Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

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Case Study: Deakin University

ProjectThe role of Peer Mentors in breaking the cycle of crime and imprisonment in Geelong

Amount$90,000 over two years


ProgramOther Past Programs

This grant was approved under previous grants policy (2014-2017)
Rural and regional Victoria Seeking to break the cycle of recidivism that can lead to entrenched disadvantage for Geelong families and intergenerational imprisonment
Supporting Indigenous Victoria Facilitating culturally appropriate mentors to provide a link to culture and pathways away from crime
Building organisational capacity Enabling mainstream services to provide appropriate referrals and supports for people with complex needs
Collaboration and partnership Corrections Victoria, Marngoneet Correctional Centre, community organisations.

An innovative trial of peer mentor support for ex-prisoners to break the cycle of recidivism

In overseas jurisdictions, 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. This partnership project between Deakin University and Corrections Victoria will design and test a model of peer mentorship for the Australian context, based on international experience.

Image Wayne Harper, General Manager, Kareenga and Marngoneet Correctional Centres; Claire Seppings, Churchill Fellow on whose work the project is built; and Professor Joe Graffam, Deakin University.

Alcohol and drug services have demonstrated that mentors with lived experience can support and encourage individuals. Similarly, people leaving prison can benefit from the experience of reformed prisoners to navigate their way to a crime free life in order to reduce recidivism and crime.


  • The project will be overseen by a steering committee comprising representatives from Corrections Victoria, prison staff, Deakin University researchers, staff from community organisations, a reformed ex-offender and the Project Coordinator.
  • An international literature review and synthesis of information from 40+ overseas ex-offender mentoring programs will be undertaken, and a model for the Victorian context will be developed.
  • 10 peer mentors will be recruited and trained to deliver support to 40 mentees exiting the prison system
  • Deakin University will undertake a full evaluation using qualitative and quantitative data
  • If the program demonstrates a reduction in mentees returning to prison, Corrections Victoria has capacity to roll out the program on a larger scale.
  • With costs estimated to be $120,000 per prisoner per year, there is interest nationally from governments in results-based programs that reduce re-offending and re-imprisonment.


"This project is important because it mobilises a valuable resource, ex-prisoners, to address two of the most pressing ‘first world’ problems; growing rates of imprisonment and extreme disadvantage." Professor Joe Graffam, Deakin University.