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Stopping the revolving door

Stopping the revolving door

By Jona Villanueva

Young Persons 


The LIV Young Lawyers is pleased to partner with Whitelion for its Evening in the Sky celebration event on Friday, 9 November 2018 at Eureka 89. Recently appointed Whitelion CEO Hang Vo spoke with LIV Young Lawyers member Jona Villanueva about Whitelion’s programs that address key issues facing youth at risk of coming into contact with the justice system.   

Whitelion was created almost 20 years ago by co-founders Mark Watt and Glenn Manton who were concerned with the revolving door of young adults going in and out of youth detention. As a national organisation supporting young people in the justice system, out of home care, experiencing homelessness or unemployment, the future is bright for Whitelion as well as the young people that it positively impacts and supports.  

Whitelion CEO Hang Vo came to Australia in the 1970s as a refugee at the age of seven, and her personal story and experiences forged her passion for social justice. Hang says her vision for Whitelion is “to continue to address the structural and social inequities of our society rather than seeing individual fault”.

To never give up is a Whitelion founding principle

Never giving up is Whitelion’s message for young people through the commitment it provides via its work and programs. The message of never giving up, regardless of disability, location, heritage or cultural background, is at the heart of what Whitelion does. This principle formed the basis of Whitelion when it was founded. It was a bold and innovative organisation, incorporating and merging other youth organisations to grow the message and further increase its impact interstate.

The focus of Whitelion is twofold – helping young people connect with their community and creating opportunities for them. For example, Whitelion connects youth through programs such as mentoring and peer support to assist them in developing their self-confidence and creating positive relationships with adults and peers. Whitelion believes that with the right opportunities for young adults, they  can create a better life. This could be through employment opportunities, education, learning new skills and developing self-confidence and self-esteem.

You can learn more about Whitelion’s services and programs in this short video here

Innovation and boldness: the future of Whitelion

Whitelion prides itself on focusing its work directly on young adults who are struggling with the mainstream, who have come into early contact with the revolving door of going in and out of the youth justice system, out of home care (child protection), and who have experienced chronic intergenerational issues such as homelessness and unemployment.

The difficulty of reaching young adults at risk and in need is the lack of an integrated approach to supporting those who need it most. Whitelion overcomes this by assisting the young adults by building positive relationships through mentoring, reconnecting with their family, finding employment or re-enrolling in their studies.

Innovation has been a key aspect of Whitelion’s success. Merging with other youth organisations has allowed Whitelion to have a greater impact, including assertive outreach through travelling on buses six nights a week to the outer community to provide support for the youth who are on the street. Further, in Perth, Whitelion merged with an organisation that coordinates drop-in services for Aboriginal young people. Bringing in other organisations provides Whitelion with the opportunity to grow in an efficient and sustainable way. To give you a better understanding of the scale of Whitelion’s reach and impact, in 2017 it:

  • supported 2394 young people (with four out of 10 identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander)
  • supported 372 mentoring matches
  • placed 110 young people in jobs and the same number in alternative learning centres
  • delivered 80 prevention workshops in schools and the community
  • opened multiple social enterprise café locations, as well as its Fruit2Work initiative.


The LIV Young Lawyers thanks Hang Vo, Whitelion CEO for her time.

The LIV Young Lawyers will be raising funds for Whitelion on Friday, 9 November 2018 at Eureka 89 by either cash donations or tap and go e-payments on the night. Don’t miss the final LIV Young Lawyers event of 2018 by registering today. Tickets are just $99 for LIV members.

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