In 2003, Oaktree had no office and no budget and only a small team of people.
They met in living rooms, cafes and school classrooms, to pursue an audacious goal: young people working to end extreme poverty in our lifetime.
Since then, our work has evolved to address today’s greatest challenges. Today, Oaktree is one of the largest youth-run organisations in Australia, leading youth participation and empowerment for a more just world.
Students reading in a new library built in one of the Demonstration Schools as part of our Beacon Schools Initiative in Cambodia.
Our first overseas partnership was was an organisation called Sethani, In Kwa Zulu Natal., South Africa. Between 2006 and 2008 we worked with Sethani to invest $83,000 - funding the establishment of a community and education centre for 750 young people.
Since then, Oaktree has partnered with three other South African organisations, as well as organisations in Ghana, East Timor, Cambodia, PNG and the Philippines.
In 2011, we shifted our entire focus to the Asia Pacific. We’ve been lucky to work with over 10 local partners on projects in the region, directly benefiting almost 20,000 people. Overall, Oaktree has invested over $8 million in overseas partnerships - and every cent of that has come from people like you.
One of our biggest wins is the Beacon Schools Initiative, in Cambodia. At the beginning, the project's demonstration school has such a poor reputation it was facing closure. Six years later, it won second prize for best school in Cambodia at the Annual National Congress for Education. In 2016, elements of the project were signed into national education policy. The Cambodian government is running a pilot version of the project in five schools, with a vision to expand to 20.
Raising awareness and influencing policy
People still talk to us about the 2006 MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY concert, which was timed to coincide with the G20 meeting in Melbourne. 15,000 people attended and over 3 million people watched the concert on TV.
From there we ran three Roadtrips and a Seat Stakeout (2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016) - which mobilised hundreds of young people around the country to put poverty on the agenda in their communities. For 10 years, young people have been at front and centre of our campaigning.
In 2010, the idea for Live Below the Line was born in the backyard of a sharehouse in Melbourne. Live Below the Liner challenges Australians to eat on $2 a day for five days to raise funds and awareness for work that fights poverty and injustice. Since then, the campaign has raised over $10 million dollars, and engaged more than 50,000 Australians to take the challenge.
For six years, Oaktree worked directly with high schoolers, through our Schools 4 Schools program. We provided knowledge and leadership training, so students could turn their passion into well-informed, well-directed, and influential action. From 2008, a similar program, Generate, was on offer for university aged students. Generators have been some of our most committed campaigners, and highest Live Below the Line fundraisers - raising just under $6 million in four years.
Over the past few years, our student ambassador program has given students across the country a chance to lead Live Below the Line and other campaigns in their school community. In 2018, almost 300 student ambassadors ran Live Below the Line in 90 schools.
Shifting our strategy in 2018
In 2018, we shifted our strategy to reflect our strengths and address our regions' greatest challenges.
Today, we are young people leading, demanding and creating a more just world, with a vision for a world where all people have the opportunity to thrive.