Women and Mentoring (WAM) offer a unique, early intervention program that supports women and non-binary people charged with a criminal offence by matching them individually with a supportive 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.
WAM began operating in the City of Yarra (in Melbourne) working with the Neighbourhood Justice Centre in 2009, and in 2015 received funding from the Melbourne Women’s Fund to replicate the program in the Sunshine Magistrates Court precinct.
With recurrent philanthropic funding over the past four years, we have been able to expand our service area to provide support to criminalised and vulnerable women across most of metropolitan Melbourne. We can now receive referrals for women presenting at Melbourne, Heidelberg, Broadmeadows, Sunshine, Moorabbin, and Frankston Magistrates Courts. Referrals from other areas can also be considered on a case-by-case basis, depending on the location of our available mentors. Remote-mentoring may also be offered to women in regional locations.
Our 2021 Evaluation Report demonstrates that engagement with a mentor has made a significant positive difference to the participants’ 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.
WAM has been fortunate to rely on strong connections and partnerships to deliver this unique and gender-responsive initiative. We welcome interest and support from the community in mentoring and skilled volunteer roles. We work collaboratively with many partners in the health justice and community services sector for referrals.