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Australian Youth Organisations to Merge


Thursday, 1st December 2011 at 2:16 pm
Lina Caneva, Editor
After more than 40 years in the Not for Profit space, two of Australia’s leading youth organisations, Open Family Australia (OFA) and Whitelion are to merge.

Thursday, 1st December 2011
at 2:16 pm
Lina Caneva, Editor


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Australian Youth Organisations to Merge
Thursday, 1st December 2011 at 2:16 pm

After more than 40 years in the Not for Profit space, two of Australia’s leading youth organisations, Open Family Australia (OFA) and Whitelion are to merge.

The merger will see the CEO and founder of Whitelion, Mark Watt, taking leadership of the newly merged organisation, while the CEO of Open Family Australia, Dr Emma Cassar  will be stepping down and moving to a  new role at Mission Australia as Victorian State Director.

“The merged entity will provide young people with wraparound services that will take them from homelessness – with acute health, safety and shelter needs – to a real job with real wages, a mentor and other positive opportunities to support them on this journey,” says Dr Cassar.

The organisations say there will be no name change. “OFA and Whitelion will retain their own identity; Mark Watt will be CEO of both, “ says Dr Cassar.

Since 1999 Whitelion has supported vulnerable young people in the Child Protection and Out of Home Care system, and those within and at risk of entering the Youth Justice system.

In 2011 CEO of Whitelion, Mark Watt, built a close working relationship with Open Family, recognising that both organisations share the philosophy of never giving up on a young person, and working with the most marginalised youth in our community.  

“We were exploring program partnership options, and also the possibility of shared accommodation and support systems which would lead to efficiency savings.  These discussions lead to the realisation that a merge would provide better services for clients, a louder voice for disadvantaged young people in the community, greater opportunity for staff development, and more efficient operating systems,” says Dr Cassar.

“The merged organisation will provide more comprehensive, end-to-end services for staff that would ensure better individual outcomes.”  

“Our staff members, as well as Whitelion staff, will all be required under the new organisation and as a result of this we are pleased to confirm that no redundancies will need to be offered.  The larger scale of the company will mean more opportunities for staff to learn and grow as well as have better resources and education tools to assist them in the important work they do.”

The new operations will now expand to cover Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia.

OFA has a 10 member board chaired by David Evans. Whitelion has a 12 member board chaired by Anne Barker. The two boards will consolidate into one 12 member board, incorporating members of both organisations.   Anne Barker will Chair the new organisation.

“Any changes to programs in the future will only occur after extensive consultation and only if it improves the service for our young people.  The merge also creates greater opportunities for staff to learn and grow, ” says Mark Watt.

“Most importantly I am excited about delivering a more comprehensive service to the area of the community I am most passionate about – young people.”

The merger has also gained significant support from former VicHealth CEO and current Professor of Global Health and Melbourne University, Rob Moodie.  

“In an era of increasing fragmentation of services it is wonderful to see Whitelion and Open Family Australia uniting. Through the merger these two highly respected and committed organisations can work much more effectively for kids who are struggling to make their way through life.”

Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Robert Doyle, added his support to the merge, describing it as a great step forward for the charities, its clients, staff and the areas in which they operate.

"I am pleased that two such highly regarded community organisations will come together to provide better service and outcomes for vulnerable young people.  I am also pleased that all of the experienced and committed staff will continue with the new organisation."

Whitelion co-founder, AFL premiership player Glenn Manton said he was genuinely excited by the future that the merge presents.

"The core focus – being to best serve the most disadvantaged young people in the community regardless of their background – will not falter.  2012 will see positive growth in all that we do within the community".


Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years, and Editor of Pro Bono Australia News since it was founded in 2000.


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