Introducing the Justice Transition Alliance

I am proud to be a founding member of the Justice Transition Alliance – a new, collaborative Victorian network working to raise awareness to the systemic challenges in transition out of the criminal justice system and recommending evidence-based solutions. Victoria needs a unified voice on the systemic issues impacting people in contact with the justice system and that is where the Justice Transition Alliance comes in. We are a new state-based network of service providers, academics, people with lived experience and passionate community members working to address the systemic challenges of transition out of the criminal justice system. Together, we are raising awareness of these challenges, recommending evidence-based solutions, and developing a unified and compelling voice on priority issues of concern. Learn more about our work, membership, and how to be involved. We welcome new members and all forms of expertise:

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Empowering Leaders Summit

My mission in life is to create positive reform in the criminal justice system. Sharing a snapshot of my journey at the Empowering Leaders Summit was a wonderful experience. The opportunity made possible by two amazing women Alexandra Egan and Yaja Nowakowski. You can see all the podcasts from the summit here.

Empowering Leaders Summit

Creating positive reformative change

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Highlights of 2019: No. 3: John Silvester’s Naked City article ‘Ex-crims talking crooks straight’.

The third significant memorable event of 2019 is thanks to John Silvester, legend Australian journalist and crime writer extraordinaire.

Titled ‘Ex-crims talking crooks straight’ John tells my story, the catalyst for my Churchill Fellowship; how that led to Deakin University’s Straight Talking Peer Mentoring program and highlights one of the programs inspirational peer mentors Simon Fenech.

Here is the story written by John, in his most brilliant style, for his regular Saturday Age column Naked City.

By John Silvester, The Age.

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Highlights of 2019: No. 2: Victorian Custody Reference Group (VCRG)

In June, Rob Melasecca, long standing chair of the Victorian Custody Reference Group (VCRG) announced my appointment as his successor. Fotini Panagiotidis and Peter Rankin became joint deputy chairs and Rob Melasecca manager of communications and public relations. Rob has always been and still is an absolute legend and inspiration for me, the VCRG and everyone involved in the system.

I was immensely thrilled, humbled and honoured to be appointed chair of a group I have held dear to my heart for many years; and follow the irreplaceable leadership shoes of Rob, Magistrate Steve Myall and Major Dennis McMillin.

As chair of the VCRG, it was a tremendous honour to present to Victoria’s Magistrates at their Education Conference in July.

The VCRG has now held it’s 154th meeting and has over 25 members.


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Highlights of 2019: No.1: The Straight Talking Peer Mentoring Program

As the year 2019 and 2nd decade of the 21st Century draws to a close I am delighted to share with you three memorable professional events. The first occurred in February. The implementation and delivery of the Deakin University Straight Talking Peer Mentoring Program based on my Churchill Fellowship.

Promoted here by Geelong Advertiser

Help for Inmates

As the Straight Talking peer mentoring program Project Coordinator, I had the honour of presenting the trial’s early findings at two conferences.

The 9th International Criminal Justice Conference held 20 – 22 November at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and the 2019 ANZSOC Conference held 10 – 13 December at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.

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ABC prison stories with the personal Churchill Fellowship connection

The most significant memorable event of 2018 is thanks to the ABC and my former partner Craig, whom was the personal catalyst for my Churchill Fellowship. The ABC investigated and ran prison related stories in the lead up to the Victorian State Election.

Sarah Farnsworth, ABC reporter contacted me. Sarah said she had been ‘tasked with looking at justice policy and the “tough on crime” approach being adopted by both parties – but the one thing that is always lacking in these stories is people who have actually had firsthand experience of prison and their thoughts…on what works and what doesn’t’.

Craig agreed to be the person with firsthand experience of prison interviewed and filmed by the ABC for the story. He was incredibly brave and fabulous in what he said.

In the week beginning 5th November Sarah Farnsworth’s story was podcast and broadcast on ABC Melbourne radio; shown on the 7pm TV News and then online. You can read and listen to them below.

Matters of State: Why is Victoria’s prison system failing?

Victoria’s ‘madhouse’ prisons are expensive, but are they making the state more dangerous?

James Oaten, ABC reporter then ran a subsequent ABC prison story he had been investigating that included post release aspects of Craig’s interview and my perspective. This was published on 12th November.

Inmate released in uniform prompts emergency phone call — and questions about policy

My eternal gratitude and thanks go to Sarah, Craig and James, and the ABC.

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User Voice founder visits Australia to spread the peer led word

As the year 2018 draws to a close I am sharing two very memorable events. The first occurred in June 2018, when a Churchill Fellowship vision came to fruition.

I met User Voice in London on the fifth day of my seven week Churchill Fellowship in 2015. Inspired beyond my wildest dream by the work of User Voice and founder and CEO, Mark Johnson, I have been advocating Australia adopt their model and start the peer led revolution ever since.

Mark Johnson’s visit to Australia was made possible through philanthropic grants funding the Deakin University peer mentoring project I am coordinating and based on my Churchill Fellowship. Mark was accompanied on his whirlwind two weeks of activity by his co-founder Daniel Hutt, now living in Australia.

It was fabulous joining Mark and Dan with Marisa on 3CR’s Doin Time show on 18th June. You can listen to the: Podcast here 

We then shared time in Hobart, Tasmania for the Reintegration Puzzle Conference. Mark was a keynote speaker and I co presented on the Deakin University peer mentoring project with Marngoneet Correctional Centre General Manager, Wayne Harper.

Mark Johnson’s final two days were in Geelong. Mark spoke to and with many interested, engaged and inspired prisoners and staff in Marngoneet Correctional Centre and then to over a hundred people in a packed lecture theatre at Deakin University’s Geelong Waterfront campus. Even more memorable were the stimulating and inspiring chats Mark, Dan and I had during the trip.

It has given me further vision, resolve and drive to realise the peer led revolution in Australia.

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Peer-led mentoring program to break cycle of crime & imprisonment

Source: Peer-led mentoring program to break cycle of crime & imprisonment

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3CR’s Doin Time broadcast 14th August, 2017, focusing on the lived experience of prison.

Wonderful to be in the 3CR studio again with Marisa for the Doin Time show. Marisa and I had a conversation about the lived experience of the criminal justice system with Keith Hinde and Nick Cernigoi from the Australian Red Cross. Keith Hinde is the Coordinator of the Red Cross Prison Support Program in Tasmania. Nicholas Cernigoi is a Project Officer in the Red Cross Prison Support Program. This program is a volunteer-led community development program that trains selected prisoners to become Peer Supporters in Risdon Prison. Nick is studying a Diploma of Community Services from TasTAFE, and has grounded experience in the Prison Support Program. We spoke about their innovative program, Nick’s experience of overcoming challenges in prison, my Churchill Fellowship report and the recent Reintegration Puzzle Conference.

Listen to the 3CR Doin Time podcast to hear this interview.

3CR Community Radio 855am

Claire Seppings, Nick Ross (Red Cross), Keith Hinde (Red Cross)

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An innovative trial of peer mentor support for ex-prisoners to break the cycle of recidivism.

Great news! My Churchill Fellowship  research has now come to life in Australia!

As we know, in overseas jurisdictions, ex-prisoners who have reformed contribute to reducing re-offending by mentoring newly released prisoners and advising on improvements to service systems that enable people to live a crime free life.

Philanthropic trusts have granted Deakin University funds to develop and trial a peer-led mentoring program to break the cycle of crime and imprisonment in Geelong. This partnership project between Deakin University and Corrections Victoria will design and test a model of peer mentorship for the Australian context, based on my Churchill Fellowship research. Deakin University has appointed me the Project Coordinator.

Many thanks to these Philanthropic Trusts, Deakin University and Corrections Victoria for enabling this to happen.

Give Where You Live: Health & Wellbeing Innovation Grant
Deakin University: To reduce the likelihood that a person will commit further crime and return to prison by providing them with a structured peer mentoring program upon release from prison. The peer-mentoring program will provide direct support and referral to a range of support services that support people who are disadvantaged.

Helen Macpherson Smith Trust: Regional Resilience grant
Deakin University: The role of Peer Mentors in breaking the cycle of crime and imprisonment in Geelong. To undertake a trial of peer led mentoring program for people leaving prison and returning to Geelong under the supervision of Community Correctional Services to test applicability in the Australian context.

The R E Ross Trust
Deakin University: The Role of Peer Mentors in Breaking the Cycle of Crime and Imprisonment in Geelong.

Stay tuned!

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