13 March 2014

A ground-breaking Australian Museum project connecting young offenders of Pacific heritage with the museum’s internationally renowned Pacific collections has been recognised in the 2013 Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards.

The ‘Pacific Youth Cultural Reconnection Program’ – an innovative collaboration between the Australian Museum and Juvenile Justice NSW, part of the Department of Attorney General and Justice, and community partners – was honoured in the annual award ceremony at Parliament House on Thursday 13 March 2014.

Scott Mitchell, Head of Culture Conservation and Business Services, said he was thrilled with the accolade for the program which began in 2009 and aims at addressing the over-representation of young people from Pacific communities in the NSW juvenile justice system.

“As custodians of one of the world’s most significant Pacific cultural collections, we aim to encourage cultural awareness among 'at risk' youths from Pacific communities and to provide these young people with a sense of pride and dignity in their cultural background to help break the cycle of offending,” he said.

“It is just wonderful to see how excited and interested these young people are when they come across artefacts from their cultural background that they may have heard their parents talking about but have never actually touched or seen before.”

Dr Mitchell said there are only a handful of documented projects around the world where museums have attempted to address criminal justice issues.

“Our program is incredibly unique in terms of its focus on juvenile offenders and in that we are the first cultural institution in Australia – and one of only a few in the world – to employ a dedicated social worker to hold the workshops, classes and manage the outreach events that are integral to the program’s success,” he said.

“The project marks a radical departure from the museum’s traditional focus areas so it is particularly encouraging not only to receive positive feedback from the participants but also now to be recognised by senior police officers and criminologists from around the country for making a real impact on reducing violence and crime in the community.”

For more information, see our blog post.