The best of crime and violence prevention in 2018

By The Mandarin

December 3, 2018

Twelve of Australia’s top programs tackling justice in innovative and effective ways have been recognised in the annual Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards.

The awards are now in their 27th year, providing a snapshot of good practice in the prevention or reduction of violence and other types of crimes in Australia, and assist governments in identifying and development practical projects. There are two categories for programs each year, police-led and community-led. The selection board is chaired by Michael Phelan, director of the Australian Institute of Criminology and former Australian Federal Police deputy commissioner for national security.

A collaborative response to domestic and family violence

For the third year in a row, Queensland Police Service has taken out the top policing honours — this year for the Gold Coast Domestic and Family Violence Taskforce — a collaboration with outside agencies to tackle family violence after a string of high profile deaths. Detective Senior Sergeant Vanessa Wiseman says its lead to a cultural shift in the QPS, while the selection board noted a strong evidence-base underpinning to those efforts:

“The taskforce has developed new relationships, programs, practices and strategies which have substantially improved safety for our most vulnerable. High level professional services are meeting the needs and expectations of victims of violence, and homicides have been prevented. Collaborative adaptive working relationships thrive on trust and understanding with the prevention benefits spilling into all areas relating to the treatment of complex social harm and crime. The new approaches, programs and partnerships are providing great public and social value now and for the future.

“This is a multi-faceted, evidence-based response to family and domestic violence. The initiative addresses an issue of national concern and reduces serious impacts on victims. The nomination was backed by substantial supporting information that clearly articulates the need for a focused and multi-faceted response to the problem of family and domestic violence and gives evidence of its success, including statistics indicating a downward trend in violent incidents.”

Raising awareness of youth abuse in Indigenous communities

Following a landmark report on youth sexual violence and abuse in Queensland’s far north, a project called Speak Up, Be Strong, Be Heard was launched to raise community awareness, strengthen reporting obligations and improve agency interventions in the community. The project was developed and implemented by two Indigenous QPS officers, which has enhanced acceptance and delivery with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities.

“The program engages locally in a culturally appropriate and inclusive way that responds to local Indigenous needs. While the program is yet to be properly evaluated, there is evidence that reporting has substantially increased, in a way that is likely to be at least partly attributable to this program.”

Connecting Muslim women to support

Connected Women is a partnership between women from the QPS and the Islamic Women’s Association of Australia matches newly arrived young Muslim refugee women with senior female police mentors for a nine-week program to empower and education them to reduce violence and increase reporting, accessibility, safety and the human rights of participants.

“This is a very practical approach to connecting police with vulnerable women who may have experienced trauma, who may be victims of family violence and other offences, and who may not trust police. The program has the potential to empower these women in ways that help them stay free of violent victimisation. The nomination includes materials that demonstrate the initiative’s effectiveness in action and summarise the findings of an independent evaluation.”

Teaching safety to international students

A partnership between the NSW Police Force’s Wollongong Local Area Command and the University of Wollongong, Stay Safe in our State, was aimed at increasing public safety and reducing fear of crime by teaching students new to the area how to access assistance. This was accomplished via a video, made accessible via a number of common languages and in small, topical units.

Teaching a trade to curb offending behaviour

‍Police Liaison Officer Laurie Bateman started teaching shearing to young vulnerable people in the Cunnamulla area of Queensland to reduce offending behaviour, which was later adopted more formally as the South West District Blue Light Shearing Project

“In a time when jobs are difficult to find, the shearing project has provided much needed skills and hope to young people in the south west, affording them work in one of the few local industries that has future growth prospects. The program has already diverted many young people away from offending and violent behaviour and given them hope for the future.

“This is a good example of a local initiative in a community that has a range of socio-economic challenges. The project has the potential to contribute to positive outcomes in employment, wellbeing and perhaps crime prevention. The initiative is cleverly targeted to the needs of the local area and has been well received by participants.”

PLO Laurie Bateman from Cunnamulla (right) and PLO Adam Osbourne from St George (left)

Connecting teachers with disengaged youth

Save the Children’s Out Teach Mobile Education project is bringing teachers to some of Tasmania’s disengaged youth to reduce youth crime. For a variety of reasons some young people can’t be educated in the traditional classroom, so the mobile classroom offers an informal setting to build a pathway to mainstream educational or vocational re-engagement.

“Over three years, 80 percent of participants did not return to court and 89 percent did not return to or enter detention.

“This is a simple but valuable initiative that addresses education deficit, a key social determinant of disadvantage and involvement with the criminal justice system. The outcomes and impacts described are impressive. The initiative is very well grounded and appears effective from the perspective of the young people it targets. It gains strength from being part of the holistic approach taken by Save the Children in Tasmania.”

Whole-of-community approach to family violence

From Victoria’s Cardinia community comes a partnership that’s seen a 16% fall in reported incidents of family violence. The Together We Can project is led by Family Life, in partnership with Cardinia Shire, Victoria Police, the University of Melbourne and the local community to address the problem of family and domestic violence through a whole-of-community approach.

“This project is special and innovative for its local government centred approach to mobilising the community. The initiative shows considerable merit in the range of activities it has organised.”

Residential rehab for young people

The Mac River Residential Drug and Alcohol Centre‘s rehabilitation service provides a 12-week program to young people aged 13-18 from rural NSW. Run as a partnership between Mission Australia, NSW Juvenile Justice, NSW Department of Education, and NSW Department of Health, the program offers “intensive therapeutic treatment to address offending behaviours and substance use, participate in formal schooling, develop life skills, receive social and emotional support, participate in family therapy and are supported to engage with their culture.”

“This very sound youth justice initiative uses solid evidence-based approaches. The evidence supplied with the nomination suggests the intervention is producing positive results, as part of a broader solution to well-established offending behaviours and circumstances. The program is responsive to the needs of its client group and has been in operation for several years.”

A day to raise awareness about child safety

Day for Daniel is a national day of action to raise awareness of child safety, protection and prevention, held on the last Friday of October every year. The Daniel Morcombe Foundation uses the day to raise money for education programs, resource development and support for young survivors of violent crime.

Using the theme of wearing red, the goal is to prevent children from experiencing abuse, and help them to identify this and talk to an adult who can help them.

“This is a long-standing and high profile national event that, on the evidence, has very widespread reach and recognition. Evidence suggests it is effective in raising understanding and awareness in a way that can help to prevent serious and violent forms of crime that are rare but devastating. While it is only one day per year, its reach means many school age children will be exposed to the messages repeatedly across their school life, aiding retention of the information.”

Supporting women during and after prison

Seeds of Affinity is transforming women’s lives by running workshops and engaging with women through activity, advocacy and cooking and sharing meals.

“This program meets an important set of needs for women leaving prison. There has been a huge growth in the number of women in prison in South Australia (almost totally on remand) and any initiative that can help reduce this growth is valuable. The model of positive engagement and peer support is likely to be effective. What makes this program special is the tiny amount of money it functions on, being almost totally reliant on volunteers. The quality of the evidence provided, and the attempt at self-evaluation, are good given the very limited funding available.”

Post-prison employment and education

The biggest challenge faced by ex-offenders is getting a job with its implications on income, housing, establishing new networks and moving forward. Mates on the Move is a project from Prisoners Aide NSW that trains ex-offenders in the commercial transport and storage industry, springing from their existing role in storing possessions for prisoners while incarcerated and safe return after their release.

The training includes Certificate II in Warehouse Operations, Certificate III in Furniture Removals, forklift licences, work health and safety blue cards and life skills training.

“This is an innovative and practical initiative with a strong potential to contribute to reducing the growth of imprisonment. Both the social enterprise and the vocational training parts of the initiative address key contributors to reoffending, with the provision of accredited training and direct pathways to employment being very important elements. The retention and completion rates are impressive. It appears to be the first combined vocational training and employment pathway of its kind in Australia.”

Discussing respectful sexual behaviours in school

Tasmania’s Sexual Assault Support Service collaborates with schools to reach both potential perpetrators and victims of sexual violence, in addition to teachers as important influential adults in young people’s lives.

“Through its thought-provoking, engaging and participatory sessions, the program instils a responsibility for preventing and addressing sexual violence. The program is improving students’ knowledge of and attitudes towards sexual harassment and violence, consent, ethical decision-making, bystander interventions, and accessing help.”

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