Australian Institute of Criminology

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1993 award winners

Highly commended awards

Spirals Children's Program

Spirals is a South Australian based grief support program which has been developed to assist children and their mothers who have experienced domestic violence, and to deal with their feeling of grief and anger. The program was developed in order to reduce the future potential involvement in domestic violence for children who are living within violent families. It was initially developed for children but, following review, it was decided to develop a concurrent program for mothers.

In order to begin the healing process the program encourages the children and their mothers to share, and come to terms with, their feelings of loneliness, blame, anxiety and hopelessness.

The children's program consists of a maximum of five children of school age within a 2-year age range. The group can be of the same or mixed gender in equal numbers, but should not include siblings. The mothers' group runs concurrently with the children's group, and deals with the same issues from an adult perspective, to enhance the mother's understanding of their children's pain. The post evaluation of the mother's program showed a heightened perception by mothers of their children's emotional and psychological needs.

The program has developed two manuals, one on the children's part of the program and one for the mothers, with the wider community in mind. Both are self-explanatory and self-contained.

The Peace Project

The Peace Project (Vic.) is a initiative by Victorian artist William Kelly, in which he has used his skill to paint messages of peace and anti-violence.

In a personal response to the increased profile of violence in the community, and in particular to the 1987 Hoddle Street shootings, Kelly began to explore the relationship between the private individual and the responsibilities a person has to issues such as how violence occurs, who commits it and what we as members of the community do to stem the tide of violence. From these explorations, Kelly has used his skills as an artist to paint messages of peace and anti-violence. Through his art, Kelly attempts to reach a wide cross-section of the community.

The anti-violence artwork from The Peace Project covers the period 1988 to 1993 and, since its launch in May 1993, has been seen by many thousands of people.

The Richmond Community Safety Forum

Richmond is an inner city area of Melbourne, with a population of nearly 23 000 in an area of 6.12 kilometres. Two-thirds of the population live in houses, the remainder in flats. Culturally, the area is very diverse, with 46 per cent of the population born overseas. Unemployment, at 19 per cent, is relatively high by comparison with the national average of 11 per cent.

The Richmond Community Safety Forum comprises local representatives from the Police, community health centres, community groups, business, youth groups, council and the local Member of Parliament. It is part of the general Safer Communities movement towards community-based prevention initiatives rather than reliance on the criminal justice system after the crime has been committed.

illustration

Associated with the Safer Communities movement was a significant change to traditional policing, and the development of a police community involvement program. In Victoria the early initiatives were established in Frankston and Broadmeadows, and led to Neighbourhood Watch, the Safety House Program and the Community Policing Squads. In 1988 the Good Neighbourhood Program (GNP) was established as a partnership between the state government, local government and the community. Small local GNP committees were set up to identify and respond to crime problems in their areas. In 1991, the Victoria Police established Police Community Consultative Committees (PCCCs), consisting of police groups working with the community to prevent violence and crime. Victoria currently has ninety PCCCs. It subsequently developed an Integrated Anti-Crime Strategy (Vic-Safe), initiated by the Chief Commissioner of Police and endorsed by the government, to tackle the causes as well as the effects of violence and crime. The next step, in 1992, was the formation of Safer Communities Pilot Projects, each of which had a steering committee and a project worker, to develop local solutions to local problems.

Richmond was one of eight areas to host a Safer Communities Pilot Project, along with Bendigo in the Victorian inland and Box Hill, Dandenong, Footscray, Frankston, Melbourne and Preston in the metropolitan area. The projects operated autonomously but maintained periodic contact with other projects through meetings with representatives from the Ministry of Police and Emergency Services, the Ministry of Ethnic Municipal Community Affairs and the Community Council Against Violence. Whereas most projects were hosted by the local council, the Richmond project was hosted by a community organisation, the North Richmond Community Health Centre, which provided valuable insight into community issues through the daily contact with case workers.

The major aim of the project is to address community safety issues by facilitating input and suggestions from members of the community. The project attempts to simultaneously address community concerns about safety and awareness of the need to create a sustainable and safer environment. The main areas of concern addressed by the forum were the prevention of violence in and around licensed premises, racism and young people, council safety procedures, violence in the home and safety in the streets.

Outcomes of the Forum to date have included safety audits for the City of Richmond, the establishment of a family violence support group, a publicans' forum, and work with the Richmond youth forum on safety and issues of racism.

The Aboriginal Alternative Dispute Resolution Project

The Western Australian Aboriginal Alternative Dispute Resolution Project (AADRP) was established as a mediation/conciliation program to assist Aboriginal families to resolve disputes. The project was initially developed and implemented by the Special Committee on Aboriginal/Police Community Relations in Western Australia, under the auspices of the Commonwealth-State/Territory Initiatives Program, part of the Commonwealth Government's Community Relations Strategy administered by the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

The project was essentially a response to the perceived need to provide a dispute resolution and mediation service for the Nyungar community, which had serious problems with chronic inter-family feuding.

Feuding among the Nyungar people relates to disputes which nearly always end up in physical violence against people or property. The level of violence is often quite serious*houses have been smashed, and people hospitalised, maimed, and in some instances killed. In most cases the violence is triggered by a relatively trivial incident or remark, though it may be linked to grudges from the past. Much of the violence is alcohol related. Feuding may also take place in prisons or in schools, and may be pre-meditated or "set up". Most feuding occurs in summer, at night.

Many persons interviewed during the evaluation of the project believed that feuding had become more prominent in the past thirty years, for a variety of reasons. The costs of feuding have also increased. Moreover other mediation services operating in Western Australia in practice do not cater for Aboriginal people, or do not operate in the type of problem that besets the Nyungar people.

When the AADRP was established, it set six project objectives:

  1. to develop a suitable process and procedures of mediation and conciliation based on successful models of alternative dispute resolution;
  2. to undertake the selection and training of a network of local, key Aboriginal persons who could be called upon to mediate in specific conflict situations;
  3. to develop appropriate training programs and aids;
  4. to manage the dispute resolution service and identify and respond to conflicts;
  5. to maintain records, document and analyse working experiences; and
  6. to develop appropriate liaison mechanisms to involve mutually interested and involved groups and agencies to ensure a coordinated approach to identified conflicts.

The emphasis of the project is on empowering families to adopt and maintain responsibility for the quality and nature of their mediated agreements, rather than attempting to impose solutions which may generate further animosity and frustration in an already volatile situation. An intensive community consultation process was undertaken to include the Aboriginal communities in every stage of the project's development. Workshops and meetings were held to enable community members to express their concerns and to discuss their ideas. The project also aims to create a pool of trained Aboriginal mediators who can be called upon to assist with disputes in their own communities.

Though the mediation rate for the AADRP was relatively low, this was not inappropriate in the circumstances. For example, most mediation agencies do not attempt to mediate cases involving violence. For the AADRP, most such cases involved violence.

In its first year of operation, the AADRP has:

  • developed a culturally appropriate mediation model;
  • trained nine mediators;
  • promoted Alternative Dispute Resolution throughout the Nyungar community;
  • carried out extensive pre-mediation work on 17 inter-family disputes which has led to the conciliation of one feud and the mediation of another;
  • contributed to improvements in Aboriginal/government agency relations; and
  • provided government agencies, employees and Aboriginal organisations with ideas for resolution of disputes.

The Magpie Centre

The Magpie Centre (NSW) was established in Goonellabah in late 1991 to address concerns within the local community about sexual assault, street violence, problems with racial harmony and difficult relationships between neighbours. It arose after a survey revealed a high need for local services for children, as the area is a considerable distance from central facilities, the land is hilly, and there are few parks and no level open land. Goonellabah had been called a suburb with no soul.

The Centre is located in a house in the middle of the Goonellabah public housing estate. The Management Committee of the community-based Centre is made up of local residents, 70 per cent of whom live in the housing estate and 40 per cent of whom are Aboriginal. The theme of the Magpie, of black and white working together, is a basic tenet of the Centre.

One of the Centre's main aims was to assist the large numbers of children and young people in the area, in view of the rising rate of vandalism, truanting, underage drinking and the formation of groups of pre-teen children into gangs. The Centre adopted a three-pronged approach, developing weekly, monthly and yearly activities. It operates an after-school study centre for homework support, youth activities, holiday programs, gardening demonstrations, karate and breakfast/nutritional programs. The Centre has also organised for the community to undertake managerial training, thus adding expertise and knowledge to the community that the Centre serves.

In 1992 the Centre operated a short-term nutritional breakfast program, which was extremely popular. The Centre is also an outreach Baby Health Centre and has an active Mothers' Club. It provides outings for the children, street parties at Christmas, karate for children, excursions to local facilities and a variety of craft activities for children and adults.

The programs are run by volunteers. In the Easter 1993 Holiday Program the two principal supervisors were Aboriginal men who took both black and white children on a traditional fishing, hunting and gathering trip.

In 1992 the Committee of the Magpie Centre and the Coordinators of the Magpie Centre and the Neighbourhood Centre reviewed the Centre's activities, and concluded that it had already begun to improve the quality of life, to promote the development of a sense of community, and to assist residents to learn new skills.

Evidence indicates that the opening of the Centre has reduced the level of violence in the neighbourhood. Children have been provided with new opportunities, for example outings to the beach, which many had not experienced before. The Centre has provided a focus for the neighbourhood and people have begun to feel pride in its activities, bringing a change in atmosphere within the neighbourhood which has resulted in people being attracted and welcomed into the community.