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Tucked away in a small residential street in South Yarra is a historical gem that has been shining light into the lives of children and teens for more than 40 years.

While many locals might not even realise it's there, St Martins Youth Arts Centre has a long and respected history as an arts organisation, working with children and young people since 1980.

But St Martins’ history as a theatrical institution actually stretches back to the 1930s, when the Melbourne Little Theatre was established in 1934. The theatre complex on St Martins Lane was built in 1956, and renamed St Martins in 1962.

Since then, St Martins has been delivering its renowned creative workshop program for young people from across Melbourne, where they collaborate with professional artists to create surprising, beautiful and relevant performances for adult audiences.

The company runs 16 workshops every week during school terms, reaching over 200 children across multiple sites in South Yarra, Prahran, Northcote, Dandenong and St Albans. The drama-focused workshops nurture young people’s creativity while connecting them to the wider arts community.

People socialising in front of a brick building

Exterior of St Martins Hall with guests attending a party

Photo of black elevated stage and red audience chairs

Interior of Randall Theatre at St Martins Youth Arts Centre

‘St Martins is a powerful and creative space where children and teens feel they belong,’ says Nadja Kostich, Artistic Director and Co-CEO of St Martins.

Alumna, Julia Zemiro agrees: ‘When you go to St Martins you start to feel like you belong somewhere. It’s a very welcoming place, a shining beacon of light that allows kids to really express themselves.’

Nadja says she is really proud of how St Martins’ programs support children to build and sustain friendships, find creativity and self-expression, and grow self-esteem and joy.

The children agree, with 100 per cent of young people who attend the workshops saying that St Martins lifts their mood, and many describing it as a special place where they feel safe to be their authentic selves.

To ensure every child can equally access the arts, St Martins offers an Inclusion Scholarship Program for young people aged 5 to 18, who face barriers to participation.

Barriers may be due to disability, neurodivergence, learning challenges, cultural and linguistic difference, economic difficulty, gender diversity and sexual identity.

‘Through all our programs we strive to dissolve these barriers by focusing on access, inclusion and participation. We focus on each child’s strengths and interests, while also extending their social, emotional and physical skills.

Two years on and with young people facing significant mental health challenges brought on by the pandemic, the need for community connection is stronger than ever.

To ensure St Martins can continue to support young people to thrive for another 40 years, you can join the newly-launched giving program, ‘It’s time for young people to thrive’, which aims to raise $50,000.

How you can support St Martins

Venue spaces for hire

St Martins has a number of venues that the community can hire, for children’s birthday parties, meetings, events and performances:
Interior of hall with table and cushions set up for child's 5th birthday party

Interior of St Martins Hall set up for a child's birthday party

Hiring a venue at St Martins