The Youth Unit Story
Port Phillip Prison is a maximum security, all male prison with 830 inmates. The Youth Unit is the brainchild of Youth Development Officer, Anne Hooker who's vision for an effective rehabilitation program has been changing the lives of young offenders.
In 1999 the prison was experiencing increasing levels of self harm incidents and suicide. Eager to put her ideas to the test, Anne was given the opportunity to set up a separate Unit on the premise that she would find the means to create, implement and support the program. At the same time Igniting Change was looking closely at issues concerning
young people at risk in Melbourne. Sharing our concerns, senior police officers introduced us to Anne. We were immediately impressed with her commitment, passion and vision and a strong partnership was formed.
The Youth Unit comprises 35 single cells with 33 first time offenders aged 18 – 25 years and two older prisoners trained to be prisoner Mentors. The Mentors play a vital role as peers supporting the young men. The program focuses on providing opportunities for the young men to learn how to care, firstly for themselves and then for others.
Past emotional abuse and neglect are common issues for the young men who often feel that no-one in their life has ever cared for them. In many cases they have been let down and lost the capacity to trust.
Igniting Change has financially supported most of the programs and been the catalyst for others including music, parenting and goal setting. The aim is to develop life skils and along side Anne we consult directly with them men.
In 2005 when they expressed an interest in creating a small business run directly from within the prison the t-shirt printing enterprise, doin time, was born.
Thriving with the support of Igniting Change's network of businesses, individuals and philanthropists, over 10,000 t shirts have been printed and $150,000 of revenue donated to charities chosen by the inmates. The young men are supported after exit from Prison as well. Igniting Change initiated a partnership between the Toll Group and the Youth Unit and many of the young men are now employed on release in their flagship employment program, Second Step. This blazing initiative championed by Paul Little AO, offers a variety of supported and mentored employment positions around Australia.