Supporter profile: John Grant AM

John Grant AM has been an accountant, investment banker, venture capitalist and company director during his 60-year career. He has had a lifetime interest in philanthropy but In recent years has become more actively engaged, as Chairman of The Grant Family Charitable Trust.

The Grant Family Charitable Trust was established 2010 and is focussed on providing support to the mental illness and homeless community, the arts (visual and performing) and wildlife conservation.

John’s experience in venture capital, engaging with good people and their ideas; working alongside them in achieving their goals; and seeking at the same time to develop sustainable entities that will deliver these new ideas over the long term has strongly influenced his approach at his family’s Foundation.

How did you first become involved with the work of the Foyer Foundation?

It became involved in supporting The Foyer Foundation and its various affiliates through Keith Bryant in his then role as Chair of Wentworth Housing, a significant community housing organisation in western Sydney and as a Director of The Foyer foundation.

Our initial involvement was in co -developing and co-funding a collaboration between the BSL-led Kangan Foyer in Melbourne and Youth Insearch. Youth Insearch, is an east coast personal development and recovery organisation for disadvantaged youth between the ages of 14-20, utilising peer-led intensive weekend camps and facilitation programs.

Favourable learnings were gained from that collaboration in developing Foyer pathways for the broader disadvantaged youth community and this is now being rolled out through three BSL lead Foyers in Victoria.

I am very keen to make available the Finnish developed Open Dialogue process for family and peer support into the Foyer process for Foyer workers and their support, through our co funded St Vincent’s Open Dialogue Initiative. We are fortunate that Kristof Mikes-Liu from Centre for Family based Mental Health Care, Dr Paul Denborough and Rachel Barbara-May from the Alfred Headspace Early Youth support services, are attending this year’s Foyer Conference to share their first hand experiences with Open Dialogue.

What stood out for you about the Youth Foyer model as distinct from our other youth support programs?

I believe safe places are the start of the long process of being able to understand and understand ones’ own unique position so as to look forward positively to recovery and opportunities for the future, rather than being trapped by the terrors of the past. The customised Foyer facilities and their fully trained on site staff provide a very secure base.

Foyers through the BSL documented Foyer process that involves: a careful assessment of eligibility, a clear deal between the incoming young person and the Foyer team, of personal development and education, and a tailored pathway forward for the individual with pre-agreed milestones, is a great model for maximising opportunities and outcomes.

Too often other programs, while being well meaning with lovely people do not provide the support structure that I see is being provided by well managed Foyers.

What ‘s your personal philosophy on supporting young people who experience disadvantage?

As much as I may want to understand their experience and challenges it is beyond me. However, I do know that with drive, opportunity and support, young foyer residents, like the many more fortunate young people in their community can also build productive, independent lives and make an important contribution to the shared community.

How does the work of the Foyer Foundation align with this?

The Foyer provides a basis, a safe place, dedicated good people, a proven documented but evolving process to provide the best outcomes for residents, and hopefully for many more disadvantaged young people in the community through alternative but aligned pathways.

Meet Rebecca Lee, Manager, Kangan Education First Youth Foyer

How long have you worked in the Foyer space? And how did you come to work at Foyer?

I have been at the EFYF since Holmesglen opened in 2013 however, I am now into my 10th year of working in the Foyers space. Prior to moving to Australia I worked in Cheltenham & Bristol, UK for a small community NFP called County Community Projects. The Foyers I worked at in England were quite different having smaller occupancies and no formal partnership with TAFE. I started volunteering as a youth worker fresh out of university and when a job came up I applied for it and have worked in Foyers ever since, I love it! I can’t imagine myself doing anything different.

” I love it! I can’t imagine myself doing anything different.”

What you love about your Foyer? What is special, unique, excites you about your role?

Foyer is a unique space to work in when working in the community services sector, I don’t like to introduce what I do as working at a homelessness program because it is so much more than that, instead when people ask what I do I tell them that I work in an inspirational program alongside wonderful people aged 16-24 who focus on their education and employment goals. What I find special about our Foyer is the wonderful culture and great relationships that are fostered.

Maintaining consistency in the program and adhering to the practice framework and Advantaged Thinking approach ensure good times are had, the students are kicking goals and constantly exploring opportunities to ensure they thrive. Each day in my role at Foyer is fun, celebrating student achievements, working in a dynamic team with a shared vision and belief in the students, and the creativity the program allows makes for a vibrant place to spend my days.

What are the highlights and challenges of working at Foyer?

Highlights
Great relationships, sharing laughs, getting silly and having all the fun.
Working alongside a diverse group of talented and inspired students.
Being part of an innovative community of practice & pilot program.
Watching students share their skills and interests with their friends & neighbours and seeing friendships flourish. All the shared meals and yummy food.

Challenges
The demand and cost of private rental in Melbourne is difficult for people who are studying to move to rental. Sometimes students aren’t quite ready to take on the deal and seeing people leave is very hard, however, if down the track they are ready they are of course welcome to return, so far this has happened 4 times at our Foyer and the students involved have achieved so much the second time around. The Foyer can be at times a supermarket trolley magnet with a couple of trolleys always being within a 500m radius of Foyer.

What is your favourite Foyer moment or memory?

Seeing two of our former students being hired by Launch Housings service development team to co-design alongside the current Foyer students and stakeholders a youth participation strategy and implementation plan, this is an exciting opportunity for us and the EFYF’s. Also, Developing independence graduations are always a great time and a proud moment.

Meet Kane Ord, Team Leader, Kangan Education First Youth Foyer

How long have you worked in the Foyer space?

I have been working at the Kangan Education First Youth Foyer for about two-and-a-half years in total. Though I have been working with young people my whole professional career, namely in more traditional school environments as a classroom teacher, it wasn’t until I started at the Foyer that I became truly aware of the ways in which traditional education and youth services define young people by their deficits rather than investing in their assets.

How did you come to work at Foyer?

I am a classroom teacher by training, and only came across the Foyer purely by accident. I applied for a position as casual Youth Development Worker with the Kangan Foyer when the site was first getting off the ground and quickly saw the way in which the Foyer model was having a direct and powerful impact on the lives of young people.

What you love about your Foyer? What is special, unique, excites you about your role?

Although there is so much to say about what parts of working at a Foyer I enjoy, I would say that I find the passion and enthusiasm of our young people to be contagious and inspiring. Of course, there are the ups as well as the downs, but this role affords us a unique and privileged position in the lives of these young people which means no two days are the same. More than anything else, however, I am inspired daily by the remarkable wins and successes achieved by our Foyer students.

“Of course, there are the ups as well as the downs, but this role affords us a unique and privileged position in the lives of these young people which means no two days are the same”

What are the highlights and challenges of working at Foyer?

For me personally, getting to work daily with young people is one of the biggest highlights. It may not sound like the loftiest or most inspiring reason, but young people are fun to work with and to be around; it’s energising.
However, the close rapport and working relationships that we build at Foyer presents one of the jobs greatest challenges. When we become so invested in our young people, it can be hard to resist the urge to “take over” when we think that someone is making a mistake or the wrong choice. It’s a constant struggle to check our ‘neediness’ at the door and support young people in being independent and active agents in their own life.

What is your favourite Foyer moment or memory?

One of my favourite Foyer memories is of our most recent Cert I – Developing Independence graduation. It was one of our biggest, with about twenty young people officially graduating. It was so inspiring and moving to see some young people graduate for the first time and to help them celebrate their achievements was such a privilege.

What key message would you like to impart on people who may not be familiar with Foyers, working with young people experiencing disadvantage or homelessness?

My message is simply to believe in young people, invest in them. Because all young people have talents, skills, experiences and passions that are worth believing and investing in. There is such an injustice in the way in which young people are treated by so many services and by traditional educational institutions. So many young people are too quickly labelled and forced to carry their deficits around like a millstone. But when we can start thinking about young people in terms of their assets and not their deficits, then we can start to properly prepare young people for a sustainable and successful adulthood.