See the people not the label

White text on a blue background that says 'Igniting change', above blue text on a white background that says 'by combining extraordinary lives'
Image from Igniting Change
Clare Kelly
by Clare Kelly
14 February 2020

Port Phillip Prison is Victoria’s largest maximum security prison, accommodating over 900 inmates and consisting of thirteen separate accommodation units – one of those is the groundbreaking Youth Unit

Established in 2005 under the supervision of Anne Hooker, the prison’s youth development officer, the Youth Unit separates young, first time offenders from the mainstream adult prison population. 

The unit offers programmes to help young men change their behaviours and over the last 10 years has almost completely eliminated incidents of self-harm and significantly lowered re-offending rates of released inmates.

In Australia (as in the UK and elsewhere) most people who leave prison face a mountain of obstacles as they walk free - from drug dependency to outright rejection in the communities they enter. Re-offending rates also remain unacceptably high.

Established in 2005 under the supervision of Anne Hooker, Port Phillip Prison’s Youth Development Officer, the Youth Unit separates young, first time offenders from the mainstream adult prison population.

Richard Branson visited the Port Phillip Prison Youth Unit not long after its launch and said the following about the unit and Anne’s incredible work, “The young men in Anne’s unit are fortunate enough to find themselves in an environment that is supportive of their personal growth, a place where people can learn to leave their past behind, to nurture their talents, hone their skills and to grab a second chance in life with both hands. Sadly, that cannot be said of most prison systems around the world.”

The work of Anne and the Port Phillip Prison Youth Unit wouldn’t be possible without the support of Igniting Change  –  an organisation founded by long-time friend and former Virgin Unite trustee, Jane Tewson. 

Igniting Change connects people who live at opposite ends of the divide  –  it takes on a range of unpopular causes, from employing ex-offenders to overcoming drug addiction, and they work with and for the communities they support.

We’re so grateful that Jane and Anne are such close friends of Virgin Unite and that they’re part of our incredible community celebrating 15 Years of Wonder. Their work embodies the Virgin Unite way of never accepting the unacceptable and working for the good of humanity.

The work of Anne and Igniting Change provides an important reminder that we all need to try hard to see the people not the label, and have the courage to do the right thing, not the easy thing.

Virgin Unite is committed to bringing together people and entrepreneurial ideas to create positive change for a better world  – and in 2020 we are celebrating the incredible people who've been part of our journey so far. Join us as we continue to focus on systems change, not just symptoms, and lead through collaboration to help ignite a better future for humanity and the planet.