LV & YMCA's The Bridge Project Celebrates Five Years of Success Supporting Young Offenders

Mick, Justin and Boys

Mick Malthouse, Justin Madden and some of the Bridge mentoring participants

As a proud partner of YMCA’s The Bridge Project, LV congratulates The Bridge in achieving five years of providing essential support and mentoring to Victorian youth. 2010′s The Bridge Project breakfast was held on Thursday 12 August 2010, to bring together sponsors and partners, as well as to celebrate The Bridge’s success.

The groundbreaking program was initially devised by LV’s own graduates from the WCLP 2005. A highly motivated and diverse group of emerging leaders, they decided to undertake a collective project and utilise knowledge from their various branches of expertise.

General Manager of YMCA Victoria, Matt Feutrill (WCLP ’05) came up with the initial concept, thinking this would be an innovative way to combat the issues faced by his staff in the area of youth justice. They were finding that far too many young offenders were completing their orders, only to be returning to custody, unable to escape the cycles of crime and imprisonment. A plan was needed to help prevent young offenders from re-offending and potentially ending up in the adult prison system.

A KPMG study conducted on behalf of The Bridge Project found the program to be paramount in reducing the rate of re-offence by 97 per cent in young offenders who took part. Of those young offenders who had not participated in the program and completed orders (served their full sentences), 66 per cent had re-offended and returned to custody.

Coach of the Collingwood football club, Mick Malthouse, said society had a responsibility to give youth a second chance and more opportunities to become valuable members of their communities. “These kids need us to make the effort, to get involved and provide meaningful opportunities,” he said. “They’ve already served their time and full sentences; they just need a second chance.”

The project aimed to target young offenders who were about to complete the length of their sentencing by providing training in vocational trade and leadership programs.

A separate study by the Department of Human Services found that first year risk of relapse for young offenders was three or four times higher than in the second year of completing orders.

KPMG’s research specifically found that The Bridge Project contributed to a significant cost reduction to the State of Victoria by:

  • savings to the community associated with car theft, home burglary and vandalism
  • saving taxpayers $29.4 million in the first five years of the program running
  • keeping young people out of custody in the first 12 months after release, they were seven times less likely to re-offend

Ben Petifer spent 18 months in custody and was introduced to this program while serving time. After completing orders, he continued to participate in training and vocational education through the program’s community networks. “Many people don’t realise what you can do to change young people’s lives, because we just want to work as hard as anybody else,” he said. “Having that support was essential.”

Sherilyn Hanson, Manager of The Bridge Project, and current EBLP partiicipant credited LV’s role in the success of the program, recommending LV’s programs to anyone interested in developing their leadership skills.

Anyone wishing to support the Bridge Project can contact Sunita Varlamos:

sunita@leadershipvictoria.org or 03 96516590.