YLab Wollotuka

Wollotuka Institute, The University of Newcastle


First Nations voices are rarely heard or acted upon within systems across Australia. Armed with the power of young people, we’re changing that.

Drawing on our proven model of co-design and young person engagement, we were invited by the Wollotuka Institute at the University of Newcastle to create an embedded YLab practice centred on young people leading, designing, and facilitating projects to change systems and make an impact on the world.

Wollotuka Institute at the University of Newcastle engaged YLab in 2019 to centre the lived experience and expertise of First Nations students to design solutions to the challenges young Mob face at the university. In 2020 Wollotuka Institute and YLab partnered again to run the program for a second year.

What we did

In partnership with the Wollotuka Institute, we trained six First Nations associates with the skills needed to lead co-design projects at the University of Newcastle and within their communities. By embedding our model within Wollotuka, we could more effectively equip local associates with the skills, tools, and support to co-design and deliver projects and strategies.

A First Nations Associate and First Nations Director designed and delivered a 2-day bootcamp in co-design, valuing lived experience and systems change to equip the Wollotuka Associates to draw on and strengthen their existing capabilities. Wollotuka Associates undertook a co-design process during weekly co-working and coaching sessions to design prototypes for the theme 'career aspirations' as well as completing phone interviews to explore the career aspirations of a further 20 First Nations young people.

We’ve built the capability of First Nations associates to deliver co-design projects and have the confidence to lead work at both a local and national level. Projects of note from Wollotuka include designing a land and culture festival, a student retention project, and the development of resources to support First Nations women in the justice system.


342 hours of paid employment for 6 Wollotuka Associates

The top three outcomes for Wollotuka Associates as a result of the project are: feeling connected to Mob in their community (av. score of 6.8 out of 7 with 7 the highest rating), working with partners (6.2), and creativity (6.2)

Developed twelve prototypes in response to four key challenges relating to career aspirations: Lack of knowledge and visibility of possible jobs, Access Factors to Participation, Career Pathways (Job Vs Career) and Cultural Connection and Community Obligation

Produced an insights and evaluation report for the Wollotuka Institute.

A group of young First Nations people stand in a circle at a workshop at the Wollotuka Institute. There are sheets of paper with sticky notes on the ground.
A young First Nations person is engaged in conversation with arms outstretched. There is a person next to them listening and greenery in the background.

The team

We brought together a team of Associates and a Director, who came together to design with a background of diverse lived experience and expertise.

with Rona Glynn-McDonald, Lay Maloney, Paul Gorrie, Lauren French, Jason Mccoll and Bianca (Bee) Orsisni.