Youth Development Officer - Anne Hooker

In 2011 a group of young prisoners approached me to discuss their concern that young people make decisions that are not well thought out and have dire consequences for everyone involved. They were considering the impact of their own offending especially on their victims, their families and friends. They were concerned that although there have been educational programs previously on offer in schools, there did not appear to be an effective tool to make young people stop and think about the consequences of their actions. Therefore the young men sought permission to make a film that could be shown in schools.

The Stories From the Inside program enabled these young offenders the opportunity to learn and master the process of film making and editing, and the encouragement and support to tell their own stories.

They have learnt important life skills such as:

  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Listening skills
  • Social skills
  • Organisational skills ie to work independently or within a group
  • Personal development through public or individual performance
  • Improved motor skills.

By working with the video teacher and as a team, participants have the potential to improve self-confidence, teamwork and leadership skills.  An additional aim of the Stories from the Inside program is that participants develop personal attributes such as enthusiasm, commitment, honesty and integrity, motivation, positive self-esteem and adaptability. The provision of working with a teacher and mentors from the community sends a strong message to the prisoners that people in the community care about them and are interested in assisting them to make positive changes in their life. This has been vital for young offenders to then take on a positive attitude to their long term rehabilitation.   

This program came about because a few young men came to me wanting to make a difference. These young men demonstrated great powers of insight, intelligence, understanding and decision making. They wanted their time in prison to have some meaning, more than just ‘doin time’, more than punishment. They demonstrated qualities far beyond their years, impressive qualities that combined to make them responsible, caring young men.

With the assistance of Jane Tewson, Steph Exton and Jess Gomo from Igniting change and the approval from G4S, Port Phillip Prison and Corrections Victoria, we set about an undertaking of enormous proportions. Jane and her team were the catalyst of this venture by connecting us with Shark Island Productions. We owe a huge debt of thanks to the teams at Igniting Change and Shark Island Productions, and to Jaque for the many, many hours of time, financial backing, and support for this program.

This program is about giving back to the community in a profound way. It is very important for these young men not to underestimate themselves at a time like the present, when they could be capable of so much. The importance of forgiveness can never be underestimated. Forgiveness becomes divine when it is offered in direct response to an action that has brought harm and hurt to the person who now has the option to bestow mercy. This program enabled these young men to look at their situation from all aspects, and really consider their actions and the effects of those actions on everyone involved in their lives and who crossed paths with them.

As I sit at my desk I wonder how many more young men will walk through the doors having made mindless decisions that will affect so many people. As I listen to these young men, read the paper and watch the news and see the faces of the people who care about you and love you, I hope that each and every one of you will understand the effort, hard work and commitment that has gone into the making of this film. I am in awe of these young men for having the courage and determination to understand the importance of this film, to ensure that other young men and women do not make the same mistakes they have made and end up hurting people and coming to prison.

We have spent several years working on this project, and many prisoners and all of the Staff in Penhyn have been involved. We would like to thank all of those young men and all of the Staff, Supervisors and Management for their support and assistance with this project. Those people who know me understand that I am passionate about this unit, these young men, Port Phillip Prison and the program. You may be surprised to see these young men and myself with a slightly negative tone in this film. However, you need to watch the film in the context of deterrence. The sole purpose of this film is to stop young people making poor decisions and coming to prison.

We hope you learn something from STORIES FROM THE INSIDE, and that no other young men will make a foolish decision that will devastate innocent lives.


Anne Hooker, Youth Unit