Indigenous Group of Learning

The Indigenous Group of Learning is an Indigenous-led initiative implemented by the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, in partnership with Indigenous academics at Swinburne University and the University of Melbourne. The program aims to provide a pro-social learning space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men at Port Phillip Prison. It allows participants the opportunity to relate with volunteer student mentors from the community (many who are Indigenous themselves) and to engage in a two-way learning experience in a culturally safe space. The program hopes to assist incarcerated Indigenous men to consider their future and help them build a sense of hope and self-confidence in relation to their re-integration into their communities, families and lives post release.

The program is:

  • A community identified need
  • Community run and managed
  • Adaptable and receptive to needs and change
  • Positive and strengths-based
  • Focused on culture, not incarceration
  • Focused on possibilities, not limitations
  • Focused on generating positive research, not responding to deficit and describing dysfunction.

The program was established at Port Phillip Prison in August 2016, and continues to run on a weekly basis as a 2 hour facilitated session with volunteer mentors and inmates. The program is deliberately structured loosely to create maximum opportunities for inmates to engage in activities that appeal to them, and suit them on different days. Activities include painting, craft, educational games, colouring in, reading, and discussions about required support inside and external to the prison. Inmates can ask volunteers to follow up on things including finding out about education, employment, housing and health needs post release, and also support from other services within the prison. Sessions facilitate discussion and conversations about culture, identity and support networks post release.

Get involved as a volunteer!

We are looking to add more enthusiastic Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander participants to our program.

If you are interested in getting involved, contact Michelle Donovan on the details below to see if it's something you might be interested in. If you decide to get involved, you will receive a full induction program including comprehensive training in security, personal boundaries and safety, cultural awareness training and training on how to conduct the sessions. We can also arrange for you to  take a guided visit of the prison prior to committing to the program. Students also receive a travel stipend of $25 per session to assist with their costs.

This program is open to people studying a range of university courses including criminal justice, social science, education and law. Although the Castan Centre is based at Monash University, the program is open to students and recent graduates from all universities. You do not need to have any previous experience working or volunteering in a prison setting. We welcome applications from people of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Island descent.

Participants will be required to submit to a police check before being granted access to the prison. ​

Michelle Donovan
Program Coordinator
Indigenous Group of Learning
You can apply by sending your CV to Michelle together with a list of the subjects you've studied at university and a brief statement telling us why you'd like to be involved.

Apply any time

Apply here