The Empowerment Challenge


To provide younger mums with a safe space to feel empowered, connected, respected and valued. Offering long term accessibility to services providing mental health and well-being support, mentorship and community connection.

A brief history

The Empowerment Challenge and the idea behind our universal hub was born in 2017 from a small group of local women giving back to their community, mentoring younger mums. It became apparent to the members there was a gap within services and these younger mums had difficulties finding a service which would fully support their needs.

Our mission was created… “To provide younger mums with a safe space to feel empowered, connected, respected and valued. Offering long term accessibility to services providing mental health and well-being support, mentorship and community connection”.

The Empowerment Challenge will specifically provide services to support the wellbeing of the younger mums under the age of 26 and those who birthed their child under 26. Our point of difference being, no younger mum will age out of our service, they are welcome for as long as they need, if they fit in with our criteria. We will work with other services to facilitate warm hand overs and promote smooth transitional engagement, allowing for time to build trusting relationships between participants and staff.

16 on a Bus

Being a younger mum when you’re young yourself can be overwhelming and frightening, but you’re not alone. We are here to provide you with support and resources to make it so much easier.

Michelle Polidano one of the co-founders of The Empowerment Challenge “16 on a Bus” describes what it was like having a child at 16 and the feelings about it all.

What exactly is the challenge?

Unfortunately, the younger parent population is often impacted significantly by a multitude of disadvantage. Younger parents and their children are particularly vulnerable to breaches of their rights to health, education and care, and are at higher risk of long term disadvantage and welfare dependency (AIHW, 2017). Family Violence and Mental Health issues are also seen at staggeringly high rates amongst this group. Being younger, often single, and lacking social, financial and emotional supports, leaves younger parents at high risk, and often, despite well-intended, best efforts, they are unable to give quality care to their offspring.

We know that mitigating these disadvantages involves instilling protective factors. These include, social inclusion, counselling and therapeutic supports, education and health supports, thus, came our challenge and mission. It is also well evidenced that with trusted and supportive role models in younger people’s lives, mental health problems can be lessened. We also hope to provide access to these positive relationships through our groups, staff and volunteer team.

Our challenge is in strengthening social, emotional and health supports for this cohort. Through ongoing, supportive care, we hope to see improved health and wellbeing outcomes, as well as personal development.

By unleashing the power within, we know that we can support our younger mums to make positive changes and overcome their unhealthy and maladaptive coping strategies, many of which significantly impacts their futures and the futures of their children. Children at risk, require parents who are safe, connected and healthy.

Out of home care is not a place anyone should end up. It is well known that children who grow up in out-of-home care, experience some of the greatest disadvantages and we see our younger mum cohort evidencing this, as a high percentage of younger mums/dads have grown up in out-of-home care themselves and lack the safe, secure attachments, role models and experiences to promote parenting skills and loving relationships for their own families, adding to the cycle of generational disadvantage that is perpetually growing without positive interventions such as The Empowerment Challenge.

Our Mission

We have identified that there is a gap within our community for specific, voluntary access points for younger mums with health and supports tailored for their needs, in an informal setting, with local access and drop in available. Younger mums say they want easier access to services and longer-term supports.

The Empowerment Challenge’s ultimate goal is to provide a House or Hub specifically for Younger Mums to access, offering support, education, health services and a place to simply come and connect in.

Phase 1 of our journey will be our mobile outreach program providing outreach across the Geelong region.

Our Focus

The Empowerment Challenge will take a strength-based approach, utilising relationship-based practice, with a focus on providing ongoing support. This will enable positive changes and growth to occur within the individual, ultimately aiming to break the cycle for themselves and their children.

Our target group will be under-involved families in the community, many of whom may have dealt with different types of abuse (sexual, emotional, physical), family violence, generational unemployment or under-employment, drug/alcohol abuse, generational poverty and mental health issues, as well as out of home care.

The Empowerment Challenge will incorporate family centred practice, evidence based practice and ecological holistic supports, working with participants to thrive through their life stages.


In Victoria, the Australian Bureau of Statistic 2017 data shows there were;

Children born to Mums aged under 26
Children born to Mums aged 15-19
Children born to Mums aged 20-24