Nestled in the heart of Yarra Bend in Kew, lies the heritage-listed Bush Hut, home to The Outdoor Experience. The program is Jesuit Social Services’ long-standing Bush Adventure Therapy program, which supports young people aged 15-25 who are struggling with substance abuse and mental health.
Program Coordinator Jenny Vran said The Outdoor Experience is unique, “combining adventure-based activities with a therapeutic approach, which provides more engaging and memorable experiences than more traditional avenues”.
The innovative program gives young people the opportunity to immerse themselves in nature, engaging in outdoor activities such as hiking, climbing, creative team-building, canoeing, and more.
Young people are presented with the opportunity to overcome their fears, work together as a team, and make new social connections. Through action and reflection, participants build respectful relationships, develop self-confidence, and learn new skills and strategies that they can apply to their lives more generally and support their overall wellbeing.
Tara*, a young participant in the program experiencing addiction, told Jenny that the program has been such an incredible experience for her in many ways.
“From the first day, when I arrived and my nerves were through the roof, but the staff were so warm and inviting, to the last week, where I have found confidence in my abilities and the courage to try new things.”
Tara added that, “being able to have a space that is safe and free of judgement to just have fun or to open up and learn more about myself and others has been so rewarding”.
The Outdoor Experience works with other organisations: support workers from participants’ primary support service and participants actively participate side by side, in all aspects of the program. This approach allows for continuous feedback between program staff and primary support workers, and continuity of service on completion of the program.
For Jenny, the power of The Outdoor Experience lies in its ability to help young people connect with their environment and discover what they are truly capable of.