Since 2009 the Australian Museum has been collaborating with Juvenile Justice NSW and a range of others partners to introduce young offenders of Pacific heritage to its internationally renowned Pacific collections. Recently the museum was delighted to receive a certificate of merit in the annual Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards for the Pacific Youth Cultural Reconnection Program.
The program’s beginnings lay in Australian Crime Statistics showing that there are more young people of Pacific Islander background in custody or on remand for violent offences than any other ethnic group in New South Wales. The central assumption of the museum’s program is that cultural isolation is a key risk factor for this group and that many young Pacific offenders struggle with cultural identity issues.
The museum program aims to build cultural awareness among ‘at-risk’ youths from Pacific communities and to provide young people with a sense of pride and dignity in relation to their cultural background. To do this it offers young people a range of programs. It holds workshops for offenders in collection areas where they can handle and discuss relevant cultural objects and encourage self-expression through traditional arts like weaving. The museum presents creative workshops based on traditional and contemporary Pacific art for detainees at the Frank Baxter, Juniperina and Reiby Juvenile Detention Centres (in partnership with Southwest Multicultural and Community Centre (SMACC) and South West Youth Peer Education (SWYPE)).
Incarcerated youth can do work experience on day release with museum cultural collections staff and the project also partners with the Pacifika Achievement to Higher Education (University of Western Sydney) to present to Pacific high school students at events around Sydney.
The museum believes that, as part of a broader package of interventions, exposure to traditional culture can help young people break the cycle of offending and lower the chance that they will offend again in future.
Funding for the project is provided through the Australian Museum, Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation and the Australian Museum Foundation.
For more information see Pacific Youth Cultural Reconnection Program on the Australian Museum site.
See also Collections Prevent Crimes.