Blacktown Youth Services Association
In September, VFFF approved $600,000 over three years to Blacktown Youth Services Association (BYSA) as the first grant under our new five-year strategy Backing Young People.
Alongside support from the Paul Ramsay Foundation, this grant will support BYSA’s core operations and capability development during a three-year pilot of their bold and unique youth-led model, ‘Youth HQ’.
The strong alignment between VFFF and BYSA’s missions was clear from the outset, with an emphasis on the assumption that young people are the experts in their own lives, and have the resilience, creativity and capability to design and lead solutions to issues that affect them.
BYSA makes this concept a reality by actively involving young people in their work, from strategic decisions to implementation. Young people use their lived experience to provide input about the language that describes them, the opportunities they need, and create their own definitions of success.
Established in 1988, BYSA spent 30-odd years delivering on annual government contracts with programs supporting young people in and around the Blacktown LGA. It became apparent that BYSA’s young people needed an approach that fit their lives and needs, rather than being required to fit their lives around a prescribed pathway to success, decided and designed by someone else.
Now, BYSA is an open door and a safe space for young people, in an environment where most services can only be accessed via appointment or referral, or once the young person is in crisis or has already been involved in the ‘system’. This means young people come to BYSA on their terms, and their needs are addressed immediately where possible.
"BYSA lets us be who we are, and they don't judge the things we have done. They will always help us."
With an in-house sound studio and multimedia facilities, BYSA supports young people to tell their stories through creative media, with the support of mentors and coaches from the industry.
At the helm is Natalie Chiappazzo, who over her fifteen years with BYSA has developed a reputation as a passionate leader and strong advocate for young people in Western Sydney. Natalie has attracted multiple awards and recognitions including nominations for the NSW Youth Work Awards Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018 and 2020.
BYSA is driven by a collaborative team of youth leaders, mentors and youth practitioners. The success of BYSA was celebrated in the 2020 and 2021 NSW Youth Work Awards, including nominations for Outstanding Youth Participation, NSW Youth Service of the Year and Outstanding Work with Young People from Diverse Backgrounds and Experience.
Through their Ignite Youth Leadership framework, BYSA creates opportunities that allow young people to lead a number of initiatives within the organisation. These include designing and delivering their own projects and programs, becoming advocates for youth issues, contributing to the organisational strategy and vision and sharing their expertise as consultants.
"BYSA has given me responsibilities like being a leader or running a program and that has given me something to do with my time. I look forward to being involved in those things otherwise I would be doing nothing with my life.”
BYSA works closely with Sefa on a fit-for-purpose and meaningful outcomes measurement framework, setting up the structures needed to collect the data and stories that communicate BYSA’s immense value to the young people in their community.
VFFF is greatly looking forward to working with, learning from and celebrating BYSA in 2022 and beyond.