Tips and Stories

Interested in writing a Tips and Stories post? Contact us HERE with your ideas!

What will you experience when attending Canteen events and programs?


Hey there, welcome to Canteen programs – your new safe space for having fun and making meaningful connections! You might know us as the “Bandanna Day people”, but did you know we provide therapeutic and recreational events and programs? Get ready to dive into a world of painting classes, burger nights, ninja warrior days, video gaming, mini golf, online quiz nights, camps, retreats AND MORE.

image of some canteen staff and young people at a canteen connect event

This post is written by Canteen's Senior Programs Officer, Emily (left)

Canteen Australia provides support for 12 – 25-year-olds,and we have done so for over 35 years now… so we understand the world of cancer, and we create safe spaces where you can meet others with similar experiences. Building genuine connections makes all the difference. With Canteen events on every month, across capital cities, regional centres and online, we've got plenty on offer!

At Canteen we provide both therapeutic programs (where you can chat about your cancer experience and learn new coping strategies); and recreational programs where you can just have a good time and enjoy the company of others. Both types offer a supportive environment where you can forge lasting connections with people who get it, and embrace moments of joy.

an image of two canteen young people who are enjoying a canteen event

Two young people at a Canteen Connect event

If you’re not sure about going to a program yet, a really nice way to dip your toes in is with a digital event! We have different online options every month, and you can participate as much or as little as you like – some people start with their cameras off until they get a good feel for it! Digital events are wonderful because you can join from the comfort of your home, and for some events we even post out some resources beforehand, so you get areal hands-on experience. Some of our popular online events are craft nights, book club and quiz nights.

A common worry I hear is that people are nervous about being “the new person”. I’d love to reassure you that we have different young people attending our programs every month; and everyone attending is warm, welcoming and looking to make new connections. Our Programs Officers design their events to move through any awkwardness early on, and ensure everyone feels included. Also, it’s good to remember that other people attending our Canteen events are coming along for the same reasons as you – they want to be around others who understand what it’s like to be impacted by cancer and are looking to make new friends too. 

So, what can you expect from a Canteen program? Typically, our events have around 15 – 25 people attending, with a few staff members too. Having said this, we do sometimes hold smaller more intimate events of 5 – 10 people. When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by a friendly staff member; and once everyone’s there we’ll kick off the event by welcoming you all and setting some expectations. At Canteen we are passionate about the inclusive and safe space we provide at our events, and it’s important that all our attendees play a part in that.  

image of a canteen connect event where a group of young people went away to the snow

Canteen young people at the Winter Retreat in the Snowy Mountains

Once we jump into our activity, perhaps it’s roller skating, bowling, crafts, board games (literally anything you can imagine), attendees can freely mix and mingle with each other. Some young people want to talk about their cancer experiences, and others are keen to just chat about daily life. We encourage everyone to verbalise what they feel comfortable with – it’s totally okay to say “hey, I don’t feel like talking about cancer today, can we change the topic?” At the end of the event we always encourage people to share contact details if they’ve made a nice connection. 

If you’re thinking about coming along to a Canteen program, I’d encourage you to jump onto Canteen Connect and have a look at what’s coming up on our Events page. If you register for an event through Canteen Connect, a Programs Officer will be in touch and will link you in with a team member so you can join Canteen. 

While the journey through cancer can be tough, Canteen events are here to bring you joy and remind you of the importance of fun and laughter.  

By Emily N, Senior Programs Officer, Canteen Australia