The Victorian Government has commissioned an independent review into the culture of Victoria’s prison system to help drive a safer, more inclusive environment for all staff.

The review will also ensure our prison system continues promoting rehabilitation, reducing recidivism, and catering to the needs of all prisoners to ensure the system improves community safety.

The review will be conducted by a leadership team comprised of a panel of independent expert advisers and the Review Lead – former Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton.

The three expert advisors are:

  • former Fair Work Commission deputy president Greg Smith AM
  • CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Jill Gallagher AO, and
  • former Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Tim Cartwright.

The team has extensive experience working with vulnerable Victorians, an understanding of the justice system and experience in workplace culture and safety.

As former Fair Work Commission Deputy President, Mr Smith has extensive experience in industrial relations, safety and workplace culture reform.

Ms Gallagher has been the CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Health Organisation since 2001 and has specialist expertise in improving the lives of Aboriginal Victorians and reducing overrepresentation in the prison system.

Mr Cartwright has more than 40 years’ experience in Victoria Police, including as Acting Chief Commissioner and was the inaugural Family Violence Reform Implementation Manager.

Ms Hilton is a former Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner.

The review will build on initiatives already underway across the Department of Justice and Community Safety and Corrections Victoria, including increased integrity training for staff, ongoing efforts to strengthen operational and cultural leadership, and our continued work under the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement.

Terms of reference 

The Review will inquire into and report on culture, safety and inclusion, and integrity within the Victorian custodial corrections system (“the Review”).  

It will report to the Minister for Corrections through the Secretary, Department of Justice and Community Services (DJCS) and the Deputy Secretary, Corrections and Justice Services (CJS).

The Review will support a safe prison system that is free from breaches of integrity, sexual harassment and discrimination and promotes Aboriginal cultural safety and self-determination. 

The Review will span both the public and private adult custodial corrections system. It will inquire into the culture of the adult custodial corrections system, focussed on two streams of inquiry – ensuring the wellbeing and safety of staff within the adult custodial system, and the safety (including Cultural safety) of people in custody. In particular, it will consider: 

Stream 1 - Custodial Staff 

  1. Measures to address systemic behavioural and cultural challenges among and towards staff, impacting on staff wellbeing and safety. 
  2. The effectiveness and appropriateness of the DJCS systems and processes that prevent and respond to behavioural and cultural challenges to protect and preserve the wellbeing of all staff.  
  3. 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 (including leadership capability). 
  4. Measures to ensure appropriate and effective cultural support for Aboriginal staff.  

Stream 2 - People in custody 

  1. Whether systems and processes in prisons ensure that Aboriginal people in custody have the right to access and continue to practice Culture, are free from discrimination, and are consistent with Aboriginal self-determination.  
  2. The effectiveness and appropriateness of DJCS systems and processes to support the safety of people in custody (noting issues experienced by particular cohort groups such as women, Aboriginal people, LGBTI people, people with disability, elderly individuals and people from a CALD background). 

Matters currently on foot regarding conduct will be dealt with in the usual way and not form part of this review.  Allegations of criminal or inappropriate conduct will be passed on to appropriate bodies and will also not be investigated or responded to by the Review.  

The Review will build on key achievements and initiatives already underway within DJCS, including the implementation of a range of rehabilitation focussed support programs, Corrections Victoria’s ongoing efforts to strengthen workplace culture and leadership capability, strengthening systems and responses to integrity issues and the ongoing commitment to the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement.  

In inquiring into the culture of the corrections system, the Review will have regard to the Victorian Public Sector values (Responsiveness; Integrity; Impartiality; Accountability; Respect; Leadership; Human Rights), the Charter of Human Rights, Corrections Conduct and Ethics Commissioner’s Requirement and the DJCS Integrity Policy.