Telstra Foundation Young & Connected Fund
We're imagining a connected world where all young people can thrive
Technology has ushered in a profound transformation in the way young people navigate their world, presenting both benefits and challenges. And while it’s raising important questions about its impact on them, digital technologies can also offer young people unprecedented opportunities to thrive. But how will this potential be unlocked and what role can Telstra play?
Telstra’s CEO, Vicki Brady explains, “I am extremely optimistic about the potential that digital technology offers, particularly for young people. While there will always be risks and opportunities to balance, there are enormous social and wellbeing benefits that can come with the innovative use of digital technologies. Technology can be a powerful enabler for young Australians, and we want to help create those opportunities.”
We’ve invested $2.5M in Young & Connected grants to 12 exceptional partners who together, will reach over quarter of a million young people. Some are responsibly pushing the boundaries of new and emerging technologies with AI, VR/AR and large language models, while others are diversifying Australia’s digital skills pipeline. Imagine a virtual reality mental health treatment for young people with depression - Orygen Digital can. A thriving First Nations digital skills pipeline? Indigitek is on it.
Technology can be a powerful enabler for young Australians, and we want to help create those opportunities.
- Vicki Brady, Telstra CEO
We’ve also created a space for our partners to connect to each other and access training and industry talent (including team Telstra) - from tech to marketing and everything in-between. Partners will also get membership to our Technology & Wellbeing Roundtable, co-chaired with our long-term collaborator, ReachOut.
The way we see it, investing in partners and technology projects that uplift young people isn’t just an act of philanthropy; it's an investment in a better future, where empowered young minds can shape a world of endless possibilities. Core to this work is our belief that all young people should have the same opportunity to thrive - where they live, socio-economic status, cultural background, gender, sexual orientation and ability should never be barriers to accessing wellbeing. The bottom line? We want all young people to thrive, and we believe technology can play a bigger role in enabling this.
Young & Connected Fund recipients
Mental health and wellbeing initiatives
Orygen Digital has a mission to revolutionise youth mental health care by bringing together the best of technology, research, innovation, and clinical services. The fund will enable them to run a clinical trial for ‘MIND’, a world first virtual reality mental health intervention for young people with depression and anxiety. The trial will involve 500 young people, nationally.
Minus18 Foundation helps change the lives of young LGBTQIA+ people across Australia by building social inclusion and advocating for an Australia where all young people are safe, empowered and supported. The fund will support them to use digital tech to capture and share the experiences of LGBTQIA+ youth across Australia. Their project addresses a current gap in the national data available and enables minority voices to collect, shape and tell stories about the data that is collected on them.
YourTown (Kids Helpline) provides services for young people, with a focus on mental health, youth suicide (including Kids Helpline), long-term unemployment, child protection, and support for those experiencing domestic and family violence. The fund will allow them to scale ‘Niggle’ an app for young people at risk of experiencing ill mental health. The app encourages them to get help early and connects them with other young people experiencing similar challenges. Scaling will reach over 15,000 young people, nationally.
Psykinetic was founded to create advanced inclusive technology and improve the lives of people with disability, the elderly, and beyond. Pilot trials have successfully developed and demonstrated that a modified tablet device mounted to wheelchairs, using their custom eye tracking software can promote independence and empowerment to young people with severe disability. Funding this project will enable this technology to be made more readily available.
Lifeline Australia provides Australians who are experiencing emotional distress with access to a 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention service. The fund will go to integrating their existing Self-Support toolkit into their Crisis Support Services so they can follow-up initial contact with personalised relevant resources and a path forward. Anticipated to reach over 200,000 young people per year.
Rainbow Families supports LGBTQ+ parents and their children. Run by LGBTQ+ families, they act as a support network for parents and carers, their children as well as future parents and carers in Australia. The fund will help them create a media-rich website and social media campaign sharing stories, tips, advice, and other resources to promote the wellbeing of young people who have parents that are LGBTQ+.
Gradient Institute works to build safety, ethics, accountability, and transparency into artificial intelligence (AI) systems. They conduct research, deliver training, and develop guidelines to ensure that AI benefits Australians with a particular emphasis on protecting those who may be treated unfairly by automated systems. The fund will help their work with researchers at the University of Melbourne, mental health experts, and young people as they develop the safe and effective use of AI and Large Language Models (LLM) in mental health chatbots.
Education and employment pathways, including digital skills for young people
Big hART is an arts and social change non-profit organisation, which assists communities to overcome disadvantage and achieve long term positive change. The fund will support them to create content for the NEO-Learning education platform, impacting 80 young First Nations people in Roebourne and 5000 primary school students, nationally.
Indigitek is all about ensuring more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can enjoy a thriving future by creating spaces and places where they know they belong in STEAM. The fund will enable them to deliver a STEAM education program to over 500 young First Nations students in the Big Rivers region, NT. And they’ll train Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators to continue STEAM education in their classrooms and the wider community.
PROJECT ROCKIT is a social enterprise with a mission to mobilise young people with the skills, empathy, and confidence to build kind and inclusive communities at school, online, and beyond. The fund will help them to create PROJECT ROCKIT Digital, a platform for educators that will enable 100 schools and impact 50,000 young people over two years.
Young Change Agents empowers young people to identify problems, reframe them as opportunities, and develop solutions with an entrepreneurial lens. The fund will help young people develop and launch a digital social enterprise reaching 50 Australian schools (2000 young people) over 2 years.
Specialisterne Centre Australia works with employers to build more neuro-inclusive recruitment and workplace cultures. Their purpose is to raise the workforce participation rate of autistic and other neurodivergent Australians. The fund will help them explore the potential of a digital platform to empower young neurodiverse people to be entrepreneurial and/or self-employed. The concept will be explored, tested, and codesigned with 50 young neurodiverse people, virtually across Australia and in-person workshops.
About Telstra Foundation
Telstra Foundation supports education, wellbeing, and environmental initiatives that focus on young people so they can pursue the future they want, regardless of their location, socio-economic status, cultural background, gender or ability.