Victorian prisoners and offenders on community-based orders have joined forces with The Alannah & Madeline Foundation via Better Buddies to help reduce bullying in schools.

These prisoners and offenders were given the opportunity to play an active role in the Friendship Seats Project by building the seats and installing them in selected Better Buddies schools across Australia.

Corrections Minister Andrew McIntosh officially launched the Friendship Seat Project at Aspendale Gardens Primary School on 15 March as part of the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence.

1 - Friendship seats installed in Better Buddies schoolsThe Friendship Seats are designed for students who find themselves with no one to play with during their lunch break.

By sitting on the seat, the student will alert teachers and other students that they are lonely and other students will be encouraged to include the student in their lunchtime activities.

Mr McIntosh said prisoners from the Marngoneet Correctional Centre in Lara had constructed the first batch of seats and had embraced the program with great enthusiasm.

Another small group of young offenders performed their unpaid community work by assisting with the installation of the seats and later spoke about the experience.

"This program will hopefully shed some light on bullying in schools and prevent young children from falling into a life of crime," said one young offender.

Aspendale Gardens is one of five primary schools in the South East Metropolitan Region to receive the seats in phase one of the program. A total of 150 seats will be installed at selected schools in the South Eastern Metropolitan Region.

"This fantastic initiative is part of the Alannah & Madeline Foundation's Better Buddies Framework, which is designed to create friendly and caring school communities as well as helping to reduce bullying," Mr McIntosh said.

"The Department of Justice entered into this partnership with the foundation because it saw this as a great opportunity for prisoners and offenders to play an active role in such a worthwhile program."

"The seats are placed around the school grounds so they are easy to access and are not hidden away," Mr McIntosh said.

"Students and teachers will monitor the seats so that anyone sitting on them is included and not ignored."

The Alannah & Madeline Foundation CEO, Dr Judith Slocombe, thanked the Department of Justice for working with the Foundation on the Friendship Seat project.

"The Friendship Seats are an innovative way to use the services of the correctional centres and its prisoners to support our Better Buddies Framework in schools across Victoria," Dr Slocombe said.

"The seats increase communication about positive behaviours to students by giving them a central location where they can spend time with each other."

The Friendship Seats project is funded by the Department of Justice under the supervision of the South East Metropolitan Region's Community Correctional Services.

Better Buddies was launched in 2007 and today more than 1,000 schools and more than 300,000 students are part of the network nationwide.

The program pairs students entering their first year of primary school with an older buddy to help them feel safe, valued and connected to their new school community.

Having already introduced legislation to make serious bullying a crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail, the Government views this partnership as part of the broader plan to tackle bullying in schools and in the workplace.

2 - Friendship seats installed in Better Buddies schools

Read more about how some Better Buddies schools are using their Friendship Seats.

 

Better Buddies
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