Overall at YMCA Victoria
Similar to last year, in 2020-2021 we have had to reduce our physical services across all our business units due to the pandemic. Most of our staff were either stood down or de-rostered at some point, but thankfully, many were able to receive financial support through the Federal Government’s COVID-19 Disaster Payments. Our financials and fundraising were also affected, but we have plans to move forward in the coming year.
Despite the many hardships this year, we’re proud to report that Virtual Y has thrived, supporting over 100,000 people to keep engaged and connected to the Y through the continued lockdowns of 2021.
Here's how each of our sectors were affected by COVID-19.
Despite the challenges of this past year, our Action Sports team helped run over 232 sessions between our Skate Park League, Australian Skate League, All Aboard and Train the Trainer. These sessions were held both in-person and virtually and engaged over 13,250 participants.
We started the year off by premiering our brand new administration and judging system nationally. It has decreased our paper use significantly and helped to improve the consistency and accuracy of our series ladders in Skate Park League and Australian Skate League.
The North East Tour was launched in Victoria bringing the fun and excitement of the Skate Park League program to a number of rural towns. These events provided much needed youth engagement and promoted positive use of council skate parks in areas that don’t often see professional skate events.
We were fortunate to be able to deliver the Australian Skateboarding League Championships in March at Riverslide Skate Park at Melbourne's Moomba Festival. Over 100 athletes competed across skateboarding, scoot and BMX including Olympians Hayley Wilson and Kieran Woolley.
The numerous lockdowns resulted in over 130 of our sessions being cancelled. As well as disruption to program delivery, another challenge has been attracting and retaining great quality coaches with inconsistent work over the last year.
How we adapted
During lockdowns, the team adapted and provided young people with free and paid virtual skateboarding and scooter sessions. These sessions provided opportunities for skateboarders and scooter riders with different skill levels to build their confidence and explore new tricks and techniques. It also gave young people in the community the chance to learn safely in their homes, get exercise and have social interactions.
These sessions also allowed some of our coaches to keep working during lockdowns. Our coaches were also given professional development opportunities through a modified Train the Trainer program which included online learning opportunities for staff and volunteers.
Our All Aboard program has run throughout the year where possible, providing sessions in schools and local government areas. These programs are focused on giving foundational skills to young people who traditionally would not engage in skateboarding. We have had continued positive relationships with schools such as Beth Rivka whose program is run at St Kilda skate park, and given their female students the opportunity to engage at their local skate park and gain the confidence and skills to participate independently.
Support we received
During this difficult time, we received grants from VicHealth and the Surf Coast which will allow us to move forward and continue to provide and improve our programs.
It’s been amazing to see the high demand for our programs and events from local councils and schools.
We look forward to finally being able to reschedule our programs and events to showcase our awesome athletes and continue making an impact on young people.
The Y manages seven camps situated in a variety of natural settings across Victoria – from alpine regions and rainforest, to bushland and coastal environments.
In October 2020, five of our camps entered a new long-term contract with Sports and Recreation Victoria until 2041. The first year, with the impact of COVID, has meant that the transition to the new contract has not been that of a traditional year of program delivery, yet we have used the time to productively focus on and start delivering to the strategic commitments outlined in our tender document. These range across all areas of the business from operational and site development to marketing and program initiatives.
We have developed a new brand identity that will herald the new era for camps, celebrate its history and look to the future. The consultative process with stakeholders from all levels – Government, Camp Managers and Customers – delivered a strong brand strategy and visual identity to build a strong recognition across the Camp network and a strong visual connection between the Y and its key government contractual partner, SRV. This will be rolled out over the next 12 months.
The 2020-21 period was a challenging period for the camps, with metropolitan camps being closed for 164 days and regional 121 days. We had a total of 48,900 camp participants across the year which is a close to a 40% decrease on an average year.
Despite the hard times, the Y was fortunate enough to receive a $300,000 grant from the Victorian Government to fund camps for young Aboriginal people, helping them reconnect to culture and Country. The funding has engaged over 320 young people in local communities at the various YMCA Camps.
How we adapted
2021 started off really strongly, especially with the schools market. Lady Northcote Recreation Camp delivered its most successful March results in history! We were essentially booked for the entirety of the 2021 year, until COVID closures continued to cause disruptions and need for customers to cancel. Our team worked tirelessly with our customers to reschedule bookings to ensure that, as many as possible, could still plan for a future camp experience.
We have offered alternate, flexible programming solutions including day programs and under canvas options for groups to be able to have a camp experience whilst adhering to COVID-safe practices. We have also developed new programs that focus on building resilience (Resilient You), greater learning opportunities in nature (extension of the Kids Go Bush programs) and implementing an outcomes framework that are being rolled out with our customers.
We know that people are wanting to get back to camp as soon as it is safe and possible and are confident that we will recover better than ever.
Camps have been instrumental in working with the peak industry bodies to advocate to State Government on the impact of closures on the camps as well as demonstrating how they can be a positive solution to the community upon reopening for connection to self, each other and nature.
The Y are thankful for the close, collaborative working relationship we have with our government partners. We would also like to recognise our camps management and staff, as well as our customers, for their strength, support and positivity during this time. We are a passionate bunch who believe in the power of a camp experience and want everyone to be able to have their own journey of self-discovery at one of our sites soon.
Our essential service throughout the pandemic was YMCA Children’s Programs. It goes without saying that our passionate educators have had a tough year, working as essential workers in a challenging environment. The support they provided and continue to provide to families has been second to none – each and every staff member should be proud.
We operate over 93 early childhood education and care services. Of these, we have 18 Early Learning Centres, 31 Before and After School Programs, 29 School Holiday Programs and 15 Occasional Care programs. In the last financial year, 221,740 children attended our Early Learning Centres and 221,875 children attended our Before and After School Care programs. In addition, we manage the hiring of community spaces at 11 local partner primary schools.
We were successful in bringing in new business in terms of Outside of School Hours Care (OSHC), with new sites at Trafalgar Primary School Marist College, Sacred Heart Yarrawonga and Warragul North Primary School.
During COVID-19, we temporarily closed three Early Learning Centres due to a positive COVID-19 test. All sites were back open and safely operating within a week of the closure.
How we adapted
Our amazing educators provided remote learning to children staying home through online tools such as the video conferencing platform Zoom and the Story Park app.
Within the centres, we adapted to the new COVID-normal, limiting people on site, and the ceasing of incursions and excursions.
Support we received
The government's Early Childhood Education and Care support package supported both our Early Learning Centres and OSHC programs.
We received the following support:
- Community Child Care Fund – Special Circumstance Grant to support our regional services;
- Business Continuity Payment – Viability Support Package.
We are incredibly thankful for the support we received for our children’s programs, without it we would not have been in a position to provide important child care services for families. With all this support, we have been able to survive the year and while we saw a reduction in occupancy during lockdowns, we are seeing occupancy levels rise as we transition to COVID-normal.
We operate 20 Kingswim sites across Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and ACT. Where we would normally peak each year at over 29,000 swimmers, this financial year, we peeked at just over 20,000 swimmers during our summer period – due to capacity limits across multiple states. We saw our highest enrolments in May, with just under 23,500 swimmers followed by a predicted decline over the winter months.
In addition, school group lessons have been significantly affected by multiple extended closures. Normally we would see just under 100,000 school lessons provided each year, but this financial year, we provided 21,193 lessons.
How we adapted
We've continued to adapt to the ever changing and localised state restrictions after each reopening. We utilised the Nabooki booking system to adapt to smaller capacity programs (due to Government restrictions) upon reopening within each state. Similarly, we were able to provide families with a convenient, online booking method that ensured their place in our regular program remained for when our program numbers could increase.
Our Kingswim team continued to create resources for our online ‘Activity Hub’ for at-home activities and resources for swimmers and families. We had 4,805 people visit the activity hub this year.
We were also able to train 210 new swim teachers.
Kingswim has continued to advocate for the aquatics industry at a national level to ensure aquatic education is able to quickly return after lockdowns to keep young people safe in and around the water.
Families said they appreciated the considered and transparent approach of Kingswim’s decision-making around returning to lessons, with over 80% strongly agreeing to all statements related to our COVID response in a survey conducted in May.
We have extended our online staff training modules to include pool deck supervision, basic aquatic rescues, evacuation and teacher upskill modules.
It has been another challenging year for the Recreation team. With over 2,500 team members on stand down or de-rostered and over 40,000 members on suspension, we are more eager than ever to open all of our doors to the community again soon.
But in the midst of navigating six lockdowns, the Recreation team has made some milestone achievements. We are excited to have commenced a new contract term at City of Boroondara for further 10 years, secured an extension at the Y-managed South Australian Aquatic and Leisure Centre and successfully extended our footprint and community impact in regional Victoria including Gippsland Aquatics and Recreation Centre, Corangamite and Moyne, Mount Alexander, Horsham and Hindmarsh.
We welcomed Fiona Preston to our leadership team, to lead the Recreation business unit whilst Alexandra Ash was on parental leave. Fiona was a fantastic asset and now has joined as General Manager at Melbourne Sports Centres – MSAC. We thank Fiona for her tremendous leadership throughout the challenging COVID times.
Meanwhile in South Australia…
The Y has a positive relationship with the South Australian Government via the Office for Recreation, Sport and Racing. This was seen with the much-anticipated contract extension earlier this year, along with support in the form of COVID-19 grants from the Community Jobs support fund. This funding has ensured the team operating South Australian Aquatic and Leisure Centre could maintain and launch into a new COVID-19 era. This support has led to a remarkable recovery, a recovery punctuated by several more lockdowns, Emergency Services Direction changes and ending with the 2021 Australian Swimming Trials and Tokyo Olympic Swimming Selection Trials.
How we adapted
To support our team and the community, we had to ensure that COVID-safe measures were firmly in place at our centres. We distributed 100 handheld thermometers, 181 hand sanitiser stations and 3,600 COVID direction floor decals, just to name a few!
We embraced our Virtual Y platform and our fitness instructors continued to deliver classes for all Y recreation members, as well as staff and volunteers across Australia. It was great to be able to offer classes with the Y instructors participants know and love.
Road to recovery
The Y would once again like to thank our recreation staff and council partners as well as our members and casual visitors throughout this time. Despite the challenges we've had to (and will continue to) overcome, the positive attitude and support shown by you all has been incredible.
We look forward to operating at full capacity soon and have the full confidence that our recreation team will continue to provide a safe and welcoming environment for our members and the wider community.
YMCA Youth Services consists of four program areas: staff and volunteers, learning and leadership, social impact and Y Spaces. Collectively Youth Services’ programs help young people to be heard and reach their potential in life.
Victorians experienced six separate lockdowns over the past year. Research has highlighted that young people have been the most impacted, particularly relating to mental health issues, job loss and financial security.
How we adapted
During a time of significant disruption, the Youth Services team demonstrated commendable adaptability and flexibility. A number of existing programs were placed on hold (such as Youth Camp and UNO-Y). Other programs adapted to online delivery – Youth Parliament went online as well as our volunteer engagement. A handful of programs continued operating in very different circumstances, such as ReBuild.
Adopting an agile and ‘fail-fast’ approach, Youth Services piloted a number of new online initiatives. These included the Youth Voice and Resilient You programs on Virtual Y, the ReBuild online shop and the Time to ReBuild podcast. The initiatives supported, connected, equipped and created spaces for young people to engage in whatever way they needed.
- The YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament held five online training sessions, 18 meetings with members of Parliament, department staff and industry leaders, and had 18 bills submitted to the Minister for Youth.
- Volunteer engagement saw 80 participants at Camp Vollie, and over 300 online Y-Space sessions.
- UNO-Y 2021 was developed and run by nine volunteers and had 18 young people participate.
- Youth Camp was a great success, with 45 participants.
- Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Future Leaders event did not go ahead.
- Two Youth Hubs (located in Bendigo and Rye) have 3,500 participants engaging online per month.
- YMCA ReBuild employed 29 young people between July 2020 to July 2021, with 66 young people completing the work Readiness and Life Skills Program.
- YMCA Bridge Project life skills training developed six online modules, secured 27 employment places and completed 41,165 hours of sport and recreation sessions in prison.
- YMCA Peninsula Youth Services has finished construction of a new purpose-built wellbeing sanctuary 'Jimmy's'. This Y Space is for marginalised, disengaged and disadvantaged young people on the Mornington Peninsula and is open to the public.
Over the past year, we have been fortunate to be able to connect and collaborate with a significant cohort of young people during the difficult times of lockdown. We used this time to collect data and invaluable feedback from young people to gain greater insight into what they thought about our programs and the level to which the Y (and more specifically Youth Services) have felt welcoming and inclusive.
The feedback provided positive initial results, while identifying areas for improvement. Across our programs over the past year and with our help, our young people have increased their knowledge and skills, improved their connection to the community and have had their voices heard. Although mental wellbeing has not been a key focus of the Youth Services team, most of our programs have positively contributed to participants’ mental wellbeing. This process has highlighted how important it is for us to continue collecting data, so that we can improve and understand the needs of our key audience – young people.
Messages from our leaders
In spite of COVID-19, our programs and services have still impacted the lives of nine million Victorians. Here's a snapshot of what we achieved in 2020-2021.
If last year was about survival and resilience, this year has been about patience and hope. The Y will continue to persevere through the face of hardship. We will continue to do whatever it takes to ensure we can welcome the community back through our doors.