Students pitch components of their program as part of Bass Coast Kids as Catalysts.

Students raised funds for a local community program.
Photo: Andrea Rieniets.

A TOTAL of 27 programs across Victoria will receive a share of $5 million and capability building from VicHealth to support mental health, wellbeing and create social connections for Victoria’s young people as part of The Big Connect.

The Big Connect partners include organisations from sports, active recreation, arts, culture, youth, health promotion, and community food sectors across Victoria with the programs chosen by young people, for young people.

Melbourne-based Kids Thrive will scale the award-winning Kids as Catalysts program to five Bass Coast primary schools.

The founders and co-directors of Kids Thrive, Dr Andrea Lemon and Andrea Rieniets, reflected that: “We are so grateful to be receiving this funding from VicHealth as it increases the positive impact we can have in the region, and the number of local kids who can benefit from Bass Coast Kids as Catalysts.”

The Kids Thrive ‘Bass Coast Kids as Catalysts’ was brought to the region by the incredible team at Bass Coast Community Foundation who funded the Newhaven Primary School pilot last year and have committed to supporting the ongoing program.

“This VicHealth funding will really boost the program and allow us to employ local roles. This will make an even greater impact on all involved – children, schools, families, and the broader community. It’s a win/win for everyone involved.”

Last year, the Bass Coast pilot program saw around 80 per cent of students experience positive growth in their personal skills including their confidence, teamwork, empathy, respect and equity.

They also showed improvement in their educational engagement, self-directed learning, and numeracy and literacy outcomes; strengthened leadership, community engagement skills and social awareness.

“It changes things significantly for them – how they feel about themselves and their sense of what they can do in the future,” Sharyne Munday, principal of Newhaven Primary School, expressed.

“One student actually said: ‘I’m going to be the first person that goes to university in my family’ because of the community action they did (volunteering to help local wildlife) and that’s what she wants to do (help animals by being a vet).

“It was this perfect link-in and she could see that this is where I need to go and hopefully she does.”

For Kids Thrive, this funding means a further 240 students will be partnering with community groups to drive local change.

“Teachers at the five schools will be collaborating with our creative team to engage students in real-world learning, and we are very excited to be able to bring new local staff into the program.

“We will be looking for program facilitators, a community liaison role, and a program coordinator.”

For students, the impacts are real and life changing.

“Anyone can do anything if they put enough effort into it. And it’s good to help people even if you haven’t been helped,” a Grade 5 student of the 2021 program recalled.

“Just keep going and don’t give up and something great will happen at the end,” a Grade 6 student beamed.

“So many people in the community need help from kids like us,” another Grade 6 student exclaimed.
Susie, a parent of one of the kids participating in last year’s pilot, said: “One night Harvey did a turnaround and out of the blue said ‘Mum, we’re gonna change somebody’s life!’”.

“We would like to thank VicHealth for recognising the powerful impact of the Kids as Catalysts program; for building on the strength of local community giving through the Bass Coast Community Foundation; for supporting Bass Coast children and local schools to embed child-led change into their curriculum; for providing the opportunity for local employment, and ensuring this ground-breaking program can be sustained in the region.

“Kids Thrive is honoured to be supporting positive change in Bass Coast.”