YWCA Canberra is a feminist, not-for-profit organisation that provides services for women, girls and families in the ACT and surrounding regions. They work in the areas of children’s services, community development, housing, youth services, personal and professional training, women’s leadership and advocacy.
One of the YWCA Canberra’s key programs is the YWCA Clubhouse. The Clubhouse is an innovative, creative, out-of-school learning space where young people can work with adult mentors to develop new skills, explore their own ideas, and build confidence in themselves through the use of technology.
The Clubhouse has worked with a number of different schools, from primary right through to college, and their relationship with each school varies. For example, the Clubhouse is co-located with Richardson Primary School, which means their students and staff members regularly engage with Clubhouse activities.
‘The schools have mentioned that it is fantastic to see students who are otherwise usually not very engaged at school coming over voluntarily and participating in our activities.’
The Clubhouse also holds regular drop in sessions to engage students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) activities in all of their partner schools, as well as short courses and programs in some schools. For example, they have run a PhotoAccess film photography course in partnership with Manuka Arts Centre and Lake Tuggeranong College and an enrichment line program on creative design at Calwell High.
These partnerships are largely possible because YWCA Canberra has a strong relationship with schools in the local Tuggeranong region through their Youth Engagement Team. Overall, schools are supportive of the Clubhouse and often approach them to get involved.
‘Quite often schools will approach us requesting programs or outreach sessions, so it is often more a case of just trying to fit them all in.’
They also try to ensure the Clubhouse is catering to a diversity of students. In 2015, they ran some targeted outreach in Namadgi School and Calwell High School to boost the number of high school students attending the Clubhouse. This saw attendance by high school students rise from 5% to 45%.
YWCA Canberra are confident their relationship with schools would continue if there was a change in staff at the school. To maintain continuity, they always have a few contacts at each school, usually the Principal or Assistant Principal, as well as members of the wellbeing or youth services team.