Whitelion began in 1999 with the vision to ‘stop the revolving door’ for young people leaving the justice system. In their work with young offenders, Co-founders Mark Watt and Glenn Manton believed that by linking a young person with a mentor upon release, their ability to re-integrate into the community would be improved. For the next 10 years, Whitelion’s focus on youth justice became a core strength recognised by governments, the youth sector, corporates and the general community as making a real difference to young people’s lives. Over the following years, Whitelion expanded its scope to respond to the multiple and complex needs of young people through mergers with like-minded organisations including Open Family Australia (2011), Stride (2014), Balga Detached Youth Services (2015), and Youth Connect (2016). The continued expansion however, began to put strain on the organisation’s focus, capacity and sustainability.
In 2018, the board and Co-founder Mark Watt embarked on a journey of renewal and transformation by appointing Hang Vo as CEO replacing Mark after 19 years at the helm. Throughout 2019, we undertook a review and analysis of our operations as well as considered the external environment and the future for young people. We determined that for Whitelion to be effective and sustainable in the years ahead, we had to refocus by doing less, better. We analysed where we could have the most impact, what it is that we do best, how can we become financially sustainable and importantly, what do we need to stop doing? Our focus is to go back to what we are good at.
We are reaffirming our commitment to highly vulnerable, high risk young people and the importance of reducing disengagement and increasing pathways to work.
In the latter half of 2019, we undertook a major organisational change program and acted decisively to position Whitelion for the future. We reduced the organisation by 20% to ensure we are more focussed on what we do. Regrettably, after 17 years of services to Tasmania we closed off our operations. We transferred Stride school prevention program to In2Life; and divested Melbourne social enterprises Fruit2Work and Wheelly Good Coffee to new providers. Strategy 2023 is a new beginning built on the foundations of Whitelion’s early days of having clear focus and purpose.