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Youth Referral and Independent Person Program volunteers wanted

The Youth Referral and Independent Person Program provides an independent person to sit in on police interviews with those under 18 in the absence of a parent or guardian.

CHLOE WARBURTON February 8, 2012 4:33am

Youth Referral and Independent Person Program northern Victoria regional co-ordinator Duncan Blandford and volunteer Phaee McCall.


At any time of the day, there could be a young person in Shepparton being taken into police custody.

That’s where a valuable volunteer-based service comes in.

The Youth Referral and Independent Person Program provides an independent person to sit in on police interviews with those under 18 in the absence of a parent or guardian.

Shepparton’s Phaee McCall is one of those volunteers; as an independent person, Mrs McCall sits in when young people are interviewed by police, provides them with legal information and refers them to another service for more help.

She has volunteered for the program for six months; her first call-out was at 6.30am and she had three other calls that same day.

Other times, it might be weeks until a call came through.

‘‘I’d been wanting to do something like this for a long time, and when I heard there was a program in Shepparton, I decided to do the training,’’ she said.

‘‘I find the time spent very rewarding; when I’m introduced to the young person, their eyes just light up when they find out I’m not a police officer and I’m there to support them.’’

The program, which is in partnership with Victoria Police, the Centre for Multicultural Youth and UnitingCare Cutting Edge, now works with more than 2500 young people in police custody each year.

The program’s northern Victoria regional co-ordinator Duncan Blandford said it was a legal requirement for a person under 18 to have an independent person present during a police interview and the program was looking for volunteers in the Shepparton, Mooroopna and Tatura area.

‘‘All the young people who have an independent person provided for them are in a situation where their parents or guardians are unable to attend for whatever reason,’’ Mr Blandford said.

‘‘It’s also about referring the young person to other services so they avoid reoffending.’’

Volunteers are required to undergo two days of training, as well as refresher courses twice a year, and will need police and working with children checks.

An information session on the Youth Referral and Independent Person Program will take place today from 7pm to 8.30pm at UnitingCare Cutting Edge, Maude St, Shepparton.

For more information, phone 93403777, or visit www.yripp.org.au

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