To register an Expression of Interest form to become a Youth Mentor please go HERE
To refer a Youth Mentee click HERE
For more information on the ‘My Way’ Youth Mentoring Project – please see the FAQ below.
WJN Youth Mentoring Project ‘My Way’
What is the Women’s Justice Network?
The Women’s Justice Network (formally known as the Women in Prison Advocacy Network – WIPAN) is a grassroots organisation that aims to improve the lives of women and female youth affected by the criminal justice system.
The Women’s Justice Network is piloting a youth led and driven mentoring program called ‘My Way’ to prevent vulnerable and disadvantaged female youth from entering the criminal justice system.
The My Way Mentoring Project operates as a gender responsive model of specialised one-on-one mentoring, working to address the social, emotional and economic complexities that contribute to female youth engaging in behaviours correlated to criminalisation, whilst encouraging autonomy, community engagement, healthy relationships and boundaries.
How did Women’s Justice Network start?
WIPAN was formed in 2008 due to the lack of support available to such women and the increases in the recidivism rates for women in NSW. In March 2017, WIPAN rebranded and became the Women’s Justice Network. The Women’s Justice Network is currently the only community organisation in NSW dedicated solely to mentoring and advocating for women affected by the criminal justice system.
The Women’s Justice Network has been awarded funding to pilot a 12-month mentoring project, called ‘My Way’. The project will mentor at risk females aged 14-18 who due to social, emotional and economic complexities are exhibiting behaviours that are correlated to criminalisation.
What exactly is mentoring?
Mentoring is the one-on-one relationship between a Mentor and a Mentee. Matching a Mentor and Mentee is a specialised process. No two mentoring relationships are the same. The Women’s Justice Network take a client-centered approach, where by the Mentee is encouraged to voice what she would like to achieve by having a Mentor. Intentions vary from vague to specific; however they most often include social, emotional and/or practical support. Once the Women’s Justice Network have familiarised themselves with the Mentee’s motivation and the type/level of assistance she will require, an appropriate and fitting Mentor is then selected and the relationship commences.
For both parties (the Mentor and the Mentee) this relationship is voluntarily entered into. It is this initial willingness and motivation that heightens the chances of creating a beneficial relationship resulting in successful outcomes.
The Mentor assisted by the support of the Women’s Justice Network, assists the Mentee to gain the necessary skills, confidence and direction to overcome life’s obstacles and avoid the possibility of incarceration, particularly during vulnerable periods in adolescence.
Mentoring is in-between that of a friendship and a professional relationship. Mentees often refer to their Mentors as their ‘guide’, ‘role model’ and ‘go-to person’. Mentoring is not case management or counselling, rather it is empowering a Mentee to find and implement their own solutions whilst enhancing their social supports and networks.
What is the role of a Mentor?
A Mentor supports and guides a young female who is at risk of being affected by the criminal justice system. They provide non-judgmental and respectful social support as the Mentee aims to gain a productive presence within the community and to make decisions that will create positive opportunities and ultimately prevent incarceration.
Mentors meet weekly with their Mentee in a variety of locations to provide guidance, encouragement and companionship. Mentors will also be available, within reason, to receive any phone calls and/or text messages from the Mentee when spontaneous support is required.
As a Mentor you would provide pro-social role modelling, and increase confidence and self-esteem through non- judgmental, just and positive ways of relating. In order to effectively role model, the Mentor will have to reflect on their own personal journeys and life experiences (as teenagers) in order to truly understand and inspire their Mentee.
A Mentor is also required to report to the Youth Mentoring Coordinator with regular updates regarding the progress of the Mentee, and is encouraged to seek assistance from the agency if the Mentee requires it. This is all in an attempt to implement early intervention techniques that will assist the Mentee if/when she may need it.
Who can become Mentor for the ‘My Way’ Project?
Any woman aged 18- 25, who has a genuine interest in working vulnerable and disadvantaged female youth, can become a Mentor. Mentors ideally will have a demonstrated ability in prosocial community engagement, recollections of how they personally overcame barriers and secured education/employment.
The ‘My Way’ Project provides their service to young females residing in or between the Inner City and Western Sydney.
How does mentoring help female youth at risk?
Adolescence is a complicated period for any young person. However, when additional factors are involved young females often engage in risk taking behaviours causing them to at risk of entering the criminal justice system. Mentoring provides young females with the coping mechanisms, new skills, confidence, and direction to assist them in overcoming various issues, allowing them to understand healthy relationships and boundaries, become contributing members of the community and avoid incarceration.
Factors identified as having an impact on the criminalisation of female youth are (but not limited to) parental substance abuse, parental divorce or separation, learning difficulties, academic failure, trauma, mental health and socioeconomic disadvantage.
Does mentoring work?
NSW currently has one of the highest recidivism rates in the country.
Through their experience, the Women’s Justice Network know that providing women in the criminal justice system with gender specific social support through mentoring, women’s social and emotional needs can be met. This then contributes to them making and maintaining positive changes in their lives, peeling away from past mentalities and behaviours that would most likely result in criminal activity.
The My Way youth mentoring project aims to build on this experience and prevent female youth from having to enter the criminal justice system in the first instance.
The Women’s Justice Network’s most recent data collection (2014-2016) revealed that 93% of women who were matched to a Mentor did not return to custody.
Thus, the recidivism rate of the Women’s Justice Network’s Mentees was just 7%.
In comparison, as of 2016, the NSW female recidivism rate was 48.7%.
Of the 7% who had returned to custody in that period, all women have maintained contact with their Mentor, via letter writing, and plan to resume the relationship once released. This demonstrates the long lasting rapport and trust built between the Mentor and the Mentee.
What skills do I need as a Mentor?
Mentors are required to be committed to supporting female youth to make decisions that will prevent incarceration. A Mentor has an open-mind, are respectful and non-judgmental, with strong boundaries, ensuring confidentiality at all times. A Mentor is always willing to expand her knowledge and skills, and is willing to participate in the ongoing training provided by the Women’s Justice Network. This training is specific to the needs of a Mentee and will expand the Mentor’s skill set in order to deliver a valuable and relevant service.
How often would I need to meet up with the Mentee?
The Women’s Justice Network requires Mentors and Mentees to meet at least once a week for a minimum of 1 hour. Location and choice of activity is to be decided by the two parties within the realm of the Women’s Justice Network Policies and Procedures.
How long does the program go for?
Mentors and Mentees are matched for a period of approximately six months, although the Women’s Justice Network request that a Mentor be available for the year ahead, as the pilot project may be extended.
What is expected from me as a Mentor?
The Women’s Justice Network expects all Mentors to make a genuine commitment to the Youth Mentoring Project and the female youth being mentored. This is demonstrated by attendance at the Mentor training, weekly meetings with Mentees, submission of weekly reporting sheets, monthly attendance at Mentor meetings for on-going training and supervision, and adherence to the Women’s Justice Network Mentoring Policy and Procedures Manual.
What kind of things do you do with the Mentee?
Activities between a Mentor and Mentee vary depending on interests and needs of the Mentee. Activities suggested include catching up for coffee/lunch, going for walks, shopping, cooking, attending libraries/museums, working on a resume and preparing employment ventures and support perusing higher education and training, participating in sporting or other activities of leisure, support in group or counselling situations, attending court or other legal meetings.
The ‘My Way’ project will also provide structured activities and workshops for Mentees and Mentors to attend. These may include cooking classes, exercise/ sport groups, practical strategies to manage stress, mental health awareness harm minimisation workshops and homework/literacy support.
How long does it take to be matched with a Mentee?
This varies depending on the Mentor being selected as the most ‘fitting’ woman for a particular Mentee. Common interests, personality traits, and the skill set of a Mentor are all taken into consideration before making the match.
Some Mentors are matched to a Mentee immediately after their initial training, whilst some will wait months.
What training would I need to do for the ‘My Way’ Project?
The Women’s Justice Network will provide the Mentor with specialised training. After the initial training, Mentors are required to attend meetings once a month.
How will the Women’s Justice Network support me?
You will have regular contact with the Women’s Justice Network Youth Mentoring Coordinator and Youth Support Worker, in addition to monthly Mentor training and supervision. You will also be encouraged to be in the habit of making ‘on the spot’ contact with the Youth Mentoring Coordinator and/ or Youth Support Worker in order to address an issue the very moment that it occurs. This is all in attempt to provide instant, holistic support to the Mentee.
Why would someone want to volunteer for the ‘My Way’ Project?
There are many reasons why women choose to volunteer for the ‘My Way’ project. One common factor is the volunteer’s strong belief in social justice. Supporting a young person who might not have been as fortunate in life, creating positive change in her life and seeing the effects of that change can be a very rewarding experience.
The success of this project will determine potential sustainability and expansion. You will be involved in a special, ground breaking journey.
What have other Mentors said about volunteering for the Mentoring Project?
“I realised just how much of an impact I had made when my Mentee told me that this is the first time in her life she has an Emergency Contact to write down when she is filling out forms.” WIPAN Mentor. 2014.
“I always feel support by WIPAN. If ever I have a problem or I am unsure what I should do regarding my Mentee, my Mentoring Coordinator helps me through it and gives me great advice and constant reassurance that what I am doing is the best way to do it.”
WIPAN Mentor. 2015.
I would like to volunteer for the Women’s Justice Network. What can I do?
Please contact the Women’s Justice Network if you have a particular skill or interest that you would like to offer. You can become a Mentor for the Women’s Justice Network or volunteer in another way. It all assists women affected by the criminal justice system.
What are the Mentees like?
Mentees are young females originally from the community whose lives, for some reason, have started to take them down a path that is leading to prison. Most are young females who have realised prison is a likely outcome and would like to make changes in their life to prevent that from happening, however they require social support to do so. We accept all young females aged 14-18, including young females who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, culturally and linguistically diverse, young females with disabilities, lesbian and transgender, mothers and expectant mothers, young females with AOD and/or mental health issues.
How can I sign up to be a Mentor?
How can I become a Mentee and be matched with a Mentor?
If you are a young female requiring support please phone the Women’s Justice Network office on 02 8011 0695 or the Women’s Justice Network mobile on 0406 269 044 between 9am-5pm Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
How can I stay in touch with the Women’s Justice Network?
You can join our Facebook group and follow us on Twitter. You can register for our online forum, and sign up for our e-newsletter.
How are Mentors selected?
A woman applying to be a Mentor submits an Expression of Interest form, has an interview with the Youth Mentoring Coordinator and then, if assessed as being suitable, is signed up for the accredited training. Mentors are selected by their genuine commitment to assisting young women who are at risk of being affected by the criminal justice system and their ability to commit to the requirements of the Mentoring Program.
How do I become a member of the Women’s Justice Network?
The Women’s Justice Network has a membership base that is open to anyone who is interested in positive social change for women caught up in the criminal justice system. Please see the ‘Membership’ page on our website. Membership includes the bi-monthly e-bulletin, a platform to contribute to positive social change and the option to become a volunteer and/or Mentor.
How is the Women’s Justice Network funded?
The Women’s Justice Network is currently funded by Family and Community Services (FACS). The Women’s Justice Network also heavily rely on donations and in-kind contributions from corporates and other community organisations.
How can I make a donation?
Please see the ‘Donation’ page located on the Women’s Justice Network website.
What else is the Women’s Justice Network doing?
The Women’s Justice Network is often requested to speak on radio, attend university lectures and various forums and conferences. As part of our community development project, the Women’s Justice Network researches and writes policy papers relating to the needs and issues of women in the criminal justice system.