Farm life improving troubled youth

THE Good Life Farm goes quietly about its business in the Yarra Valley, on the outskirts of Melbourne.

But its business is not growing organic rhubarb or producing free-range eggs.

No, this little farm is dedicated to rearing healthier kids.

It’s called the Good Life Farm, and it’s been doing this work with troubled young people for 18 years on ‘the sniff of an oily rag’.

Demand for Good Life Farm’s animal-assisted learning and therapy programs is growing fast. Another ‘farm’ of one-to-three hectares is needed near a big regional centre or on the outskirts of Melbourne.

Why a farm? The simple answer is that the animals help these disengaged young people to settle.

People who work with animals know this well.

The young people build accepting relationships with the animals through feeding, grooming, holding and talking with them.

Animals don’t make conditions; they don’t make demands; they don’t blame or bully.

The farm environment, with its open space, trees, ponds and creeks, helps them calm down.

The dedicated psychologists and youth workers at the Good Life Farm use the farm experiences to help the kids manage their emotions and to get back into their education so they can go back into school or on to vocational training and then to jobs.

Many youth workers and teachers in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne know the Good Life Farm well, from Boroondara, Monash and Manningham, as well as Yarra Ranges, with many saying it’s the best program available for troubled kids.

Eighty per cent of the young people who attend the farm’s learning and therapeutic programs have serious mental health issues.

A youth worker with the City of Monash told the local Rotary group that, of all the programs they refer ‘problem’ kids to, the Good Life Farm makes the most positive improvements in their lives.

With the disturbances going on in these youngsters’ lives – broken homes, being in residential care, getting into trouble with the police and going before the courts, violence and abuse, drugs and alcohol – the farm provides safety, a refuge.

A 12-month-long evaluation of the Good Life Farm program has been completed, demonstrating the outstanding benefits of this unique form of animal-assisted learning and therapy.

Land on a long-term leasehold or as a gift is essential for Good Life Farm’s continued work.

“We know we have a terrific program,” a Good Life Farm spokesperson said.

“Growing our capacity to take in more kids is our biggest challenge.”

To learn more about Good Life Farm email Good Life Farm business manager Bronwyn Pitman at

Alternatively, you can visit their website,

Gippsland Farmer

The Gippsland Farmer is a monthly agricultural newspaper reporting on rural news and distributed FREE and direct to an area covering from Cann River through to South Gippsland. For more than 40 years Gippsland Farmer has reported on a range of issues and industries including dairy, beef, vegetables, sheep, goats, poultry, organic farming, and viticulture.