Our Story

Whitelion’s vision is for all young people to have equal opportunities to succeed.

Whitelion’s purpose is to give young people the pride, courage and opportunities to change their lives.

Whitelion services are available in Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Mt Gambier, Melbourne, Frankston, Wyndham and Gippsland. Whitelion works in a trauma-informed and strengths-based model across five service streams

Prevention in schools

Outreach and case management


Youth Programs

Vocational pathways assistance, including alternative education settings and employment programs

To meet our team click here.

To find one-to-one support for a young person in your area, please explore our service locations here.

Whitelion gives the safety of children and young people the highest priority. To read about our commitment to child safety, click here.

Our Story


Whitelion was built on three founding assumptions in 1999:

  1. At risk young people have multiple services, professional workers, and often statutory orders, dictating the course of their lives.

Whitelion’s response was to provide a pro-social adjunct to professional services - giving young people hope, encouragement and positive experiences that would support their engagement with services and focus on developing their connection to community beyond their diagnosis, history and service involvement.

  1. At risk young people have few stable, positive adult role models. Beyond their family networks, adults in their lives tend to be professional workers.

Whitelion recruited community volunteers to mentor young people – young people respond positively to the concept that unlike the professional workers they meet, volunteers weren’t paid to be in their lives. This model allows us work with the concept of pro-social modelling to modify behaviour.

  1. At risk young people have no control over the childhood trauma or neglect that changes the way their brain functions in relation to decision-making and risk-taking. Those most at risk may be turned away from mainstream support services due to the intractability of their behaviour or complexity of their needs.

In its early days Whitelion picked up young people who were not suitable for mainstream youth support services, in the days before intensive case management was a mainstream practice. This drove Whitelion to develop trauma-informed practice models and to focus on strengths-based engagement.



1999-2002, Melbourne

Whitelion was founded by Mark Watt AM and Glenn Manton. Mark was a manager at Parkville Youth Residential Centre and Glenn was a champion AFL player with a passion for inspiring at risk young people. Their shared experience and frustration at the lack of positive supports for young people in the justice system created the vision for Whitelion. Starting with pre and post-release programs for young people in custody, Whitelion initially delivered role model, mentoring and employment programs. A case management service to keep young Aboriginal people out of the justice system came next and our mentoring programs branched out into the Out of Home Care space to target a major risk gateway for young offenders. During these years a young man with lived experience of custody designed a youth leadership program, Young Lions.

2002-2011, taking the model across Australia

Whitelion took its innovative justice intervention programs from Victoria to Tasmania, South Australia and New South Wales.

2011-2016, adapting to a changing environment

The charities and non-profit sector changed rapidly following the global financial crisis and with the introduction of greater transparency with the establishment of the Australian Charities and Non-Profit Commission and greater sector focus on impact measurement. Mergers, for the purpose of creating sector efficiency became a governance focus. Whitelion merged with Open Family Australia in 2011, broadening Whitelion’s services to include assertive street outreach to support homeless youth.

Additional mergers took place with Stride Foundation and Youth Connect, expanding Whitelion’s services to prevention programs in schools. The merger Balga Detached Youth Work Project in Perth took Whitelion into the west for the first time.

2016 – 2018, looking to the future

Whitelion invested in social enterprise development to trial alternative funding streams and employment opportunities for youth. As we approached our 20 year anniversary, co-founder Mark Watt stepped into a development and ambassador role and Whitelion recruited a new Chief Executive Officer, Hang Vo, to lead Whitelion on a journey of renewal and growth.

Download our strategic plan here