Program opens doors for youth

AN initiative which allows young people experience in corporate situations and in turn benefits local businesses and not-for-profit organisations launched at Nowra Anglican College on Wednesday.

The Community Door program (an outreach of Bendigo Bank’s Lean On youth arm) matches young people between the ages of 15 and 25 with a suitable business or community group, where they sit on the board – either as a participant or observer.

Youth gain exposure and experience in running a business and community activities, while learning valuable skills for their future.

Meanwhile board committees have the opportunity to gain a fresh perspective on youth issues and foster mentoring skills.

Bendigo Bank community strengthening state manager Chris Pursehouse said the expectations for the project were set by the young person and their mentor.

“The students are matched with a company where their interests lie and they set the expectations,” he said.

The program generally runs for nine to 12 months, with participants encouraged to attend board meetings at least quarterly and meet with mentors once a month.

“Mentors are critical to the program; they need to be open and willing to listen to other points of view,” Mr Pursehouse said.

“Through it we hope to be building future leaders.”

This will be the first time the program has run in NSW; however it has been running successfully in Victoria for a number of years.

A number of local community organisations expressed interest in taking on a young person, including Shoalhaven Neighbourhood Services, Shoalhaven Community Transport, Southern Cross Community Housing, Nowra Community Financial Services Group, Shoalhaven Women’s Health Centre, Southern Regional Development Australia, CareSouth, Shoalhaven Basketball and Shoalhaven Professional Business Association. 

Year 12 NAC student Matt Berendsen was among the young people keen to see which companies and organisations might take him on.

“I’m interested in getting more involved in the community and gaining leadership skills and experience,” he said.

“I would like to be involved in something to do with sport or also legal issues.”

Bendigo Bank Nowra and District Community Branch manager and co-ordinator of the program Steve Joy said his hope was more businesses, not-for-profits, students and other young people would apply for the program.

Anyone interested in being a mentor or mentee can contact Mr Joy on 4422 7574 or visit the Lead On Australia website at for more information.

It is hoped the program will begin in term one 2013.

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