headspace, Australia’s National Youth Mental Health Foundation, prioritises functional recovery through engagement with work and study. With approximately one in three headspace young people classified as NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training), and an unknown number living with disability, headspace is engaging and supporting a large cohort of current and potential DES participants. Many of these are DES ‘unreachables’, young people who are yet to engage with a DES or haven’t engaged successfully. Considering that the fastest growing group of people receiving a disability support pension are those with mental health challenges, this is a particularly pertinent cohort that headspace services. Organisations such as headspace play an important but underutilised role as a soft entry point for employment assistance. This presentation will explore the potential of collaboration and partnership for supporting current DES ‘unreachables’. Key themes will include online technologies, strength based/young person led approaches to vocational support, and clinical integration. headspace has developed two vocational programs, the Digital Work and Study Service and the Digital Industry Mentor Service, which have trialled innovative online approaches for employment assistance. These services have pioneered new partnership arrangements with DES providers, highlighting opportunity to further the relationship between community sector organisations, DES providers and potential DES participants.


Carolyn Watts

Vocational Programs Manager
headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation

Carolyn has over 15 years of experience as a manager working with young people in the areas of employment and education. Carolyn has been a Board Member of a large Employment Service provider as well as a General Manager of services in this Industry. Carolyn is a trained high school teacher and worked in the most challenging schools across Victoria and London, sparking an interest to reduce disadvantage through tailored support to young people. Carolyn is the Vocational Programs Manager at headspace National Office and runs two unique employment and study related services the Digital Work and Study Service and the Digital Industry Mentor Service.

Ella Hewitt

Coordinator Digital Industry Mentor Service
headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation

Ella is the Coordinator of the headspace Digital Industry Mentor Service, a Department of Employment Empowering Youth Initiative linking young job seekers with online career mentors. Having worked and taught across the education sector in Australia, at both high school and tertiary levels, Ella is committed to supporting young people in overcoming work and study barriers. Ella holds qualifications in education, public policy and management.

Vanessa Kennedy

Senior Evaluation Officer
headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation

Vanessa has over 10 years of research and evaluation experience across the Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) and mental health sectors. She has a BA (Hons) and a Master of Social Health (Research) from the University of Melbourne.


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