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News from PF Australia's Sycamore Tree Project®

The Sycamore Tree Project: Prisoner X and Prisoner Y
From the article on the 612 ABC Brisbane website: Inmates who take part in the Sycamore Tree Project are encouraged to talk about their experiences at the graduation ceremony in an effort to create some sort of closure.
The Sycamore Tree Project: Melissa's story
From the article on the 612 ABC Brisbane website: 14 years ago, Melissa Hutton became a victim of a serious crime. She was working in a bank when it was robbed. During which, the perpetrator held a gun to her head.
Sycamore Tree Project® Brisbane, Australia
In this four-minute video, Jason Wicks of the PF Australia chapter in Queensland describes his experiences working with victims and prisoners in the Sycamore Tree Project®.
Recruiting victim participants: Australia
The PF Australia chapter in Queens land received an invitation to run the Sycamore Tree Project® two to three times a year at the Southern Queensland Correctional Centre. To make this happen, the ministry needs to build strong relationships with crime victims living in the community close to the correctional centre. Jason Wickes, the Sycamore Tree Project® for PF Australia’s Queensland chapter, provided an overview of the strategy he is testing.
Sycamore Tree Stories from Italy and Australia
In this 26 minute video, Marcella Reni of PF Italy and David Way from PF Australia's chapter in the state of Queensland describe their experiences with the Sycamore Tree Project® in their respective countries.
Journeying with victims: A personal view
From the article in the Runner from Prison Fellowship Australia -- Western Australia: It is not often you receive a book about rape for a birthday present. But the true story, The Making of Me, by Australian Tegan Wagner, gang raped as a 14-year-old school girl, was the beginning of a journey into the ‘heart of darkness’ whereby we travel with sexually violated victims through their terrible journey. It helped me to understand the extent of a victim’s suffering. I recommend the book to you.
Sycamore Tree Project® from a Victim’s Perspective
Recently, Martin Howard, Sycamore Tree Project® (STP) facilitator in Australia, and Ross Thompson, a victim participant, spoke about their experience in an 18 minute radio interview. Ross spoke of the impact of losing his son in a brutal murder.
Sycamore Tree Project® report from Australia
From the article by Martin Howard: Once again the Sycamore Tree Project® was able to achieve remarkable outcomes in the lives of inmates and crime victims during the latest program run in late 2011.
Sycamore Tree Project®: A facilitator’s report from Australia
Many of the participants of the Bunbury [STP] programme were young prisoners. Brett (not his real name) had his girlfriend attend the celebration service at the end of the course. She said Brett had started the STP programme as a boy but during the course became a man.
The Sycamore Tree Project® video from Western Australia
In this video, produced by Myriad Images for Prison Fellowship Australia (Western Australia), victims, ex-prisoners, volunteers, and family members of prisoners share their experiences of participating in the Sycamore Tree Project®.
STP Going Strong in Western Australia
On 9 August, PF Australia (Western Australia) celebrated its 34th Sycamore Tree Project®. The course, the fifth to be run in Casuarina prison, included twelve prisoner and seven victim participants. They each reported meeting their personal goals for participating in the programme. Participant comments included:
STP Facilitator Experiences
A recent Master’s thesis from the Notre Dame University of Australia explores the experiences of STP facilitators and facilitator assistants in Western Australia. The author, Jean Mackenzie, said that her purpose was to “describe in detail the experience of facilitating, or assisting in facilitating, groups participating in a restorative justice program….”
Facilitators’/Facilitator Assistants’ Experience of a Restorative Justice Program. Jean Mackenzie. (2010). Fremantle, Western AUstralia:Notre Dame University. [EN]
This phenomenological study examined the lived experience of six facilitators and facilitator assistants participating in a Restorative Justice (RJ) program in Western Australia. The aim was to establish an extended and informed understanding of the group dynamics, processes, outcomes and impacts on the participants in the program. Part of this exploration involved looking into commonalities and differences between the particular program under investigation and other RJ programs. Of particular interest were the development of victim empathy, victim and offender support, prevention of revictimisation, and the overall healing process of victims of crime, offenders and the wider community. Also under scrutiny were the facilitation of groups with highly negative emotional content, and the question of whether expectations and outcomes experienced by victims of crime and offenders in a model in which the offender has contact with the primary victim, were also evidenced when surrogate victims participated. The findings in this study suggested that the model under review appeared to have a number of benefits for victims and offenders, when compared to RJ programs which brought victims into direct contact with their offender. These included such elements as increased safety, protection from re‐victimisation, and the opportunity for some level of healing in situations when the actual victim or the offender was not available. There was no evidence that re‐victimisation was an issue but rather that the model provided a positive benefit by offering a less threatening alternative to direct contact between actual victims and offenders. Victims could access some closure and healing by telling their stories to a ‘one step removed’ offender. Offenders too received some benefits. They had the opportunity to be heard, to achieve some understanding of the impact of their behaviour, and some insight into how their victims might have felt. They were then able, working from within a community of acceptance to make some plans for reparation and for moving on. There was strong evidence of positive changes in both victims and offenders. (author's abstract).
Sad News from STP in Western Australia
In late September, Michael Cockram, STP manager for Western Australia, sent a note announcing the sudden death of a long-serving victim participant. Helen was participating in her 8th STP course when she died after many years of pain and serious medical issues resulting from the criminal offenses that had been committed against her. She had found release though STP and invested boundless enthusiasm in the programme.
Parliamentary speech recognises the work of PF Australia (New South Wales).
This is the United Nations International Year of Reconciliation and, in that spirit, Prison Fellowship New South Wales has piloted the Sycamore Tree Project, an initiative that includes offenders, facilitators and guest presenters, who together deal with the reconciliation of offenders and victims. It is a soul-searching, ambitious, educational and social vision at work. The principles of restorative justice, upon which it is based, have their foundations in the Bible but restorative justice is not just a Christian concept; it is part of many other cultures around the world and has been practised throughout human history because it meets a primal human need. It recognises that crime is not just breaking the law but is harming real people. The system to deal with that harm should address those injuries, as well as restore the offender to the community. --From the speech by Gordon Moyes.
Finding Release in Prison: A Victim’s Story. Restorative Justice Online. October 2008 Edition.
After the brutal murder of her fifteen year old daughter, Karen was devastated. Yet she needed that terrible experience to be turned toward a positive purpose. To that end she volunteered to participate in the Sycamore Tree Project® -- a faith-based, in-prison restorative justice programme – in order to share her story with prisoners who had caused similar pain through their violent acts. To their surprise, both she and her husband discovered that they had been given a way to address and let go of some of the anger and pain they had been holding.
Graduation night: new perspectives
It was a night of mixed emotions as a small crowd gathered at Blacktown Community Offender Services in April. The occasion was the graduation of eight participants from the first ever Sycamore Tree Program (STP) in New South Wales.
Sycamore Successful So Far
Having spent literally hundreds of hours over the last five years preparing for something which has now become a reality, Andrew Baxter is feeling excited – to say the least.
Sycamore Tree Project® in the Community
Recently, the PF Australia chapter in New South Wales completed its first Sycamore Tree Project® pilot project in the community. This pilot worked with both ex-prisoners and offenders on community sentences. The offender participants volunteer for the programme because they are required to complete a certain number of prescribed courses as a term of their sentences. Sycamore Tree is only one in a range of courses.
“Today I got to Speak”
Trembling from fear as they neared the massive prison, Fiona and Helen both felt the urge to just keep driving and avoid meeting the offenders who waited for them behind the gates. They were on their way to take part in PF Australia’s Sycamore Tree Project® (STP) at Acacia Prison near Perth in Western Australia.
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