes and dreams.
In 2015, we released the first ever report into the Hopes and Dreams of young Australians.
We had many exciting things happen in 2015 such as the launch of Reach Enterprises and the launch of our first ever app. Click through to hear more about them and view our 2015 action plan.
Click through to view our 2015 financial performance review.
My mum sent me off to boarding school when I was a kid, because she didn’t want me hanging around with the other kids in my area. I was really extroverted and I made friends easily at boarding school. But when I came home, I felt like an outsider and struggled to fit in.
We were living in England back then, and I remember begging mum constantly if we could move to Australia. It was surreal when she finally gave in. Moving over here was like entering a whole new world. People were nicer, the houses were bigger and there was just so much more space.
When I was in Year 9, my school took me to The Dream Factory for a Heroes Day. I couldn’t believe it. It was like these people on stage were finally saying all the things that I had always thought about, but never knew how to articulate.
They kept talking about this idea of putting up a front or a mask to cover up who we really are. It really resonated with me and I realised that I sometimes act like a smartass to cover up how I’m really feeling.
A lot of things in my life have changed since I went along to that Heroes Day. I have higher expectations on my behaviour, I have more honest conversations and I am a genuinely happier person. I am proud of myself because I feel like I’m achieving a lot for someone who’s only 17.
I’ve realised that no matter how different someone might seem, as long as I take time to listen and relate to them, I can connect with just about anyone. I have so much more empathy now, and I feel like I’ve grown as a person too.
Reach has also taught me that it’s okay to take my dreams and passions seriously. I really want to make music and produce, and I’m not afraid to admit that anymore. I really look up to Kendrick Lamar, and I think his message is really similar. Don’t be afraid to chase after what you want.
I grew up in a small country town in South West Victoria on a dairy farm. There was never a dull moment growing up, we were always outside climbing trees and building cubby houses. I learned a lot from growing up in the country. I love going back now to catch up with all of my family, but living so far from the city as a teenager definitely had it’s challenges too.
It was rare to have something like Reach come all the way out to my high school, so when they did in Year 9 I had pretty low expectations. I remember thinking, what are the teachers going to make us sit through this time? I never could have predicted the impact that workshop would have on the rest of my life.
I had been a fairly shy girl up until that point, but something clicked for me during the workshop. I decided that I wanted to try something different and Reach gave me the opportunity to challenge myself, to learn more about myself and to step outside of my comfort zone.
I was so refreshed to realise there was a place where young people are encouraged to explore things that aren’t usually acknowledged in day to day life, and I’ve been involved with Reach ever since.
I’m currently studying Visual Merchandising at RMIT and living on residence in Melbourne. My dream is to be a freelance designer or stylist, and Reach has helped to make that dream feel like more of a reality.
Through all my time at Reach, I’ve learned that more often than not, the scarier something seems, the more rewarding it will be. I never would have had the confidence to move to Melbourne and study in the city if it wasn’t for Reach, and for that I am truly grateful.
I spent a lot of my adolescence looking for independence and trying to be an adult. I struggled with anxiety and depression which made fitting in at school really hard. I always felt like the other kids were immature and couldn’t possibly understand what I was going through. I ended up dropping out of school at the start of Year 11 because I kept having panic attacks and felt like I couldn’t understand what was going on.
When Reach came to my school, it felt like the first time someone had ever properly listened to me, and the first time I’d ever felt completely understood. The facilitators told me they saw potential in me, and that I could use what I’d been through to help other young people going through similar issues.
I had always wanted to help people, but I’d never known how. I realised that I could become a social worker and Reach has helped me to develop the confidence to work towards that goal. I want to be there for kids who are struggling and feel like no one is listening because I know how shit that feels.
After dropping out of school, I went to TAFE and completed my Cert IV in Community Services. I’m currently finishing my Diploma, which means I’ll be able to get into university once I’m ready for that.
One of the biggest things Reach has taught me is that as long as I am myself, no one can take that away from me. I’ve realised that being yourself is the only way you can genuinely and authentically live a happy life. I can rely on myself now, and I’ve met a bunch of other people within Reach that I can rely on as well.
Reach is basically just a group of young people who are happy to give up their weekends and their spare time to help other young people, because we’ve all been lucky enough to experience it for ourselves. There’s no other organisation like Reach.
Things might have been easier for me if I’d had Reach when I was younger. Growing up in a single parent household, I felt like I was already an adult from the age of 13. I was a fairly angry teenager who felt like the world could be pretty unfair. I wasn’t too good at expressing my anger, so a lot of the time I bottled it up until it turned into sadness.
I was lucky enough to meet a Reach Facilitator while travelling through South America at the age of 19. She encouraged me to get involved with Reach once I got home to Sydney and I instantly fell in love with the place. For me, Reach is a place where honesty is rewarded, tough conversations are encouraged and vulnerability is seen as powerful.
I’ve always been passionate about working with young people. I feel fortunate to have had opportunities to run programs like Birdcage, Fused and Grounded which really show the power of Reach’s work. These workshops support young people to go onto leading inspiring and meaningful lives, however that looks to them.
Working on these programs has inspired me to push myself. I don’t think it’s okay anymore to settle for an average life. I want to make my life as colourful, full and vibrant as I can.
These days I’m living near the ocean in Sydney, studying to be a Social Worker, working hard on programs like Thrive and Grounded at Reach and running a weekend market stall. I’m also training and fundraising to walk the Larapinta Trail for Reach in August.
Reach has taught me to embrace everything that gets thrown in my way. I’ve learned that there’s nothing more powerful than an honest conversation, and that having those conversations can break a cycle of negativity.
Reach celebrates every young person and the power they already have to do incredible things in their own lives. I’ve never seen the same amount of unconditional support and care in any other organisation.
Where I come from, it’s not okay to talk about your feelings. Growing up in the Hunter Valley, the main role models in my life were the guys I played footy with. Talking honestly about anything to do with emotions was pretty much unheard of.
When Reach came to my school, I wasn’t really into it at first. I wasn’t sure I’d get anything out of it, but by the end of the workshop I couldn’t wait to become crew. It just looked like so much fun.
When I first came to Reach, everyone told me I was a leader. I’d never heard it before, and I’m not sure I quite believe it myself yet. Reach showed me a whole range of qualities that I’d never known I had.
Reach helped me realise that it’s okay to open up and talk about what’s going on. That’s something I’m really passionate about now. I want to spread the message to other young footy players who might feel like they never have a chance to talk about how they’re really feeling.
I want to play for the Bulldogs or the Broncos one day and I know that what I’ve learned at Reach will help me to get there. You hear so often about players who deal with depression and other mental illnesses, and I think it’s because we’re not encouraged to talk about these things. Organisations like Reach are starting to change this.
I’m proud to be part of the first generation of Reach crew from the Hunter Valley. A lot of my friends have joined Reach now too and all the boys like it.
My childhood was spent riding shotgun while my parents travelled Australia and the world making films about different humanitarian projects. They covered topics like the war in Iraq, projects empowering women in Vanuatu, and exploring the generational affects of invasion in Australia.
It was an incredible environment for me to grow up in, but the lifestyle was slowly taking its toll on my family. When my brother suicided in 2010, it felt like my whole family imploded. Because I was the youngest, it felt like I didn’t have a right to my grief, because everyone else had known him for so much longer.
I acted out a lot, and by the time high school rolled around I was basically a little shit. People at school had their own thoughts and judgments about me, and it felt like I never had a chance to actually explain myself.
When we had a Reach workshop in Year 8, I couldn’t believe how quickly the facilitators picked up on the dynamic playing out in my year level. They called me out on my behaviour, and finally gave me a chance to talk. The experience was very therapeutic for me, and it made me want to stick around at Reach so that I could share that experience with others.
I feel like Reach has given me all the enriching life skills I wished school would provide but never did. It’s taught me to lessen the academic pressure that I put on myself, and remember that learning to love myself and be okay with being vulnerable is just as important as getting good marks.
I’ve just been accepted to into United World Colleges, which means I’m going to complete my last two years of high school at an international school in India. After that I want to work managing and building schools in third world countries, and making it easier for girls all over the world to access education.
Reach has taught me to be really strong in going after my goals, but also that I needed to learn how to be vulnerable and ask for help sometimes too. I always had that determination to get there, but I need to harness my softer side as well if I want to really make a change.
For the financial year ended 31 December 2015.