The Evidence Portal

Youth mentoring: Core components

These five core components describe the common activities used to deliver mentoring programs that divert youth from juvenile justice involvement and anti-social behaviours.

In 2021, an evidence review was conducted to identify the core components of youth mentoring programs. These core components have a high level of evidence in delivering outcomes for young people in contact with (or at-risk of contact with) the criminal justice system. 

Five evidence-informed programs were identified. A content analysis identified five commonalities across these programs. These five core components are common across mentoring programs for diverting young people from youth justice involvement and/or further criminal activity. They are recommended as components that should be delivered by mentoring programs for young people in this population.

This evidence was then supplemented with an additional search for mentoring programs delivered to Aboriginal young people at-risk. The findings from this search have been embedded into the content below. 

Who do they work for?

These core components are relevant to young people aged 10 – 17 years, who have had (or are at-risk of having) contact with the juvenile justice system.

What should I consider when working with Aboriginal communities?

  • Mentoring fits particularly well with Indigenous learning and teaching styles, and its cultural appropriateness with Indigenous cultures has been repeatedly demonstrated in Australia (Ware, 2013).
  • Effective mentoring programs require the involvement of Aboriginal mentors and Elders in the programs’ design and ongoing management (Fredericks et al. 2017; Pooley 2020).
  • Obtaining the input of the local Aboriginal community in the design and delivery of a mentoring program is vital (Ware, 2013). Where local Aboriginal community members have genuine input into tailoring the program to the local context, and where they have opportunities to participate as mentors, ownership of program processes and positive outcome for mentees is more likely (Ware 2013; Pooley 2020).

What else should I consider?

When using the core components and flexible activities above, to design or implement a program, it must be tailored to fit the needs and characteristics of the target group.

Core Components

Show All
Hide All

The process of screening and matching prospective mentors with potential mentees is an important preliminary step to ensure a meaningful mentor-mentee relationship can be fostered.

Flexible activities include

Screening mentors ensures they are ‘fit for task’ and can work with the targeted mentee population. Identification of preferences from both a mentee and mentor facilitates appropriate matches and can identify common interests or priority areas to be addressed in the mentoring relationship. Matches that consider gender, age, ethnicity and culture, geographical location and common interests and preferences place the mentoring relationship in the best possible position for long-term success.

Providing mentors with the knowledge and skills to be a mentor is crucial. This involves becoming aware of the needs of the mentees, issues that are likely to arise and how to address them.

Flexible activities include

Activities involve not only the provision of adequate and informative training to mentors, but also allow frequent opportunities for mentors to give updates, reflect on their mentoring journey, and receive support. Mentor programs should also have good partnerships with other services that might be needed (e.g. youth counselling). 

The quality and meaningfulness of the primary mentor-mentee relationship is critical to a successful mentoring program. Activities that seek to engage young people and build a positive relationship are crucial.

Flexible activities include

The quality of the mentoring relationship is foundational to the success of a mentoring program. A meaningful mentor-mentee relationship can be fostered in several ways. It’s important to create a safe and supportive space where mentors and mentees can interact and engage in activities. Additionally, establishing pathways for communication between the mentor and mentee that are reliable and consistent is important.

Mentoring programs should consist of structured activities that enable young people to build practical and personal life skills. They should be supported to set goals and to develop and try new skills. They should also be intentional and support youth to build their confidence, resilience and independence. Decisions about the nature of these structured activities can be tailored based on the needs and interests of mentees. 

Flexible activities include

These activities include opportunities for mentees to develop and refine practical life skills, acquire new knowledge and information, as well as determine their own goals and be guided to achieve them by the mentor. Structured activities can work in parallel with unstructured activities, such as socialising between mentee and mentor or between mentee and peers.

Promoting connections beyond the mentor-mentee relationship helps build social skills and establish and extend support networks. Mentees should be supported to connect with and contribute to their community.

Flexible activities include

Developing social networks with families and peers can strengthen the prosocial supports available to mentees. Involving parents in the mentoring process can help address any issues the child might face at home. Community service projects give mentees an opportunity to practice the skills they’ve learnt and connect with their community.


To learn more about core components see: How do core components work?

Last updated:

07 Apr 2022

Was this content useful?
We will use your rating to help improve the site.
Please don't include personal or financial information here
Please don't include personal or financial information here

We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future. 

Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.

You can access our apology to the Stolen Generations.

Top Return to top of page Top