Hiska Youth Sheds

Framework For Rural Youth Mental Health & Postvention Suicide Services

HISKA is a Gippsland-based Charity, registered with the ACNC. The organisation was founded by Kim and Matt Baillie in March 2019 following the suicide of their son Zac Barker, aged 21. HISKA is governed by a Board of three - Kim and Matt plus Ross McCorkell who worked with Matt in business for many years and is a close family friend. Our Marketing Manager, Leonie Harcourt is also related to Zac.

We have a Youth Shed Administrator in Deb Dawson and a valued Youth and Emergency Services Advisor in Luke Anderton who was a Victorian Police Officer for many years and currently serves as a firefighter with the CFA. All of these dedicated people are working on a volunteer basis until HISKA achieves adequate funding to run its programs and formally employ management staff.

Service Models HISKA has two primary purposes.

The first honours Zac’s original idea to open rural Youth Sheds to provide youth engagement programs. While HISKA is not a professional counselling service, Youth Sheds will provide indirect benefits to young people in the grip or at risk of mental illness, unemployment, poverty, self harm and suicide. The second purpose is to provide specialist face to face postvention support to parents, family members and friends following the suicide of a child or loved one.

HISKA Youth Shed

The HISKA Youth Shed program will provide a safe place where young people can engage with peers and mentors while working on projects such as restoring classic cars, motor bikes, woodworking, and artwork. HISKA Youth Sheds will be run by trained and qualified mentors, encouraging young people to develop self-confidence, worthiness, new skills and discover a fulfilling purpose.

Hiska Youth Shed

The Youth Shed program has an inclusion policy and will be available to all young people aged 16 -25. The first HISKA Youth shed is planned for Bass Coast in Victoria where suicide rates are above the national average and two of the top three health service gaps were identified as mental health and youth services (1). Youth Sheds will not only provide engagement and support to young people; the opportunity for older people to help as volunteer mentors gives them a fulfilling purpose and a sense of feeling “needed”. This approach potentially makes for happier people at both ends of the age spectrum.

HISKA is dedicated to one day opening Youth Sheds in rural towns across Victoria and even in other States of Australia. That’s a huge undertaking and will depend of the level of funding and support we can secure from Government, Local Councils, business sponsors and local communities.

Additional Services & Goals

In addition to these programs, HISKA is planning further services to help support Youth engagements and influence positive mental development and wellbeing in rural areas. A schools program is proposed involving engagement with regional schools to talk with kids and teenage students about the factors that can effect their mental health. This also provides a great opportunity to obtain direct feedback from the younger generations about their personal challenges and ideas about possible solutions.

“It is well evidenced in the literature that the accounts and lived experiences of children and young people regarding their world and how they experience it can contribute significantly and meaningfully to new knowledge and in doing so can enhance services that are provided to children.” (2)

A complimentary App is being planned to encourage students to understand and keep track of their own mental health. They may even become more aware of how to recognise signs of mental health decline in their family and friends.

Hiska street signage image

Another idea HISKA is considering is based on the MATES system developed for the construction industry by researchers at the Hunter Medical Research Institute (3). HISKA is looking at developing a similar program for youth and young people in rural schools and workplaces employing people aged 16-25.

This support model will include education and training for youth, parents, teachers, youth coaches and workplace managers to help them learn to recognise contributing risk factors that may lead to mental illness, destructive behaviour, self harm or suicide in young people. The program will provide appropriate actions and tools that students and the adults they interact with can use in instances where a young person is exposed to one or more of the risk factors.

A proposed work experience program called H I S K A E X P will work with service organisations like Headspace, Anglicare (Peaceful Warriors), Max Employment and local businesses to help motivate and integrate young people into work experience and skills training opportunities. This program may involve a specialist branch of HISKA Buddies &/or collaboration with organisations like Anglicare (Peaceful Warriors) which may assign a peer-based mentor to a young person for a short period to assist them to adjust and integrate into work environments. 

HISKA is also exploring the validity of further strength-based programs that demonstrate to young people that someone believes in them, which in turn helps young people to believe in themselves. The physical health of young people has always been a key concern, but over the last 20 years research has made clearer the connection between physical health, social and emotional wellbeing, environment and life experiences. For programs to be effective, all these aspects must be addressed (4). A strength-based perspective offers a wide range of practical assistance in learning to value and activate strengths in youth who tend to be primarily regarded as “multiproblem” and “high-risk.” 

Hiska services

This may allow service providers and practitioners to regard each youth, his/her family and the community not only as person in need of support services, guidance and opportunity, but also in possession of previously unrealised resources which must be identified and mobilised to successfully resolve presenting problems and circumstances. The strength-based approach is energised by a sense of hope and a belief that every youth, every family and every community – no matter how distressed or compromised they are - have strengths.

Aligning to this approach will encourage young people to recognise and trust in possibilities, self-determine solutions to their own problems, develop their own life paths and plan their careers based on personal interests, skills, talents and level of education. The goal for HISKA is to develop and grow to become a well established and recognised service provider in the Youth Mental Health and Suicide postvention support space. Through knowledge of the provision and effectiveness of current support systems, emerging research and the identification of support deficiencies, HISKA aims to bridge the gaps; some independently and others in collaboration with existing organisations.

In reaching that goal, HISKA has discovered an opportunity to identify and attempt to record and connect the hundreds of smaller rural service providers operating in various towns and regions throughout Victoria. There is a lot of effective community work being conducted around the State. HISKA sees potential in connecting these organisations by providing the “glue” that binds them together in the form of a shared database, which could then drive a public website. For providers, this would achieve access to shared experience, knowledge and expertise. For service recipients it could potentially help communities identify and access the services they need. HISKA has already connected with two local organisations - Let’s Talk (Warrnambool) and YES Youth Hub (Wonthaggi).

By knowing who’s out there, the services in which they specialise and removing the disjointed aspects of providing youth and community services, we could identify local gaps and improve community support outcomes in all regions across Victoria.


Developing programs for Youth and Young Adults is a complex task due to these factors:

I. The plethora and variance of Youth mental health research, information, opinions and recommendations available.

II. The range and complexity of young individuals in relation to their social demographics, culture, gender alignment, formative conditioning, peer group pressures, life experiences and how each young person responds mentally, emotionally and behaviourally to different circumstances.

III. The individual nature of populations living in different rural towns and regions. Knowing the characteristics and needs of communities, families and individuals in different areas requires much research and investigation. A service model that works well in Wonthaggi may not be as effective in Mildura and require adjustment for specific local factors.

IV. Existing service provisions. There is no point in HISKA reinventing the wheel.

There are thousands of existing organisations and government services operating in the Youth Mental Health and Suicide space. It is important however to use research, local feedback and personal experience to identify existing gaps or niches. HISKA aims to fill gaps through the development and provision of new services and/or establish relationships and provide complimentary services alongside existing services.



(1) Needs Assessment Snapshot Bass Coast Local Government Area Primary Health Network Gippsland June 2016 

(2) Involving children in decision making. Commissioner for Children (Tas) https://www.childcomm.tas.gov.au/wpcontent/uploads/2015/06/Guide-to-makingdecisions-booklet.pdf

(3) The economic cost of suicide and nonfatal suicidal behaviour in the Australian construction industry by state and territory Christopher M Doran, Rod Ling Hunter Medical Research Institute, University of Newcastle

(4) Healthy, Safe and Thriving: National Strategic Framework for Child and Youth Health Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council August 2015

(5) Strength-Based Approaches to Work with Youth and Families. Dr. Laura B. Nissen Portland State University, September 27, 2001 

For more information please contact Hiska here.