From the inside out and the outside in

Penola students wrote letters of encouragement to youth in a custodial centre (Bigstock)

A workshop at a Melbourne Catholic secondary school provided an opportunity for an exchange of advice and encouragement between students and young people in custody. Source: Melbourne Catholic.

Melanie Edwards, CatholicCare’s Youth Justice Chaplain, was asked to deliver several workshops at the Year 11 Social Justice Retreat Day for Penola Catholic College, Broadmeadows.

Ms Edwards shared her experiences as a chaplain in the Youth Justice Centre in Parkville, linking her work to the principles of Catholic Social Teaching and scripture.

To prepare for the workshop, Ms Edwards spent some time talking with the youth she ministers to discover what they would like to share with young people "on the outers" (as the young people at the Youth Justice Centre refer to life outside of the precinct) about their experiences in custody.

Their responses were largely filled with compassionate advice, including things like “don’t do drugs; they had a big part in my crime”, and “crime is not worth it, I miss my grandma and my little boy because I do not get to see them”.

At the workshops last week, Ms Edwards gave statistics relating to young people sentenced or on remand in 2015-2016: 38 per cent had a family history of parental or sibling imprisonment, 45 per cent had been subject to a previous child protection order, and 62 per cent had previously been suspended or expelled from school.

Ms Edwards also gave the Penola students insight into the daily life in the youth justice environment. But in addition to sharing the messages “from the inside out”, Ms Edwards felt it was also important to find a way to connect “from the outside, in”.

The youth at Parkville’s Youth Justice Centre often ask for inspirational quotes and scripture verses to hang in their room, so the Penola students wrote their own messages of support and encouragement to the youth in custody.


From the inside out and outside in (Melbourne Catholic

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