Women and Mentoring (WAM) has been operating in the City of Yarra (in Melbourne) since 2009 and we have recently expanded into the Western Suburbs of Melbourne. We run a unique, early intervention program which supports women charged with a criminal offence by matching them individually with a supportive female mentor.
The volunteer mentors are trained and resourced to provide appropriate support to the program participants, to share their skills and to contribute to the wider community. The program has made a significant positive difference to the female offenders’ confidence, coping mechanisms and capacity to respond to their legal matters and address the issues that underlie their offending.
The vast majority of the participants have avoided a prison sentence and have not re-offended. A total of thirty-five women have participated in the program since its inception. Only one received a custodial sentence, and only two have reoffended after their participation.
The WAM program has always been strongly community-based. We rely on relationships within the community to support the program and to refer participants to it. We have conducted research into other areas where women are committing crimes and in need of support, and we are now planning to replicate our program in these other areas.