The Youth Referral and Independent Persons Program celebrates 15 years

The Youth Referral and Independent Persons Program (YRIPP) celebrated its 15th Anniversary on 7 December, with a special event at the Melbourne Museum to recognise the contribution of its volunteers.

YRIPP provides support to young people in police custody, delivering a high quality system of adult volunteers who attend police interviews with young people in custody when a parent or guardian is not available. Language diversity and a lack of familiarity with the justice system mean many young people are often not aware of the Victorian legal system. The presence of a culturally trained volunteers, known as Independent Persons, can help diffuse tensions and dispel misconceptions between the young person and police.

Volunteers also play an important role in referring young people to local health and welfare support services, aiming to reduce the risk factors associated with youth offending. 

Keynote speaker, Dr Faith Gordon, Lecturer in Criminology at Monash University, spoke about her research experience in youth justice; media representations; post-conflict and transitioning societies; children’s rights; older victims; aging prisoners; inquests; media regulation and privacy law.  

Tash Anderson, a Berry Street Y-Change alumni & member of Victoria’s Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council, presented her animated autobiographical film, that has been nominated for the Sydney Film Festival’s Yoram Gross Animation Award, and spoke to volunteers about her experiences of family violence, out of home care.

The event recognised the program’s dedicated Independent Persons who have worked tirelessly to support young people in custody, and police officers who have shown support to young people’s rights and welfare through promotion of YRIPP.

Presented by Inspector Tony Richardson, Leading Senior Constable Diane Bloom, Leading Senior Constable Aaron Heriot, Leading Senior Constable Sarah Reggardo, Sergeant Benjamin McWilliam and Sergeant Jonathan Potter were the well-deserving recipients of awards for their support and commitment to YRIPP. 

A big shout out to the following volunteers who received awards on the day for their incredible 15 years of contribution to YRIPP:

  • Mary Pearson, who brings her cheerful and slight cheeky side to build rapport and think outside the box during challenging call-outs. She has also been an essential part of peer support in the YRIPP program.
  • Rachael Flanagan, who has exceptional knowledge of the DHHS and referral system and has worked in the community sector over a number of years with children in Youth Justice, Child Protection as well as with young people in out-of-home-care.
  • Sharon King Harris, who is known for getting young people who are generally considered most ‘resistant to referrals’ to accept them. She is a former Mayor of the City of Greater Dandenong and sits on the board of many hospitals in the South-East-Metro and the inner city.
  • Wayne Smith, who has in-depth knowledge of how the IP’s role intersects with that of the police, bail justices, youth justice, child protection and the courts. Wayne has also hosted justice volunteers’ dinners at the City of Casey. Away from YRIPP, Wayne is secondary school teacher, a Councillor, a Justice of the Peace and also an Independent Third Person.

After the event, Temese Leilua, Pasifika Community Project Coordinator at CMY took a group of volunteers to the Pasifika exhibition at the Museum to highlight the work that CMY does more broadly with the Pasifika community. Volunteers had the chance to ask questions about how to best support Pasifika young people and get a better understanding about cultural factors that may effect how a young person interacts with their community, IPs, police and the broader justice system.

Find out more about YRIPP.