StepUp with FICE – a unique program for vulnerable women in Melbourne’s outer east

Cire Services Inc.

Supported beneficiary groups within Women & Girls
Age Demographic
Varied Ages
Project Focus
Project Area

Project Description

Cire’s First Impressions Clothing Exchange (FICE) program’s StepUp project is an empowering weekly program of group workshopping and 1:1 mentoring. StepUp helps participants stand tall by helping enhance their employability, pathways to training, greater financial security and independence, and gender equality.

Our pilot StepUp program was such a success we are hoping to offer it ongoing, subject to funding.

Based at Lilydale in Melbourne’s outer east, StepUp draws on FICE’s grassroots work with long-term unemployed and vulnerable women in the region, supported by established networks across the community and beyond.

FICE participants typically experience overlapping discrimination/disadvantage, complex challenges and a heightened risk of falling through the cracks of support. FICE empowers these women through a wrap-around approach involving education/upskilling/ mentoring/personal development/hands-on work experience in a safe, non-judgmental, supportive environment.

StepUp with FICE includes:

  • weekly over 10 weeks, 1:1 mentoring
  • weekly 3 hour workshops over 10 weeks, comprising:
    • personal/work/study goal-setting
    • pathways/action plans
    • work upskilling/development, including micro-credentials
  • hands-on retail experience at FICE’s stores
  • volunteering to develop transferable skills
  • local networking opportunities to build skills/increase community participation.

Expected Outcomes

Cire’s FICE empowers vulnerable women to be their best selves; engage meaningfully in community life and employment, fostering community connectedness/belonging; and achieve financial security and independence. StepUp helps further increase women’s confidence self-worth, leading to improved mental health; and fosters friendships and increased community connectedness.

The following feedback highlights the success of our pilot program:

  • I learned to improve my mental health along with making my resume better. This was a great social experience for me. – Ashleigh
  • The best thing about this program was making friends. – Chloe
  • The StepUp program gave me the confidence to start studying for the first time. – Rickie
  • The best thing about this program was becoming one with my mental health. I now have the confidence to step back into the workforce. – Jen


Highlighting the vulnerability of women in the Yarra Ranges LGA and the need for FICE's wrap-around approach, are the following 2021 Census statistics:

  • 6,465 single parent families, 78.3% are single mothers
  • 2,793 single parent families in the Yarra Ranges live below poverty line
  • 57% of unpaid childcare provided by women
  • women provided 60.9% of unpaid assistance to someone with a disability, health condition or due to old age
  • 1,425 women looking for work
  • 150 single mothers looking for work, accounting for 87.2% of single parents looking for work

Project Data & Lessons

Project data will be collected through:

  • Pre-program moderation, verification & auditing
  • Post-program evaluation, self-assessment & learnings
  • Regular feedback from participants & network partners:
    • Program commencement
    • Throughout program delivery
    • Immediately after program completion, then at 3 months and 6 months


At a pre-intake interview, personal pathways and action plans are determined, then reviewed regularly to allow participants to evaluate personal progress, assist data collection & analysis, help measure program success and enable FICE to report effectively on participant & program outcomes.

Network partners will further contribute to the program evaluation process through workshops and forums. Lessons and learnings through the evaluation process help inform refinements to the StepUp program.

Project Dates

Subject to funding support for four term-long programs over 12 months, commencement would be at the start of the next term

Funding Details

Funding Needed
Current Funding
Total Project Costs
Approved Tax Deductability Status
Approved Tax Concession Charity
Other Funding Sources
Cire in-kind ($10,000)
Other Support Opportunities
Other Forms of Support
Ideally FICE would love to have an ongoing sponsor/philanthropic partner/champion; donations of good quality clothing

Organisation Details

Cire Services Inc.
ABN: 51933700538


Andy Popkiss (They/Them)
Phone: 0401800050

About Cire Services Inc.

Cire Services Inc. is one of the largest, most reputable NFPs in the Yarra Ranges in Melbourne’s outer east with an increasing presence in the City of Casey and Cardinia Shire. A registered charity and unique to the region, we provide flexible learning opportunities, education and training and a depth and breadth of innovative community programs and services to help meet the needs of, and empower, all those within our reach.

We are committed to connecting people of all ages, interests and backgrounds, providing lifelong learning opportunities and supporting communities to identify and address their own needs. We aim to help individuals be their best, particularly those experiencing socio-economic disadvantage and marginalisation, and in doing so, help strengthen families and communities.
Since commencing as Upper Yarra Community House in 1976, Cire has expanded enormously to meet local needs through its core services of Cire Training, our award-winning Registered Training Organisation (RTO) and including First Impression Clothing Exchange (FICE) Program for vulnerable women; Community School for at-risk youth; Cire Early Learning; and Cire Community Hubs.

Employing approx. 280 people, we operate through outreach and at sites in Lilydale, Yarra Junction, Mount Evelyn, Chirnside Park, and Monbulk in the Yarra Ranges; Berwick in the City of Casey and Pakenham in Cardinia Shire.
90%+ of our revenue is in tied government funding. We rely on grants to fund our programs.

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