Empowering young men: Kate’s commitment to mentorship

Meet Kate, dedicated Regional Coordinator at Top Blokes based in Western Sydney. Her own personal journey into the world of mentoring is as inspiring as it is impactful. With a past marked by challenges many young men face today, Kate brings a unique blend of empathy, resilience, and wisdom to her role. From personal trials to discovering the power of positive mentorship, her story underscores the incredible impact compassionate guidance can have. 

In our Meet the Mentor series, we sit down with Kate as she shares how her experiences fuel her passion for helping young males thrive in an increasingly complex world.

What motivated you to become a Youth Worker at Top Blokes?

From a young age, I faced significant challenges, including a family breakdown that led me to a youth refuge at just 13 years old. I struggled with emotional regulation and often felt unheard and disbelieved, which sent me down a very dark path. It was at the refuge that I met a mentor who changed my life. He was a Youth Worker who not only listened but showed me, through genuine care and support, that I wasn’t alone. His guidance during that pivotal time was invaluable.

Inspired by his impact on my life, I pursued a diploma in Youth Work. My journey led me to a work placement with Uniting out-of-home care, which solidified my desire to help others. When I came across the opportunity at Top Blokes, it really resonated with me. I’ve always connected more naturally with boys, perhaps because it was easier to mask my emotions and maintain a stoic front around them. They understood me in ways that felt more straightforward than with girls. There was a time when I experienced homelessness, and it was the boys in my life who stepped up and stepped in to support me.

Seeing the Top Blokes job, I thought, “That job is for me – that job needs me.” I’ve always wanted to channel my experiences into supporting and guiding young males, helping them navigate their paths just as my mentor did for me.

How have your background and personal experiences influenced your approach to Youth Work?

It’s huge! My own experiences have shaped how I approach Youth Work, especially emphasising the importance of giving young people a voice. I faced some big challenges growing up, I know from my own personal experiences how crucial it is to feel heard and believed. It’s about letting them know that no matter how tough things get – and they will get tough – you’re not alone. 

When I see my team or myself having a positive impact on a young person, it is really rewarding. Providing that mentorship creates a safe space where boys and young men can share what they think and feel without judgment or reprimand. It’s about planting the seeds for success and giving young people the tools to get through. It’s not just about the changes we see today. It’s about fostering the skills and mindset that will benefit you throughout your life.

Can you share a memorable success story or impactful moment you’ve had while working with a young person here?

One moment that stands out to me involved a particularly powerful session during an open table discussion with the boys. One young man revealed he had lost his cousin to suicide – he hadn’t been able to talk to his mates or anyone really about it before. The reaction from the group was immediate and supportive. They rallied around him, expressing their support and understanding, saying, ‘Mate, you didn’t tell us – now we know’. Witnessing their collective response, how they held him up in that moment of vulnerability, was incredibly moving.

As experienced and qualified Youth Workers, we develop a unique ability to read the room and recognise when young males are bottling things up. Through our experience and training, we know how to hold space in a safe way for these young men to open up, be vulnerable, and receive support. That moment was a reminder of the importance of what we do: providing not just guidance but also helping to build a community among their peers where they can feel supported and understood. 

Can you tell us a bit more about some of the challenges young males face growing up today?

It’s tough growing up today. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes with the amount of societal pressures they face. One of the biggest things that strikes me is the mask these young men wear when they come to school. This mask hides what’s really going on underneath – the real struggles they’re dealing with daily.

We’re seeing families across Australia grappling with the rising cost of living, which only adds to the stress at home. There’s a noticeable lack of connection within families, leaving many young men without the outlet and space to share their feelings and experiences. It often feels like they cannot be their authentic selves.

Many of them seem detached, like shells of themselves—there’s no laughter, no banter, just exhaustion. They’re caught in a monotonous cycle: go to school, go home, go to school, go home – repeat. That’s one of the reasons why our work at Top Blokes is so key – we come together with the same group of boys every week. We build a community – one that is honest, curious, supportive and built on empathy. The boys who wag school or don’t want to go will always come to school for Top Blokes!  

Out of the workshops we run in schools, which one resonates with you the most?

The anger management workshop. I’ve learned so much about myself while facilitating this program. It’s about recognising the build-up of emotions before they lead to an outburst and reflecting on your own emotions and behaviours. 

The ability for self-reflection is a real skill. When you hold up a mirror to see what others see –  wow, that can be really confronting! It can bring feelings of shame and anxiety to the surface. But it’s what we do with that feeling of discomfort, where we can make some big shifts and there’s a profound strength that comes from that. 

How do you build strong connections and trust with the young men you work with?

Building trust and strong connections starts with being vulnerable. I share my own experiences, both the positive and the challenging ones, and discuss the lessons I’ve learned along the way. This breaks down barriers and shows the young men that it’s okay to be open about their struggles.

I make a conscious effort to avoid talking ‘at’ the boys. I always try to create an open forum – first and foremost I am always here to listen to what they have to say. 

As a female Youth Worker, I bring a nurturing, caring, and perhaps a different perspective to our conversations. This can be really important when we tackle tough topics like the realities of pornography or sexual health. They may never hear that female viewpoint again. It’s my duty to openly share that and they appreciate and respect that.

What is one piece of advice you would give your high school self?

As hard as it may seem sometimes, things will get better. Life goes on. Keep pushing forward.

When you are not in the classroom or organising our Youth Worker team, where can we find you?

Spending quality time with my kids or on the soccer field. Soccer was something I excelled at when I was younger, but life’s challenges, including my difficult teenage years and later becoming a mum, meant I had to put it to one side. There simply wasn’t time or space for it in my life then.

Now, I’ve made a point of returning to the game. It’s not just a hobby; it’s my personal time to recharge and focus on myself. Stepping back onto the field has been incredibly rewarding. It’s my way of giving back to myself, which is so important. 

Kate’s own personal journey shows us all how resilience, empathy, and mentorship can help transform lives. Her dedication not only enriches the lives of the young men she mentors but also highlights the profound impact of nurturing and support. 

If you’d like to chat with one of our regional coordinators to discover how Top Blokes can help your school or community organisation please reach out.