Case Studies

Motivation at the bottom of the world: MI with Corrections Victoria, Australia

Motivation at the bottom of the world: MI with Corrections Victoria, Australia

In 2003 the Department of Justice in the Australian state of Victoria was faced with a choice on how to spend 22,000,000 Australian dollars: construct a new prison, or to try to cut costs in the long term by making the prison system more rehabilitative and promote change, linking to a wider initiative around 'therapeutic jurisprudence'? The decision was to opt for the latter, but how to do this?

Encouraged by the success of Motivational Interviewing outside of Australia as a way of facilitating change in offending behaviour, Corrections Victoria started looking for a provider to deliver training in MI to prison and probation staff. Following open international tender, ignition was commissioned.

Jenny Hosking, Manager, Operations and overseeing the project said:

“It was obvious right from the proposal that ignition totally understood what we were after. Some bidders were talking about using MI in very rigid settings; it had to be an hour long, face to face, regularly. With the idea of ‘Motivational Interactions’ ignition exactly got what we needed in using MI in those settings but also bringing MI into the everyday life of the prison, being able to use it whenever the opportunity presented to work with motivation, on the wing, escorting a prisoner across the yard, locking or unlocking – wherever”.

Relocating temporarily to Melbourne, Australia, members of the ignition team trained three groups of mixed prison and probation staff. These staff member ‘Champions’ had all been through a special selection process and represented opinion formers within the prison and probation establishment. This is a good example of how attention must be paid to integrating and consolidating MI into the culture of any agency attempting to develop its use on a large scale.

Over a period of several weeks ignition trained several cohorts of staff in:

  • Core Motivational Interviewing skills, models and strategies
  • Training for Trainers of Motivational Interviewing
  • Delivery of a specially developed modular 11-week MI programme

The approach would then be cascaded out by the Champions through the entire Victorian prison establishment, and widely geographically scattered probation offices. 
The place of Motivational Interviewing in Corrections Victoria prisons and probation is illustrated by Jenny’s comment that MI is now “the centrepiece of offender management”.