Ms Claire Seppings1
1Deakin University, Geelong, Australia
Peer mentoring happens in every corner of the world. Deakin University in partnership with the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety is trialling an Australian first philanthropic funded ‘through-the-gate’ prison peer mentoring program in Geelong.
The project was inspired and based on Claire Sepping’s 2015 Churchill Fellowship, which identified prevailing thinking and recognised ‘best practice’ of international peer mentoring programs for ex-prisoners. Programs she studied demonstrated a significant decrease in the reoffending rates of those who successfully engaged with and had the support of a peer mentor. Claire found ex-prisoners who have reformed contribute to reducing re-offending by mentoring newly released prisoners and advising on improvements to service systems that enable people to live a crime free life.
The peer mentoring model development incorporated best practice from such overseas programs and Victorian correctional policy and procedures. Ethically approved, the ‘Straight Talking’ peer mentoring program is now being delivered in partnership with Marngoneet Correctional Centre. Deakin University is undertaking a full ‘action research’ evaluation.
In this presentation Deakin University Project Coordinator Claire Seppings will share the wide range of positive impacts Straight Talking – a Peer Mentoring Program has experienced to date. Preliminary results include the stability of the mentee after release; the quality of the mentoring relationship experience; the positive impact on the peer mentors returning to prison in this supportive way, prison staff experiencing a positive impact engaging with ex-prisoners working alongside them, and both staff and prisoners seeing what reintegration success actually looks like.
Claire graduated from Monash University, Melbourne in 1984 as a Social Worker. Then as a Naturopath conducted a healthy living program in Bendigo Prison. Claire’s lived experience comes from her journey with a former partner and his extensive revolving prison life. In recent years, Claire managed Centrelink’s Victorian Justice Services Program. Claire was awarded a 2015 Churchill Fellowship to study the rehabilitative role of ex- offenders as peer mentors. Claire is now with Deakin University as the peer mentoring trial Project Coordinator; a member of the Women’s Correctional Services Advisory Committee and Chair of the Victorian Custody Reference Group.