021: How One Woman Helped Transform Lives And Challenge Systems Over Twenty Years with Cath Bartolo

Episode 21: How One Woman Helped Transform Lives And Challenge Systems Over Twenty Years with Cath Bartolo

Navigating the intricate landscape of non-profit service provision in a world of escalating social complexities necessitates innovation, holistic approaches, and person-centeredness. 

In this episode of Thriving in Complexity, Susanne Le Boutillier is joined by Cath Bartolo, CEO of YFS, whose pioneering work in Logan and surrounding areas is a testament to these principles. 

Honoured as a Member of the Order of Australia, Cath brings to the table two decades of experience working tirelessly with vulnerable populations. Throughout the conversation, she underlines the pivotal role of integration and partnership among service providers, communities, and a wide spectrum of stakeholders to achieve positive outcomes for individuals and families facing adversity. 

During our conversation, Cath talks about YFS’ transformative journey. From her early days to her commitment to rigorous, evidence-based programs and outcome measurement, she underscores the evolution and significance of case managers working with people as navigators or coaches. Cath also highlights the tremendous influence of initiatives like Logan Together, Thriving Families and Substation33 in opening up opportunities to do things differently. 

Cath brings to light the multifaceted challenges inherent to service provision amidst the increasing social complexities of our times. She emphasises the necessity for flexibility, understanding, and above all, empathy in service providers. Additionally, she explores the profound impact of establishing a bedrock of trust between the community and organisations like YFS in combating systemic harm. 

Join us as we explore the dynamic landscape of non-profit service provision, the power of a holistic approach, and the significance of innovation, empathy, and collaboration in addressing social complexities and improving lives.


  • An interesting trivia about Cath (02:59)
  • Complex community challenges in YFS (05:08) 
  • The importance of assessing outcomes (09:50)
  • The value of knowing the constants for long-term case management (12:45)
  • What is Case Management and how has it improved over the years (14:20)
  • How does YFS deal with the complexities of different case scenarios (16:45)
  • What Thriving Families are about and how they help young struggling families (24:33)
  • Why is the theory of change so significant for YFS? (32:10)
  • Why it’s essential to use evidence-based interventions (35:00)
  • Two creative programs Cath carried through at YFS (41:18) 
  • The benefits of disciplined dialogue processes (46:23) 
  • What does Thriving in Complexity mean for Cath (48:43) 
  • A complex situation she could’ve handled differently (49:50) 
  • What is Cath most proud of in her work? (52:30) 
  • Advice to her 25-year-old self (54:43)


“If we want to create change in people’s lives, we’ve got to do more than patch up a crisis.” -Cath Bartolo 

“It takes a lot of sophistication, and even stepping back reflecting what we’re doing, how we can continually improve it.” -Cath Bartolo 

“It’s not about directing, it’s very driven by who we’re working with and their goals.” -Cath Bartolo 

“Shift from feeling like you’re doing good to actually knowing the impact you’re having.” -Susanne Le Boutillier

Related episode: 018: The Power of Activating People in Complex Situations with Max Hardy


Website: yfs.org.au
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I have worked in Logan for more than 30 years as a teacher, disability co-ordinator and Chief Executive Officer of YFS. 

I am passionate about building independence and participation for those who need support to meet the challenges of our complex society. 

YFS is a not-for-profit community organisation based in Logan providing a range of services including; housing; domestic and family violence support; children, family and relationships services; youth services; legal; and financial counselling. I am proud to lead a team of dedicated professionals at YFS who are backing people not just to overcome adversity, but to thrive. 

I am a member of the Logan Together Cross Sector Leadership Table and chair the Logan Housing and Homelessness Strategy Group and the Not Now, Not Ever in Logan Reference Group.