Every worker deserves to feel safe, valued and respected when they come to work. However, a lack of appropriate training and support, and issues such as discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying and victimisation, can undermine staff safety and efforts to promote a positive workplace culture.
Prisons and correctional centres are dynamic environments, and staff may face a range of pressures in their day-to-day work. It’s important that the workplace culture protects the rights of custodial staff and provides them with appropriate training, supervision and supports to do their jobs safely and effectively.
The Review is an important opportunity to help build and strengthen a modern, fair, capable and safe corrections environment – one that ensures the complex work of custodial staff is valued and that inappropriate behaviours and integrity risks are acted upon on swiftly and effectively.
By looking closely at the workplace culture within Victoria’s prisons and corrections centres, the Cultural Review of the Adult Custodial Corrections System will enable workplaces that:
- value integrity, respect and diversity
- prioritise staff wellbeing, inclusion and cultural safety
- provide accessible and consistent processes for career development and progression
- support staff to develop skills and capabilities for the dynamic nature of their role, and to meet the complex needs of people in custody
- have rigorous and timely processes for responding to workplace harm and misconduct
- support staff to develop therapeutic relationships with people in custody that promote their rehabilitation
Creating a safer, more inclusive workplace culture for custodial staff
- Addressing systemic behavioural and cultural challenges
Measures to address systemic behavioural and cultural challenges among and towards staff, impacting on staff wellbeing and safety. This includes examining behaviours such as discrimination, racism, sexual harassment and bullying as well as integrity issues and corruption, and understanding the impact of workplace stress, vicarious trauma and concerns for personal safety at work.
- Preventing and responding to behavioural and cultural challenges
The effectiveness and appropriateness of the systems and processes within the Department of Justice and Community Safety that prevent and respond to behavioural and cultural challenges to protect and preserve the wellbeing of all staff. This includes understanding staff confidence in and the effectiveness of reporting, complaints and disciplinary processes.
- Driving cultural change
Options to drive cultural change and promote appropriate behaviour that is consistent with a culturally safe and integrity-based corrections system, including options to address workforce skills and key capabilities. A workplace that values custodial staff, uplifts their capability and skills, and provides them with support will create better outcomes for both the workforce and people in custody.
- Cultural safety for the Aboriginal workforce
Measures to ensure appropriate and effective cultural support for Aboriginal staff. The Review will engage with Aboriginal custodial staff and community to understand and promote cultural safety, consistent with the principles of Aboriginal self-determination. This includes promoting a workplace for Aboriginal staff that is inclusive, respectful and free from racism and discrimination.
What we mean by ‘custodial staff’
For the purposes of the Review, we use the term ‘custodial staff’ to refer to all custodial officers and other corrections staff who ordinarily work in a Victorian prison or correctional centre and are employed privately or by Corrections Victoria and the Department of Justice and Community Safety (i.e. both uniformed and non-uniformed staff employed by the Department).
Custodial staff does not include Justice Health or staff employed by other agencies or organisations; however, these workers can still make a submission to share their relevant observations and experiences with the Review.
While our focus is the workplace experiences of custodial staff, including the behaviour and culture of custodial staff, we also recognise other workers and contractors with prison roles will have relevant observations and experiences to share with the review and we invite them to make a submission.
Aboriginal people working in corrections
Recognising and respecting Aboriginal culture and ensuring the workplace is free from racism and discrimination are important ways that prisons and correctional centres can provide a culturally safe environment for Aboriginal staff.
The Review includes a specific focus on the cultural safety of Aboriginal staff, and we hope to hear from as many current and former Aboriginal custodial staff as possible. We recognise that Aboriginal custodial staff can provide important support and assistance to Aboriginal people in custody. However, to do this effectively, the workplace culture needs to recognise and value the cultural, social and community knowledge that Aboriginal custodial staff can bring to custodial environments and ensure staff feel safe and supported in their roles.
During November, we hosted a series of virtual forums for custodial staff – an opportunity to hear directly from the Expert Panel and Review Lead about the scope of the Review and opportunities to participate. If you missed them, you can catch up online.
There are some things we can’t look at
While the Review will look at a wide range of issues, there are some areas that are outside the scope of the Review:
- the experience of people held in custody in police cells
- the experiences of, or issues that relate to, police custody officers
- Victoria’s community corrections system
- specific COVID-19 custodial arrangements
- legislation outside the portfolio of the Minister for Corrections.
We want to hear about your individual experiences to inform the Review, but we cannot investigate or resolve individual incidents or complaints of misconduct. If you wish to make a formal complaint or seek help, we can provide you with more information or help you with a referral. You can view our Help and support page for more options.