Murrumbidgee NSW

Lead agency

Yes Unlimited


  • Getting in earlier
  • Better responses 

Program Overview

The project has emerged from true grass-roots leadership beginning from conversations with a group of local services including Yes Unlimited, Westside Community Centre, headspace Albury Wodonga, Albury Community Mental Health, Albury City Council, James Fallon High, Murray High and Albury High. 

The Albury Project implements a Community of Schools and Services (COSS) approach which is a locally driven shift from a crisis driven system to an early intervention approach.


The uncoordinated crisis driven approach in responding to young people at risk or experiencing social and educational disadvantage is failing. A coordinated early intervention response is required.


The Community of Schools and Services (COSS) approach is a locally driven systems-based response to young people showing early indicators of risk. Embodying true early intervention, the approach pulls schools and services together in an integrated manner, proactively identifying young people requiring support before risk factors escalate or a crisis occurs. 

The COSS approach applied in the Albury Project works in three key ways:

  • Population screening: All students (approximately 2000 students, years 7-12) of participating schools complete an Australian Index of Adolescent Development (AIAD) assessment which screens young people for early indicators known to correlate with a risk of homelessness, school disengagement or mental health (Kessler Psychological Distress Scale-10)  - recognising that these issues are inherently linked. The data collected through the AIAD places young people into three categories of risk and need, which then determines the level of support received from the Albury Project Team. 
  • Systematised collaboration: Participating schools and services become a single team, formally committing to respond to the young people identified through the AIAD without the complex service navigation and ‘bouncing’ that often characterises informal arrangements. This involves interagency agreements, an overarching governance group, structured operational staff meetings and clearly articulated responsibilities for each stakeholder.  
  • Data and outcomes focus: The model is driven by a constant feedback loop of data and outcomes collected through the AIAD. Not only does this data allow student needs to be tracked and responded to as a situation changes, but also allows for informed, higher level adjustments and capacity building of the service system response.





The last 18 months has seen a significant shift from a loose association of like-minded services and schools to a united, formalised, funded collective with a full implementation plan in the process of being rolled out. 

The Albury Project is funded with just over $400k per annum across a four-year pilot period. 

A three-tiered governance structure has been formalised and is underpinned by a memorandum of understanding signed by all partners: Yes Unlimited, Albury High, James Fallon High, Murray High, headspace Albury-Wodonga, Albury Community Mental Health and Albury City Council. This includes a commitment of resourcing from all signatories. 

The Albury Project has made a significant investment in ‘community readiness’ work, engaging the local community, pulling together key stakeholders, travelling to Geelong with around 30 schools and service staff, and holding a number of local forums, including one with over 400 teachers present. 

Work has begun to realign existing service structures to move from a program/organisation focus to a system driven spectrum of responses that wraps around the young person.

Next Steps

The early evidence base generated by Swinburne University’s evaluation[1] of The Geelong Project has shown exciting measurable progress in a short period of time. Within three years of implementing the model, the Geelong Project has seen a 40% reduction in youth crisis presentations, 50% reduction in school disengagement and 20% reduction in early school leaving.

Given the measurement of outcomes is central to implementing the model, the Albury Project team looks forward to seeing what the initial baseline data reflects when the first round of surveys in Term 3 2019 are conducted.



  1. Kessler R. Professor of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA. 
  2. MacKenzie, D 2018, The Geelong Project Interim Report 2016-2017, Barwon child, youth & family; Swinburne University of Technology,