Member for Western Victoria
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party

Defence Dogs Program in Victorian Prisons

Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (17:36): I rise to give my adjournment debate, which is for the attention of the minister representing the Minister for Corrections, regarding the defence dogs program in Victorian prisons. I have met on many occasions with stakeholders on the proposal of having dogs in prisons, such as the Defence Bank Foundation. Their program involves the rescue of dogs that are then trained by selected prisoners to specifically assist veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI). Results from the Bathurst trial indicated 0 per cent recidivism rates of prisoners involved in the program, and PTSI sufferers reported a huge reduction in medical treatment sought and a vast improvement in their ability to function effectively within the community. A group of female inmates at the Southern Queensland Correctional Centre have been given the opportunity to work and live with puppies, which has given some much-needed happiness and rehabilitation and future job potential as they serve their sentences. These inmates are undertaking the only certificate III in companion animal services in an Australian prison as part of the Pups in Prison program, run by Assistance Dogs Australia, or ADA. The demand for assistance dogs is very high. These pups range in age from 14 weeks to 15 months and live and work with the inmates 24/7. One prisoner in an ABC News article published this month, Rhiannon, stated: It’s helped me a lot. I’ve reduced my medications and I’m a lot more happy. The Pups in Prison program has also trained Australia’s only two fully accredited court facility dogs to provide support for witnesses giving evidence, many of whom are children or victims of sexual assault. ADA hopes to expand the Pups in Prison program so it can open its recipient list again. I have been advocating for this program in Victoria for a long time, since I first began here. Being an expolice officer, I have spoken to other police members who also have assistance dogs, and they have changed their lives for the better. As I have said in this place, specifically in a previous members statement, police officers are regularly exposed to traumatic events and experiences. It is estimated that around 1 per cent of the general population will experience PTSI, whereas 10 per cent of all emergency services workers and up to 20 per cent of police officers will experience PTSI during their careers. This program’s benefits are threefold: rescue a dog, rehabilitate a prisoner, and change the life of a PTSI sufferer. Therefore the action that I seek is for the Minister for Corrections to implement his extremely important program into an appropriate Victorian prison for the purpose of supporting retired frontline personnel who have PTSI as a result of their service.


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