Peer-led reintegration programs have proven to be successful in overseas jurisdictions. Claire Sepping’s 2015 Churchill Fellowship to study the rehabilitative role of ex- offenders as peer mentors in Reintegration models found projects she studied saw a significant decrease in reoffending rates of those who successfully engaged and had support of a peer mentor. Reformed ex-prisoners can play a vital role in leading system change and building capacity of people involved in the reoffending cycle to lead good lives, making the community feel safer. In 2017, Deakin University received philanthropic funds to develop and trial an Australian first innovative ‘through-the-gate’ peer mentoring model based on Claire Sepping’s Churchill Fellowship findings. Deakin is coordinating the two year project in partnership with the Department of Justice and Regulation (DJR). The project brings together a strong unique collaboration between Deakin University, DJR staff, local service providers and most importantly people with expert current and lived experience of the prison system; working together to develop, implement and trial the person centred through-the- gate peer mentoring program in Geelong, Victoria. The model is informed by the overseas research identifying prevailing thinking and recognised ‘best practice’ of international peer mentoring programs for ex-prisoners. The model is further supported by developing Victorian correctional policy and procedures within collaborative interagency reference and working groups providing expertise and guidance. The project includes a full 'action research' evaluation by Deakin University using an Action Research model. Deakin University and Department of Justice and Regulation will present an overview of the project.
Biography: Claire’s aspiration to bring about reformative change in the criminal justice system is driven by her extensive professional and lived experience. Graduating as a Social Worker from Monash University, Melbourne in 1984, she began her career with the Department of Social Security. Claire became a Naturopath in 1995 and conducted a healthy living program in Bendigo Prison in 1997. Claire’s lived experience comes from her journey with a former partner and their revolving prison journey, one of four decades of state care and prison experience. In recent years and over a decade, Claire managed Centrelink’s Victorian Justice Services Program, during which time she developed extensive relationships with non-/government sectors. Her creation, establishment and evaluation of many innovative projects to reduce recidivism and community impact, gained high-level recognition. In 2008, Claire received the Minister for Human Services Award for Exemplary Service to Customers and Stakeholders. In 2012, she was awarded the Victorian Custody Reference Group (VCRG) ‘Dennis McMillin Access to Justice Award’. In 2015 Claire was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study the rehabilitative role of ex- offenders as peer mentors in Reintegration models in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Sweden and USA. In July 2017, Deakin University received philanthropic funds to develop and trial an Australian first innovative peer mentoring model based on Claire Sepping’s Churchill Fellowship findings. Deakin University has appointed Claire as the peer mentoring trial's Project Coordinator.
Department of Justice and Regulation
General Manager, Marngoneet Correctional Centre Barwon South West Region -