Building on the user voice reform I was inspired beyond expectation on my Churchill Fellowship trip in 2015, the Reintegration Puzzle Conference convened by Deakin University, now in its 13th year and with the theme #changingsystemsfromtheinsideout has celebrated its best, most moving, informative, reformative and credible conference to date, helping to break down the ‘us versus them’ division.
In the words of User Voice (United Kingdom),
We believe that the fundamental issue that causes high rates of re-offending and all the other associated problems is the ‘us vs. them’ culture. Society feels frustrated with those who re-offend repeating cycles of behaviour and not engaging with rehabilitation services. Yet people with convictions feel marginalised by society, with rehabilitation services which are often inaccessible and unhelpful and a system that doesn’t value their input. Whatever the truth, we won’t reduce crime unless we deal with this division.
Rehabilitation only happens when everyone in the criminal justice system shares responsibility for transforming the ‘us vs. them’ division into real collaboration.
Bringing together some of the most emerging inspirational people with lived experience of the criminal justice system in Australia, the Reintegration Puzzle conference was led by speakers sharing their own stories and how they are now driven to bring reform to the Australian prison system. Combining lived and professional experience they are inspiring and empowering others who are struggling to ‘go straight’ move forward positively with their lives in the mainstream world and informing policy makers on much needed systemic change.
Glenn E Martin, JustLeadershipUSA spoke to conference delegates via a pre-recorded interview with Matt Tyler in Harlem, New York, USA. Glenn reinforced the message those closest to the problem are closest to the solution.
Conference keynote speaker, Keenan Mundine, Principal Consultant/Owner of Inside Out Aboriginal Justice Consultancy powerfully stated #don’ttalkaboutuswithoutus and #morethandataandstatistics. Behind the data and research statistics are real people. People with feelings and emotion.
Wise words continued from many speakers. In the session Reintegration: Women with Seeds of Affinity and Radio Seeds we heard how prison does not solve the social problems that lead to offending and only makes it worse. What is needed is connection, relationships and community acceptance.
I was honoured to present again on my Churchill Fellowship research in the breakout session Harnessing Lived Experience with inspirational colleagues. It was wonderful to know that one of my research recommendations has come to fruition at this conference:
3. b) Criminal justice conferences and forums should routinely invite reformed offenders as keynote speakers, including international speakers.
I was thrilled to be interviewed by Radio Seeds for their next podcast and interviewed live by Raf Epstein on ABC Melbourne’s Drive program while at the conference and let listeners know that we will soon trial a peer mentoring program in Victoria! Stay tuned! You can listen here: ABC Melbourne Drive
Real reform has begun. Profound personal, community and systemic change in Australia is now possible.