U-Turn Program Moonah

2 Station Street, Moonah, TAS, 7009

Established in 2003, the U-Turn Program Moonah is a structured 10 week car maintenance and body work training course that offers young people the opportunity to complete their Certificate 1 in Automotive. The program, part of Mission Australia’s Youth Services, works with young people who have been, or are at risk of being, involved in vehicle theft. In 2012, U-Turn worked with 80 students aged 15-20. The majority of participants have been male but female participants are welcome. The provision of supported accommodation enables young people from across Tasmania, as well as those in Hobart, to attend the course.

How this program works

Identified as a best-practice diversionary program for young offenders, U-Turn works with participants to empower them to build successful pathways to vocational skills and qualifications. Participants are provided with an opportunity to change their lives and fulfil their potential. Building on students’ interests in cars, the core component of the program is a ten week automotive course. The program also focuses on life skills and personal development issues adopting a case management model and linking participants to a comprehensive network of support. A cognitive behavioural approach is used to reduce levels of offending and anti-social behaviour. The program includes drug and alcohol awareness training and road safety education.

The program runs Tuesday to Friday at a dedicated workshop site equipped with a mechanical workshop, spray painting booth, training room and recreation room. Participants engage in hands on mechanical training, spray painting, panel beating, car maintenance and body work, and also take part in go-karting activities. Literacy and numeracy skills are delivered through the program in contextualised, practical and small group settings. A restorative justice component enables participants to work on community-orientated projects, e.g. servicing vehicles for community organisations or victims of car thefts, and offer a positive contribution to society. Work experience opportunities facilitate the future employment of students. Post-course support is available for two years providing the opportunity for participants to complete their Certificate 2 in Automotive.


Positive outcomes, indicating the success of this program, include: completion rates, reduced levels of offending whilst on, and after, the program, students re-engaging with their studies and/or securing employment, and improvements in student attitudes, relationships and behaviours.

Individual student achievements: In 2010, one of the program’s students was a finalist in the Tasmanian Young Achievers Awards.

Destinations and pathways: Include: gaining an automotive apprenticeship, securing employment as a Trades Assistant and returning to school.

Engagement and participation in learning: Between 2003 and 2011, 253 students graduated from the course. As an example of success one participant on the program, who had previously disengaged from school, graduated from the U-Turn course and is now determined to finish Year 10, splitting his time between a practical skills-based school and U-Turn and continuing to work on his numeracy and literacy skills.

Health and well-being: A 2005 evaluation found participants experienced positive changes in regards to: anti-social behaviour; life and personal skills; self- esteem and confidence; social skills and self-awareness; and awareness of others and the broader community. Significant others observed positive changes in participants’ attitudes, values, interests, social relationships, and anti-social behaviour. 92% of students did not commit any offences while they were participating in the program and 52% have not recorded any offences since completing the program (2005).

Civic/community participation: Students work on community orientated projects – Each year at least four vehicles are repaired and given to victims of crime. (People who have had their car stolen)

Productive partnerships: Partnering with local employers has led to paid work experience for many U-Turn graduates (2011).

Why this program is successful

A 2005 evaluation of U-Turn found that the culture of cars is the glue that makes it all work as it facilitates a common interest, language and respect. The mentoring and high-quality relationships, staff and their manner in dealing with participants, empowerment of young people, giving students something to look forward to each day, the dynamics of the participant group (carefully selected by the Youth Worker), developing pathways into mainstream community, the provision of post-course support, and opportunities for go-karting were also identified as key success factors (2005). The Mission Australian Tasmanian State Director (2013) also highlighted the importance of the intensive education and literacy program.

Sources of information

Mission Australia (2013) Cutting funds to our U-Turn youth justice program disappointing and short sighted. Mission Australia Website – Daily News. www.missionaustralia.com.au (accessed 15.03.13)

Mission Australia (2012) State Report Tasmania.

U-Turn Program (2013) Brochure.

U-Turn Program (2013) Website. (accessed 15.03.13)

U-Turn Program (2010; 2011) Newsletter December 2010 & 2011.

University of Tasmania (2005) Young recidivist car theft offender program (U-Turn). Local Evaluation – Tasmania Final Report. Prepared for Department of Police and Public Safety. July 2005.


Please note, where possible and appropriate, we have adopted the language and terminology used by the program sources (italic fonts) and referred to the most recent publicly available information.

This vignette was developed in 2013 by The Victoria Institute for Education, Diversity and Lifelong Learning (part of the Australian Government’s Collaborative Research Network) for the project Putting the jigsaw together: innovative learning engagement programs in Australia and supported by the Ian Potter Foundation.

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