BoysTown Social Enterprises

Knowledge Circle Practice Profiles


Practice focus

The mentoring approach is the focus of this Promising Practice Profile of the BoysTown's (now known as YourTown) Graffiti Removal Program. This allows the program to provide individualised support for young Aboriginal people and assists many of them to overcome barriers to employment and social inclusion.

Delivered by

BoysTown: A not-for-profit organisation.

The information provided for this Promising Practice Profile was supplied by a Senior Research Officer at Boystown.

Service type

BoysTown's Graffiti Removal Program is a social enterprise labour market program delivered exclusively for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people living in social housing in the Blacktown Local Government Area of Sydney, NSW.

The program provides participants with:

  • paid employment in a real-life work environment over a 13-week time frame for the experiential learning of vocational skills;
  • accredited qualifications in chemical safe handling, Occupational Health and Safety and first aid training to reinforce the learning of new skills; and
  • individual case management addressing personal barriers to employment and social inclusion.

Capital city: Blacktown, NSW


BoysTown's Graffiti Removal Social Enterprise program provides socially-excluded groups of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people living in social housing with opportunities to gain work skills and to develop their non-vocational skills. The aim is to improve their work readiness for the open labour market by providing them with on-the-job training and paid employment.

The program operates in a real-life employment environment where work is viewed as a large part of the therapy involved in securing a meaningful and sustainable reconnection to employment. Young people are assisted to overcome multi-faceted barriers to gain and maintain employment through ongoing case management and personal development workshops. Pre-employment training is included in the program and involves BoysTown induction, familiarising participants with Occupational, Health and Safety procedures and the provision of guidelines for appropriate behaviours in the workplace.

A Vocational Youth Trainer supervises a team of four or five young people and is responsible for teaching work skills and for acting as a role model to the participants. The purpose is to provide experiential "on-the-job" learning that facilitates improved vocational skills such as literacy and numeracy, and communication and teamwork. The Youth Trainer is supported by a Youth Worker who provides ongoing case management for the program participants. The Youth Worker also delivers group workshops that focus on a range of relevant issues for participants, such as employability skills, health issues, relationships, teamwork, life skills, and alcohol and substance abuse.

The need for the program was developed in recognition that young people are among the most disadvantaged population in the labour market. In the North Western Sydney region of Blacktown, youth unemployment rates (24%) were almost five times the national unemployment rate. To deal with the prevalence of unemployed youth in the Blacktown area, BoysTown adopted a Social Enterprises approach that was demonstrated in the United Kingdom as an effective approach in responding to unemployment issues.


In 2007, BoysTown received funding support from Housing NSW to help establish social enterprises in Western Sydney. The first social enterprise from BoysTown was this Graffiti Removal program in Blacktown. After two years, the enterprise started operating on a fee-for-service basis. The program now operates in the Penrith, Fairfield-Liverpool and Macarthur areas.


MOST promising aspect

The vocational experience gained in a real-life work environment, and the individualised support provided to young people based on their specific barriers to employment and social inclusion, assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to achieve positive outcomes.

Other promising aspects

The program was able to deliver improvements in participants' antisocial behaviour, self-esteem, emotional wellbeing and literacy and numeracy. They were also shown to reduce their levels of substance abuse, increase their social support networks, participated more in community initiatives and were generally more positive about the future. There were also clear community benefits as reported by local residents, community agencies and Government workers. Furthermore, the program has led to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people achieving employment or educational outcomes as evidenced by the 46.2% of program participants who obtained an employment, education or training outcome.

Evidence base and opportunities

The mentoring approach is known to be effective in helping to achieve positive outcomes for at-risk youth. In this case, BoysTown's Graffitti Removal Program has provided individualised support for young Aboriginal people by assisting many of them to overcome the barriers to employment and social inclusion.

Aboriginal mentors and staff provide culturally relevant support and advice for participants under the guidance of a professional Youth Worker. These workers receive cultural awareness training that is also available to staff from partnership agencies or the community members. This training has increased the cultural competence of its mentors and staff which has, in turn, helped to secure the trust of participants that is required for the program's effectiveness.

The program providers believe that future policy should consider the use of social enterprises as a pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to address their vocational and non-vocational barriers and transition to work. This reflects a large degree of faith in the program in its capacity to deliver outcomes. However, an opportunity exists to further understand how the program might have delivered sustainable outcomes for its particpants in the longer term, and the extent to which the program has impacted on the community. While these outcomes are difficult to measure, the program appears to be in a good position to adopt an evaluative approach that could be embedded in the program structure. This would help to support the evidence base about what works to improve outcomes for children, families and communities in the longer term.

Cultural relevance

Involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

BoysTown adopts a strategy to ensure its social enterprises are culturally competent by utilising the expertise of its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff. Aboriginal Elders are also consulted about how the program is delivered, providing guidance and advice about how the program can be modified to best meet the needs of the community.

Furthermore, Aboriginal mentors liaise directly with participants and they also inform non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff on culturally competent practices. Organisations that hire Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander particpants from BoysTowns graffiti removal program also have the opportunity to receive cultural awareness training from BoysTowns staff.


BoysTown's Graffiti Removal Program is based on the Intermediate Labour Market Social Enterprise Model from the United Kingdom that was originally targeted at disadvantaged people who have difficulty finding and/or staying in employment. The program has been modified by employing Aboriginal mentors to assist Boystown staff and to provide more tailored support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in the program.


Evaluation status

The program has undergone an external/independent evaluation that investigated the effects of the program on participants by pre-test and post-test comparison.

BoysTown and Griffith University collaborated on a four-year Australian Research Council project entitled Reconnecting Disaffected Youth through Successful Transition to Work and the evaluation of this Blacktown Graffiti Removal Enterprise was part of this larger project. Prior to data collection, cultural competence training was conducted by an Aboriginal researcher and lecturer from Griffith University for the researchers who would be collecting data from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in BoysTown's programs. A key component of the training was the role-play and role-reversal between the researcher and as the research participant. The Aboriginal facilitator provided knowledge about the lifestyle and background in relation to where the young people came in order to guide how various scenarios in the role-play were enacted. The learnings from these scenarios provided the facilitator and researchers with strategies about how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people could be more readily engaged in the research process.


Demonstrated outcomes

The evaluation found that:
Government and community stakeholders were very satisfied with the program in terms of delivering benefits for the local community. Stakeholders reported the following benefits:

  • there was an improvement in the aesthetic appearance of the suburbs where graffiti removal was undertaken;
  • graffitists movied elsewhere as their tags were no longer visible;
  • there was a change in the community's perception that young people in social housing were unemployable and unwilling to learn new skills;
  • there were perceived improvements in safety among residents due to the daily presence of the graffiti removal team; and,
  • residents were taking more pride in their neighbourhood.

Offending behaviour and substance abuse were prevelant among many of the young people commencing the Graffiti Removal Enterprise. These behaviours were reduced for young people upon exiting the program and were proportionally four times more likely to avoid illicit drugs and physical altercations. In addition, the proportion of young people staying out of trouble with the police doubled after participating in the program.

The initiative provided opportunities for young people to build their self-esteem through the achievement of small tasks. Their self-esteem was also improved by completing larger tasks that required more skills that they had acquired from their participation in the program. Participants exiting the program were reported in the evaluation to have experienced less anxiety and gained self-confidence twice as much as those young people who were commencing the program.

Many participants had previously struggled at school because of poor language, literacy and numeracy skills. They also had difficulty engaging with a classroom style of teaching. Program participants reported they were more likely to learn these skills through the program's experiential learning approach by learning "on-the-job". This could be achieved by communicating directly with colleagues and by reading instructions and measuring materials.

Over three-quarters of young people in the Graffiti Removal Enterprise reported having developed stronger social networks than before their engagement with the program. They reported feeling less isolated and participated more in organised community group activities. This led to the development of aspirations and optimism which acted as a key turning point for many of the participants.

BoysTown tracked the outcomes of 13 out of 22 participants of the Graffiti Removal program. From those, 46.2% secured full-time employment or re-engaged with education when they exited the enterprise. The program has demonstrated a high level of effectiveness in facilitating both the personal and social development of socially excluded young people as well as clear community benefits as defined by local residents, community agencies and Government Officers. Furthermore, the program has led to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people achieving employment or educational outcomes.

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