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We’re building a Justice-involved Young People (JYP) network connecting people so we can build and share knowledge and skills across disciplines and sectors, to address some of the pressing problems facing communities in Victoria, Australia.

Our network connect academics with practitioners, policy-makers, young people and their communities, to engage in conversation aimed to bring about social change and better outcomes for young people.

Over time, the network will provide an online space to share resources, as well as a platform for generating ideas, fostering research partnerships, developing targeted interventions into public debate (e.g. about youth crime), and collaborative activities such as collecting, documenting and archiving past and present youth/justice related programs. The network will also facilitate knowledge sharing opportunities – workshops, seminars or webinars – to create a forum for ongoing conversation about issues raised.

Who we are

We are academics based at the University of Melbourne – Diana Johns in Criminology in the School of Social and Political Sciences (SSPS), and Sophie Rudolph in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education (MSGE). We have come together with a shared passion for promoting opportunities for young people to succeed in every aspect of their lives. We seek to build collaborative approaches to solving ‘youth problems’ that are typically conceived in silos – crime/justice, schools/education, health/mental health – and thinking, instead, in terms of how these domains are interwoven and connected. Our focus is on social inclusion, community wellbeing, and seeing young people as a source of hope, strength and possibility.

Why we care

Diana: I completed my PhD research in 2013, exploring men’s experience of leaving prison from the perspective of ex-prisoners and post-release support workers. I then found myself in Wales, UK, in 2015, researching young people’s ‘prolific offending’. There I was tracing stories of children growing up amid violence, dysfunction and despair, with parents indifferent to or unable to meet their developmental needs. There, when children fell through the cracks in welfare and education systems, and when their behaviour expressed the pain and confusion of their life experiences, communities seemed quick to criminalise and demonise them. I soon realised the stories I was hearing and documenting were the same as those revealed by the men I had interviewed in my PhD work. It struck me that I was seeing the same issues play out – in different lives, in different parts of the world – and how, if we don’t intervene effectively to support kids to live better lives, the cycles of offending and imprisonment can become inevitable. But they don’t have to be – it’s possible to build hope and strength into young people’s lives. I’m interested in finding ways that we as a community – of scholars, practitioners, activists, educators – can do that.


Sophie: I have been interested in what social justice means in education for a long time and questions such as the following have animated this interest: Does education attend to or perpetuate disadvantage? How can difference be embraced in education rather than eliminated? And how might marginalised communities come to feel that they belong in what has historically often been an institution hostile to their knowledges, capacities and subjectivities? My PhD research examined Indigenous education policy and debates from the present and the late 1930s and 1960s to understand both the hope bound up in education and the strong assimilatory impulse of the education institution. I found that the (false) idea that Indigenous people are inferior to Europeans  that the colonists brought with them to Australia is still present in slightly re-formed ways in the education system today, indicating the systemic racism that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students must endure when they attend school. I am interested in how this problem relates to issues of youth justice, particularly considering the over-representation of Aboriginal and African young people involved with the justice system.


Our advisory group

Members of the JYP advisory group are appointed as individuals, not as representatives of an organisation or network.

Our advisors meet regularly to provide our the network with specialist and strategic advice on issues relating to justice involved young people in Victoria, including advice on priorities, goals, direction and possible activities of the network. This includes supporting the identification and sharing of emerging trends and issues in youth justice.

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Some of our advisers with Diana and Sophie at our first meeting in 2019

This group also contributes to raising community awareness of the issues experienced by justice involved young people in Victoria by offering expert media comments on behalf of the network on a particular issue, where appropriate.

Advisory group member profiles

Emily Munro-Harrison is a Wiradjuri woman and early career academic. Her professional background includes working in policy, evaluation and research, with a focus on participatory and community led methods in Indigenous youth justice, prevention of violence, place-based research, and health and wellbeing. She currently works as a Senior Research Officer at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. Emily is completing her PhD examining experiences and expressions of culture and identity by young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Melbourne, at the University of Melbourne. She has qualifications in social science, environment and creative writing.

Emily’s research approach focuses on community identified and driven needs, using qualitative methods that centre the voice of those the research is designed to benefit.

In 2016 Emily co-founded the Indigenous Group of Learning, a cultural support and visitation program for Aboriginal men at Port Phillip Prison. This program uses culture, art, music, literacy and aspirations to develop goals for the future with participants.

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Emily Munro-Harrison

Sanne Oostermeijer  is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Mental Health, School of Population and Global Health. Sanne graduated with a Research Master in Cognitive Neuropsychology and a PhD from the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, VU medical center in 2017 (The Netherlands). Her research focus is on the mental health and well-being of young people, with a particular focus on justice involved young people.

Sanne has been involved in several multi-disciplinary and international projects in collaboration with various academics, health professionals, social workers, architects and people with lived experience. Her work mostly involves mixed-methods approaches, including stakeholder interviews, focus groups, and service provider data (e.g., national minimum data sets).

Last year she won the inaugural Victorian Design Challenge 2018 together with her partner, architectural graduate Matthew Dwyer, for their proposal ‘Local Time: Promoting resilience in the Juvenile Justice System’. This ongoing project establishes how small-scale local youth justice facilities can best support positive outcomes for justice involved young people in custody.

Sanne is passionate about finding local solutions and promoting service integration and person-centred care in both the juvenile justice system and the mental health care system.

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Sanne Oostermeijer