Learning globally for better outcomes for young people

This is a guest blog by Matt Dwyer who recently was awarded a 2020 Churchill Fellowship to document the architectural design of a new youth custodial model.

I’m very excited for the opportunity of a Churchill Fellowship, in which I’ll study the design of small-scale youth custody facilities in New York City, Missouri, New Zealand and England. 

These jurisdictions share similarities with our own, yet they offer some examples of small-scale and community integrated custodial facilities that we can learn much from in Australia. 

With my research partner and Local Time co-designer, Dr Sanne Oostermeijer, I’ve previously studied custodial designs in the Netherlands, Spain and Norway, and I’ll be looking to compare those approaches with these further jurisdictions.

There is a strong evidence base which informs how youth justice facilities should be designed to improve the outcomes and wellbeing of young people in custody, improve the working conditions of Youth Justice staff, and improve public safety through reducing the risk of reoffending. 

Small and community integrated models for youth custody provide opportunities to build and strengthen existing social supports, giving the best chance of avoiding reoffending. These facilities are safer for both young people and staff, and provide an environment where the strengths of young people can be encouraged and developed, while risks can be addressed in a lasting way. They also dramatically improve the working conditions of Youth Justice staff.

It is also important that small-scale facilities provide a model for reducing the overall size of the custodial system. As we invest in preventative approaches and reduce the number of children entering custody, the physical infrastructure must be downsized to reflect this reduction. New York City offers an example of this in its Close to Home project, which I hope to study in detail.

Ultimately, the design of a custodial facility is about encouraging and supporting good relationships between people – between staff and young people inside, and young people and their communities outside. By keeping young people close to home and connected with those people who offer them support and healing, the design of a facility can offer real help. I look forward to learning exactly how this is realised.

Matt Dwyer

Sanne and Matt at the launch of their Local Time design guide for Victoria earlier this year.

Learn more about Local Time and the Design Guide which outlines a scheme for a new architectural model for youth justice facilities in Victoria here.

New research fellowship to address the school to prison pipeline in Victoria

Dr Sophie Rudolph

Our JYP network is thrilled to announce that our network co-convenor Dr Sophie Rudolph, Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne has  been awarded a three year DECRA research fellowship to explore school discipline and racialised exclusion:

Examining the social, historical and political effects of school discipline:

This project aims to examine the history and socio-political context of the school element of the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ in Victoria through an examination of school discipline. This project expects to build vital knowledge of the relationship between school discipline and racialised school exclusion through historical accounts, policy analysis, interviews and focus group research.

Expected outcomes include new understanding of the social, historical and political effects of school discipline and new possibilities for strengthening school-community relations. This should provide significant benefits, such as improved opportunities for school participation, and enhanced local and international networks to address education equity.

As tweeted last night by our network co-convenor, Dr Diana Johns, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Melbourne, we congratulate Sophie for the fellowship award and look forward to following her important research over the next three years.

Learn more about Sophie’s research fellowship here and follow our blog for updates on her research.

Ngaga-dji, a call to action: education justice and youth imprisonment

In October 2018, our Justice Involved Young people network co-hosted a forum called Ngaga-dji, a call to action: education justice and youth… Voices for Justice, Stories for Change.

It showcased an important report by the Koorie Youth Council (KYC): Ngaga-dji (‘hear me’). The report  voices the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Victoria’s youth justice system and through a Call to Action, presents solutions for the injustices experienced.

For our network co-convenor, Dr Sophie Rudolph and Indi Clarke at the KYC, it was a starting point to think about what this report means for educators and how they might listen more deeply and strongly to the voices and the solutions put forward in the report.

Sophie’s recently published article Ngaga-dji, a call to action: education justice and youth imprisonment  grows out of the collaboration between our network with the KYC. Her article engages with the Ngaga-dji report to examine how educators and those involved in education might seek to change their practices.

Sophie speaking at the forum in 2018

Watch our webinar on building culturally safer and relationally stronger schools

Capture webinar

On 26 August 2020 we co-hosted this webinar with the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne.

Our panel reflected on the challenges and opportunities for building stronger and safer schools to support and value young people.

You can watch the webinar in the youtube link below:

Some of the issues and questions raised by attendees through the Q&A were:

  • The importance of properly listening to First Nations communities.
  • The possibilities and potential challenges of a system of mandatory reporting of racism in schools
  • Some of the challenges and possibilities for teacher education that is reflexive
  • How do we know when we’re doing good anti-racism and decolonial work?
  • How do we move beyond tokenistic understandings of diversity and address cultures of whiteness

Panellists left the audience with some challenges to continue to think about, including:

  • How do teachers hold strong in their humanity while confronting the ways we have been conditioned to see some things and not others?
  • How do we get away from binary and deficit understandings of difference and move towards ways of working that value difference?
  • How do we listen to students even when they tell us things we might not want to hear?
  • How do we deeply know and understand the structures of racism and the multiple effects of racism on young people?

Would you like to be involved in further work in this area? If yes, do you have ideas/suggestions about how you could be involved/where to take this work next?


Please post your repy below or use this contact form:


How can we build culturally safer and relationally stronger schools?

IMG_2299 edu cover

Your invitation to our free webinar:

Building Culturally Safer and Relationally Stronger Schools

on Wednesday 26 August  2020 at 11:00 AM AEST.

This webinar is co-hosted by our Justice-involved Young People Network with the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne.

Our panel will reflect on the challenges and opportunities for building stronger and safer schools to support and value young people.

In the Victorian government Youth Justice Strategic Plan 2020-2030 the first key direction is ‘Improving diversion and supporting early intervention and crime prevention’, which includes a commitment to ensuring that young people are engaged in education and connected to school, reducing school expulsion rates, and providing education support and information at the Children’s Court to re-engage young people in education. Education is therefore seen as an important right and an opportunity to strengthen connection and future opportunities. However, education has also been known to be a place in which young people can experience misunderstanding, alienation and discrimination.

This panel will reflect on some of the challenges and opportunities for building stronger and safer schools to support and value young people. If education and schools are to be part of an early intervention and diversion strategy we need to understand both how they may have been failing at this and what might need to occur to enable education to be a place of safety and strength.

The panel draws on the expertise of academics and educators working across youth justice and education contexts to analyse the challenges and propose some opportunities. A range of key ideas will be explored, including: power relations, reflexive teaching, cultural responsiveness, racism, and the importance of relationships in education.

Dr Melitta Hogarth, Kamileroi woman and Assistant Dean Indigenous at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, will explore the question – how do we make our schools less white? Drawing on a chapter written with Professor Tracy Bunda, she will propose some opportunities for addressing what has been an assimilatory impulse in Australian schools. She will examine some of the power relations in schools that impede relationship building and alienate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and will offer some suggestions for what might constitute quality partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Leah Avene is a Tuvaluan mother, musician, broadcaster and educator whose work focuses on personal, relational and collective decolonising. As Culturally Responsive Pedagogy Leader at Parkville College, Leah’s work aims to scrutinize and dismantle colonised culture whilst also celebrating the resilience, resistance and strength of first nations communities and people of colour across the globe. Leah will present a model of culturally responsive pedagogy that seeks to celebrate students strengths and decolonise relationships within the classroom.

Dr Nikki Moodie, is a Gomeroi/Kamileroi woman and Senior Lecturer in Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne. She will present key findings from a number of systematic literature reviews on Indigenous education, including the impact of racism on the school experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and the factors that contribute to the development of school and Indigenous community engagement.

Dr Jessica Gannaway, Lecturer in Education at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, will examine possibilities for teacher reflexivity in order to shift teacher dispositions and therefore classroom relationships. Jessica poses that as members of an education system that continues to reify structural inequalities and racism, a teacher’s relational work in classrooms is at the frontlines of where these dynamics continually play out. Jessica explores the ways that teachers can reflect on their own dispositions and worldviews, whiteness and colonisation and their place within structures, in order to shift the way they interact within classroom communities.

The panel will be chaired by Dr Sophie Rudolph, Lecturer in Education at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education and co-convener of the Justice-involved Young People Network.

Register to attend here.