Juvenile Justice Mentoring Scheme

The Juvenile Justice Mentoring Scheme (JJMS) offers students the opportunity to mentor young residents at the Reiby Juvenile Justice Centre for Girls and the Cobham Juvenile Justice Centre for Boys. Students attend on a weekly or fortnightly basis, designing engaging recreational, inspirational and educational programs. They are often based around craft, music, sport or other team-building exercises. The program runs throughout both semesters, as well as the Winter and Summer holiday periods.

The Scheme began as an initiative in 2011 out of the work of the Sydney University Law Society’s Indigenous Social Justice Subcommittee. SULS began by sending volunteers one day a week to Juniperina Juvenile Justice Centre in Lidcombe to run recreational activities with the all-female residents at the centre. In 2016, the Juniperina facility was transferred to the Reiby Juvenile Justice Centre in Airds. Volunteers continue the program at the new centre, as well as at Cobham.

The Juvenile Justice Mentoring Scheme has evolved to a program that allows mentors and young offenders to share their experiences, foster relationships, and provide opportunities for both volunteers and inmates to learn from one another. The Scheme aims to nurture young people in confinement, making them feel that they are part of a larger community of young people that can truly make a difference in the world and in their own lives, no matter what their background.

Background

The juvenile justice centres in New South Wales are run by the New South Wales Department of Juvenile Justice. Aside from administering custodial sentences, Juvenile Justice NSW is also responsible for community-based orders and facilitating youth justice conferencing.

In 2010-11, the average daily number of young people in custody was 391. Among that number, 8% were female. 47% were of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background.

These centres are well-staffed and resourced, with young offenders at some facilities given the opportunity to complete TAFE courses and receive other qualifications, such as barista training. Inmates are provided with counselling, chaplaincy and recreational activities.

 

BENEFITS AND OBJECTIVES

Long-term friendship and support between young people: One of our main aims is to ensure long-term consistency in our presence at the centres participating in the Scheme. Our experiences at Juniperina, for example, have suggested that the young women in custody tend to be surprised but pleased that we continue to come back again week after week. As mostly young university students, we can provide a kind of relationship that is different to that which the inmates share with their parents and guards. Our consistency, reliability and punctuality — along with the fact that we care — do not go unnoticed.

Mentoring: Mentoring is really is the heart of what we’re doing. By developing volunteers’ confidence, leadership and communication skills, they are able to become better mentors and interact more successfully with young people in confinement, hopefully making an impact on their lives through the programming of inspirational, creative, challenging and educational activities.

Learning about the juvenile justice system: As law students, it is not often that we get the chance to learn from experience rather than from a textbook. The Scheme provides volunteers with the valuable opportunity to engage hands-on with the NSW Department of Juvenile Justice and expand their understanding of issues relating to criminal justice, social inequality and juvenile justice in Australia.

 

PROGRAMS ORGANISED BY THE VOLUNTEERS MUST FULFILL AT LEAST ONE OF THE FOLLOWING CRITERIA:

  • Facilitating one-on-one or one-on-two interaction between inmates and volunteers;
  • Undertaking activities that require the inmates to be self-reflective about their aspirations, goals for the future, etc.;
  • Creating a feeling of ‘working towards a common goal’ rather than solely working independently;
  • Running, or bringing in special guests to run: careers workshops; art workshops (dancing, painting, acting, etc.); motivational speakers; celebrity guest Q&As, etc.
  • Encouraging the inmates to take on leadership roles themselves as part of the activity;
  • Discussing, or exploring in a creative way, issues of Australian and/or Aboriginal identity and/or identity as a young person.

If you have any questions or comments about the Juvenile Justice Mentoring Scheme, the Program Co-Chairs can be contacted at juvenilejusticementoring@suls.org.au.