Understanding What Matters in Youth Residential Recovery Services (YRRS)


  • Practice research
  • Service evaluations
  • Youth Mental Health

A participatory action research project to understand what matters to young people and staff in Youth Residential Rehabilitation Services (YRRS).

Who is involved

Neami National, current and former YRRS consumers, and Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health

Project status



The What Matters project was initiated to better understand the priorities and expectations of young people living in Neami’s four Youth Residential Rehabilitation Services (YRRS). YRRS are community-based mental health recovery programs, funded by the Victorian Government to address the needs of young people aged 16-25 who have significant mental health concerns. While departmental funding and reporting guidelines determine some output and outcome measures, little is known about what matters from the perspectives of young people and staff.

Adopting a co-production approach, we deepened our understanding of the essential components of a recovery focused, trauma-informed, residential model of care from those who matter most. Fundamental to this approach was a steering group comprised of six current and former residents, two YRRS staff, two Orygen researchers, one lived experience researcher who had not lived at a YRRS, and two Neami researchers. Co-production ensures that youth voices are central to research design, delivery, analysis, and dissemination. It shifts typical power relationships, values the range of expertise that people bring, and builds capacity for all involved.


Our research identified both the ‘change work’ young people did in YRRS’ and the factors that created a supportive environment for this to occur. We learned that real relationships with staff and other young people creates a culture of belonging, safety and feeling known. This enables young people to figure out their directions and goals, and learn new skills, as they are becoming experts of themselves. These findings are metaphorically captured in the image of an egg – a nurturing and interdependent whole.

We identified three phases that young people typically journey through over the course of a YRRS stay – Arriving, Discovering, and Continuing. These are described in a collaborative autoethnography that seeks to engage and centre some of the lived experience of residing or working in a YRRS.

Our findings are informing how we approach measuring what matters to young people in YRRS and are supporting the development of resources to support the model.


Rebecca Spies

Bek (she/her) is a qualitative researcher, passionate about participatory approaches to research and evaluation and their potential to disrupt the status quo and redistribute power.
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Dr. Priscilla Ennals

Priscilla (she/her) has worked in the role of Senior Manager of Research and Evaluation at Neami National since 2016.
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Rebecca Egan

Bec (she/they/we) is a qualitative Lived Experience Researcher.
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