Australian Community Support Organisation (ACSO) Logo
Understand the story.
Support the change.

A Year of Supporting

the Change

ACSO Annual Report 2020-2021

Our Vision, Purpose and Values

Two Girls Laughing Together

Our Vision

Our vision is for a community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive, and prison truly is the last resort.

Our Purpose

Our purpose is to strengthen the wellbeing of communities by advocating for and delivering services which divert people away from the justice system.

Our Values

Our values are passion for our work, belief in humanity, integrity in all we do and innovative spirit.

Acknowledgement of Country

ACSO proudly acknowledges Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and their rich culture and pays respect to their Elders past and present. ACSO acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as Australia’s first peoples and as the Traditional Owners and custodians of the land and water on which we rely.

We recognise and value the ongoing contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities to Australian life and how this enriches us.

ACSO embraces the spirit of reconciliation, working towards equality of outcomes and ensuring an equal voice for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who have come in contact with the justice system.

Commitment to Inclusion

ACSO recognises the right to a safe and inclusive service without bias. ACSO is committed to the equitable treatment of its participants, employees and partners.

We believe in humanity and celebrating the diverse voices of our community through leadership, practice and policy design, to honour and embrace the diverse traditions, cultures and experiences of those we support and work alongside.

CEO and Chair Message

Hello and welcome to the ACSO Annual Report 2020-2021.

From the organic beginnings of our founder, Stan McCormack, the Australian Community Support Organisation (ACSO) has grown to be a long-term partner of choice for government and industry to help break the cycle of people repeatedly entering the justice system. Our work integrates mental health, disability support, alcohol and other drug treatment, intensive residential support, housing, and employment, which spans the entire justice continuum from prevention to rehabilitation. ACSO does not exclude people based on their offending history and is equipped to effectively manage risk alongside government.

Tribute to Stan McCormack

In April 2021, Stan McCormack passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 77. His legacy of ‘challenging the injustices of the justice system’ and delivering support services for people who may not have others to turn to lives on through the work of ACSO.

There is a saying that from small things, big things grow. Stan was released from prison and set out to establish a new support service for ex-prisoners. This was no easy task. Back in the 1980s, there was no government policy or funding to establish services for prisoners; this was left to the religious charities reliant on ‘missions for humanity’. This was also the era of the ‘blue stone college of knowledge’, of punitive ‘hard time’ and the prevailing notion that ‘nothing works’ in regard to prisoner rehabilitation. But Stan persevered and would not take no for an answer. He had a ‘fire in his belly’ and knew in his heart that people who had gone to prison needed ‘a house, a job and someone to care for them’. He believed in the strength of humanity, the goodness in all people, and that government systems needed to change.

He believed that people needed a second chance or a third, fourth or fifth – which means building relationships free of judgment. Stan believed that people should not be defined by the crime they committed but by their acts of kindness and their commitment to change. Stan’s beliefs continue to run deep within the culture of ACSO. They frame the organisation’s values and vision, which is “for a community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive, and prison truly is the last resort.”

Maintaining Stability and Growth During Challenging Times

Around this time last year, we believed we had weathered the storm of COVID-19 and that 2021 would be a better year. However, we have again faced incredibly challenging times with the pandemic and its effects on our service model, our staff and especially our clients. But ACSO has a way of facing these challenges head-on and, in many ways, our year has proven that it is possible to maintain a high level of quality and service, with strong values and a fundamental belief in our vision.

Importantly, we are now a third of the way into our Strategic Plan 2020-2023 and our organisational vision for “a community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive”. Our strategic direction aims to improve client and community wellbeing outcomes by:

In 2022 we will pursue a growth strategy across Victoria, NSW and Queensland, following our vision to provide better outcomes for our clients. ACSO has a proud history in working with some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and we are committed to providing our services to improve the wellbeing of our clients and society as a whole.

An Opportunity for Change

The pandemic has provided an opportunity for government and the community to re-imagine what role prisons and community-based treatment have in improving justice outcomes. During this time, governments around Australia also continued to question and examine the social and economic value that the criminal justice system delivers. In 2021, the Victorian Parliament Legislative Council Legal and Social Issues Committee conducted an Inquiry into Victoria’s Criminal Justice System. The Australian Productivity Commission also conducted research into “Criminal Justice: An Economic Perspective”. The objective of this study is to develop an economic framework for examining the costs and benefits of imprisonment and alternative policy responses to crime. We look forward to sharing the results of these two key pieces of work when they are released.

At a time when the predicted social and economic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to accelerate, it makes sense for the community to challenge the effectiveness of incarcerating people who have committed non-violent offences. The social costs of family disconnection, unemployment and untreated addiction and mental illness are as significant as the economic costs of building and operating more prisons when the evidence shows that 40-50% of people return to prison.

The Productivity Commission notes that there has been a 33% rise in incarceration in Australia over the past 20 years, which is the third highest rate in all OECD countries since 2003.

ACSO believes that government policy across all states and territories should focus on non-custodial alternatives for people who have committed non-violent offences. Service reform needs to address the health and community service gaps which represent drivers of crime, including homelessness, alcohol and other drug issues, untreated mental illness, family violence and debt. Governments must be prepared to reinvest savings from the justice system into community-based treatment and support that prevents offending. By not acting now to prevent people with significant social vulnerabilities from cycling repeatedly through our courts and prisons, we risk creating a much larger group of serious violent offenders in 20 years’ time. Creating and funding better community-based social housing and treatment options for the ‘hard to engage’ complex-needs cohort will reduce the risk of future serious offending and the costs of increasing incarceration.

Social Housing in the Criminal Justice System

The logical starting point would be to stop building more prisons and redirect this funding to creating alternatives to remand or pre-trial detention. ACSO recommends that specialised justice-supportive housing programs and dedicated social housing options should be established and funded. As part of our commitment to reduce incarceration, ACSO has created and funded our own subsidiary social housing organisation, McCormack Housing. McCormack Housing will become a Registered Housing Provider in Victoria in 2022, and then gain national provider registration. In Australia examples of integrated therapeutic community housing programs exist, however they are primarily focused on rehabilitation for substance abuse and mental illness. People involved in the criminal justice system have trouble accessing these programs, leaving a significant service gap for corrections agencies and courts.

To address these gaps, a new policy, service design and funding approach is needed. Courts and corrections agencies must be able to obtain priority service access for specialised community housing programs for their hard to engage and service cohorts. ACSO is one of a limited group of agencies with the capability, risk appetite and vision focused on reducing the number of people trapped in the criminal justice system.

We extend our appreciation to the ACSO Board, executive team, employees and stakeholders for their ongoing commitment and support during the challenges of the pandemic. We also acknowledge the significant contribution of board members Kathleen Barker, Janine Holloway and Judy Finn who retired from the ACSO Board in 2021 and welcome new board members James McGinnes, Nerita Waight, and Justice Jane Dixon.

We are very proud of the culture we have built at ACSO, which is evidenced by the results of this year’s annual employee engagement survey − 89% of our employees participated with 76% positive engagement.

On behalf of the ACSO Board, executive team and employees we are proud to share the ACSO Annual Report 2020-2021 with you.

Warm Regards,

Karen Corry

ACSO Chair

Vaughan Winther

ACSO CEO

Board Members

Karen Corry

Board Member
Chair

Dr Mark Rallings

Board Member
Deputy Chair
Chair of Strategic Input and Positioning Committee

Dean McWhirter

Board Member

Andrew Chadwick

Board Member

Dr Danny Sullivan

Board Member

James McGinnes

Board Member
Chair of Finance Risk and Audit Committee

Jane Hall

Board Member

Kathleen Barker

Board Member
Chair of Quality Safety Service Delivery Committee

Nerita Waight

Board Member

Dr Rob Leslie

Board Member (McCormack Housing)

Jane Dixon

Board Member

Judy Finn

Board Member
Strategic Input & Positioning Committee Member

Lynn Warneke

Independent Member of FRAC

Janine Holloway

Board Member
Finance, Risk and Audit Committee Chair

Our Year in Review

During COVID-19

Delivering Our
Strategic Plan:

A Safe Pair of Hands

Larissa Daniel

Chief Strategy Officer

Anna Macklin

General Manager, Service Development and Impact, Case Work Services

ACSO’s 2020-2023 Strategic Plan has five priorities: Meaningful Client Experience, Wellbeing of our People, Innovative Design, Influencing Change and Sustainable Growth. COVID-19 has had an impact on the timing of some of the strategic projects this financial year, however ACSO remained focused on delivering the key strategic objectives aligned with achieving our vision.

ACSO set the scene this year with the development of an Impact Logic Model. This will enable us to better understand the impact programs and partnerships are having on the lives of our clients. This, coupled with ACSO’s new case management system OSCA, has seen the further development of client outcome data capture, supporting our Influencing Change objective and ensuring we are building an evidence base and brand to drive our work into the future.

Read more

Partnerships and collaborations are also an important part of our work to Influence Change in the criminal justice system. This year ACSO has been very proud to work with organisations such as the Justice Reform Initiative, Neami, EACH, Swinburne, Wellways, Caraniche, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, Prison Network, Melbourne City Mission and Warrigunya to advocate for, deliver, or contribute to programs which divert people from the criminal justice system.

ACSO’s Diversity and Inclusion Strategy projects include the submission of our Reflect RAP and the introduction of two new types of leave, promoting our objective of building a diverse and inclusive One ACSO culture. The Consumer Advisory Group has undergone a transformation to the Lived Experience Advisory Panel and now has representatives across three states. This panel provides input into many parts of the business, but most specifically service design to ensure we are providing a meaningful client experience.

With lockdowns requiring us to adapt and change the way we do business, Innovative Design is at the forefront of our minds. Like many organisations, our future work state will be more flexible and therefore several ICT projects, such as the replacement of our video conferencing system to align with our use of Microsoft Teams have been prioritised. The replacement of our worker duress alarms to a state-of-the-art Falcon Duress system has also progressed the strategic priority of the wellbeing of our people. Workplace health and safety (WHS) has always been a priority at ACSO, and to ensure the safety of our people, ACSO undertook a review of our WHS framework to ensure best practice and innovation are constantly considered and reviewed.

Sustainable Growth remained a priority for ACSO, with funding for several new programs received across 2020-2021. Given the economic challenges across all levels of Australian governments, it is reassuring to know ACSO is seen by government as a safe pair of hands to take on new initiatives directly addressing impacts of COVID-19 for people and communities. The new Partners in Wellbeing service providing mental health support, for example, was provided to ACSO due to the high-quality work we are well known for.

ACSO’s reputation for taking on complex challenges in service systems was enhanced by our ability to respond in a timely manner to new needs identified by government. The new Youth Outreach Recovery Support (YORS) was another new program awarded to ACSO and was sought by funding providers due to our existing reputation for service delivery. During this period, ACSO has also accessed a range of funding to mitigate infection risks from the pandemic within our hubs and residential facilities, in recognition of the important role these facilities play in protecting and servicing vulnerable clients.

One of the most exciting new projects is a co-design housing solution funded as part of the Victorian Government’s Infrastructure Stimulus Package between Warringunya and ACSO. This will enable First Nations justice clients to transition from custody back to their communities in a culturally strong and supported manner. The project will provide housing to people exiting custody in purpose-designed housing on acreage property under a long-term lease arrangement. Local Aboriginal community members are leading the process to ensure a solution by First Nations people for First Nations people that also meets specific healing and cultural requirements within the housing design.

Across 2020-2021

$1.3

million

$1.3M was won in COVID-19 related grant funding for improvements in facilities, expansion of workforces and development of our business support systems.

7

new strategic projects

Implementation of 7 new strategic projects during the pandemic.

Working with our
Clients through

a Pandemic

Cath Williams

Chief Operations Officer

The ACSO team has been amazingly responsive and innovative in continuing to meet our clients’ needs in these incredibly challenging times. We have consistently adjusted our service delivery seamlessly to meet varying levels of restrictions, moving from predominantly phone-based support when in lockdown scaling up to face-to-face at hubs, in the community, and in the prisons when we can.

Read more

Our residential and clinical teams have been outstanding in working closely with individual clients and their interests to find meaningful activities they can undertake despite the restrictions. Case work services have continued to provide necessary transportation and accompaniment and have been incredibly creative in finding ways to engage clients effectively from a distance. Our AOD and MH services have expertly and empathetically helped clients deal with their isolation and COVID-19 fatigue challenges along with their presenting issues, as well as proactively managing increased demand.

Over recent months I have virtually joined each of our front-line team meetings and have been overwhelmed by how client focused and resilient everyone is and how fantastically teams are staying connected and supporting each other despite everything that is going on in the world around us.

35

Delivery of 35 programs across housing, AOD, mental health, case work, clinical practice and residential services.

Provided service for over

20,000

people across 3 states

ACSO Case Work
Services

Over the past 12 months the Forensic Case Work Services team (FCWS) have gone through an incredible adjustment, not only having to adapt to working from home but also servicing participants in the form of a hybrid model of direct face-to-face support and use of IT technology.

Read more

For some staff and participants this has been an incredibly challenging time, but it has also been a time when stakeholders, contract management and facilities have come together more than ever to develop innovative responses to the sector and work collaboratively, which has allowed us to operate in a new way.

Outside of working with the broader sector, we have also been able to build a client data system ‘virtually’ utilising staff across the nation and from overseas, continued to collaborate and develop housing opportunities for our participants across Victoria and Queensland, advocated with government for better access to services for our participants, developed a cultural diversity program and also started to collaborate in a research project.

Regardless of the adversity we have faced, our sector, staff and organisation have shown resilience, growth, and tenacity through the past 12 months which has allowed us to operate and achieve what we have in 2020-2021.

Emma Bell

General Manager, Case Work

Supported

122

Supported 122 participants per month through the Community Support Program (CSP) via a hybrid model.

ReConnect increased service delivery by

510

ReConnect increased service delivery by 510 more referrals than the previous year and recorded the lowest rate of unplanned exits, with only 18% of participants exiting returning to custody or disengaging from the program.

Supported

1,429

ReStart participants

Supported 1,429 ReStart participants to successfully reintegrate into the community after being in custody, on remand, or sentenced for a short period of time – 658 (46%) of participants were (female).

Placed

91

Transition to Work (TtW) also placed 91 young people into employment or education, with 94% of participants advising that we provided enough opportunities for them to work towards their career goals and 84% advising the program worked in a way that met their individual circumstances and needs.

CREST expanded their services

CREST expanded their services into Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre and added Borallon Training and Correctional Centre to the locations ACSO service.

Transition to Work (TtW) supported

238

Transition to Work (TtW) supported 238 young people, of which 26% identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Engaged with

8,122

Engaged with 8,122 CREST clients. This can largely be attributed to the positive relationships our staff have within QCS (Queensland Corrective Services) which has allowed smooth transitions and minimal impact on clients during lockdowns.

I was lost when I entered prison and to be honest felt like a lost puppy getting out… I feel that [my case worker] saw who I was, put forward opportunities and assisted me in the ways that I needed. I felt supported and respected.

- RECONNECT CLIENT
Woman Smiling Happily

My TtW coach helped me heaps! She was always there when I needed her and helped me find a great job. I’m very pleased with the time I spent with ACSO.

- TtW CLIENT

ACSO Residential
and Outreach

Services

Lee Esposito

General Manager, Residential Services

Eileen Henderson

Acting General Manager, Residential Services

The residential and outreach services at ACSO are designed to provide high-quality and specialist support to people with a disability who have been in contact with, or who are at risk of, contact with the criminal justice system. In 2020-2021 our teams not only celebrated success in maintaining COVID-safe environments and overcoming the many challenges the pandemic presented, but had many other reasons to celebrate.

Highlights from the year include

Supported

37

residential clients

37 residential clients were supported through SFDA and STEP. Four transitioned onto more independent living, one returned to Corella Place, one returned to custody.

Provided housing for

18

young people

Housing was provided to 18 young people through our Youth Residential Rehabilitation Program (YRR).

The Youth Residential Rehabilitation Services (YRR) program, also known as Solomon Street, was thrilled to see one resident, Nate, taking big steps towards completing his General Certificate of Education. Nate had to complete an enrolment interview along with a literacy and numeracy test and is now attending regular classes, tutorials, and 1:1 training that will help him develop skills and confidence for his chosen pathway – computer engineering.

From Little Things, Big Things Grow at Aspin House

A small patch of Golden Square in Bendigo burst into a sea of green as the Aspin House Edible Garden Project got under way. Faced with the tired remnants of what was once an “ornamental garden”, residents and employees set about transforming the space into something more productive and drew up plans to create an edible garden. Many hours were spent digging out the old ornaments, pulling weeds, and replacing them with fresh soil, and prepping for the coming plants. Next came chooks, and with the help of facilities maestro Pat Murphy and the muscle of house team members Rod Brady and Ash Layt, an enclosure was built to house the ‘Aspin chooks’, Lisa, Catherine and Harry! By Christmas 2020, the garden was alive with over fifty varieties of veggies, herbs, berries and fruit trees, and was humming with the buzz of bees, the cackling of chooks, and the cheer of residents and team members.

Read the full testimonial

“This has been a huge undertaking,” said team member Neil Foley. “We planted the seed of the idea with the residents and management, and everyone took to the concept with gusto”. The garden now produces tomatoes, okra, squash, parsley, basil, oregano, chilli, eggplants, various berries and fruits and enormous zucchini of multiple varieties. “For some reason, the zucchinis here have gone absolutely nuts,” said Neil. “Maybe it’s the gold dust in the Golden Square soil, we’re not really sure, but they’re absolute beasts!” Faced with such a glut of giant zucchinis, all manner of dishes emerged from the Aspin Kitchen – zucchini slice, roast zucchini, zucchini soup, stuffed zucchini, zucchini cake, and zucchini stir fry among them.

13,917

referrals to COATS via
the justice system

13,917 referrals to COATS via the justice system, with the majority of clients assessed and referred to counselling (either standard or complex). The program also supported staff by building on the foundations of a peer group supervision structure, additional peer-based learning and reflective practice.

Assisted 440 clients through the Family and Carer Support Service Program with one-to-one counselling, peer support, information and education groups for people with a loved one struggling with addiction.

Assisted

440

clients

Intake and referral
support for

4,342

individuals

Intake and referral support for 4,342 individuals to the Voluntary Alcohol and Drug Program (VAOD). The team also expanded to work out of Mildura and other locations to help address waiting lists.

Mental Health Assistance Program (MHAP) supported 344 clients (inclusive of Youth Residential Recovery Service – YRR), as well as helping more than 1,000 people access the NDIS in the past three years alongside other PIW partners (EACH, NEAMI).

Mental Health Assistance
Program (MHAP) supported

344

clients

76

Referrals to the Short- Term Intervention Program

76 Referrals to the Short-Term Intervention Program (STIP) and a grant from Gippsland PHN.

Other highlights from the year include

Thank you so much for treating me with respect and without prejudice.

I genuinely felt like you were able to connect with me on a human level while leaving out the adversarial structure that so many individuals in positions of authority naturally tend to adopt. Thanks for making me feel a little positivity, and less anger towards my whole situation. I’ve learnt that one can waste a huge amount of time and energy being angry and/or negative, but I left your office feeling neither and although I had a lot of work ahead of me, you managed to give me a nice little trajectory to begin the whole process. Thanks for allowing me to keep parts of myself and my dignity throughout our encounter. I was once known as intelligent by my peers, and there once was a time when I was a straight A student.

Read the full testimonial

You took me at my word and spoke to me accordingly, without obfuscation or prejudice. Too many times I’ve interacted with individuals that consider you a junkie first, and once you’re a junkie, you’re viewed through that lens so any hope of self-respect or even confidence is quickly gone. Every question I answer seems to be taken as a lie unless I can provide documentation to support my claim. There’s a lot more I could list but this would turn into a thesis! I just wanted to let you know that you have had a profound impact on me and it made my life so much easier at that point in time with all of the depression and anxiety I was wrestling with. I just wish everyone who is released from prison had you as their ACSO assessor or even just to have a conversation about mental health strategies. Your help means so much more to people than I think you may ever understand.

- COATS Client
Woman on the beach smiling at the camera

Managing Risk and Complexity Positive Behaviour Support and Compulsory Treatment

Stan Pappos

General Manager, Forensic Practice

The Clinical Services team is responsible for the provision of clinical supervision, guidance, and support to a multi-disciplinary team of clinicians and allied health professionals. The team consists of qualified and experienced clinical leaders, psychologists, positive behaviour support practitioners, occupational therapists and social workers with expertise in supporting clients with diverse and complex needs.

Highlights from the year include

Read more

ACSO’s Practice Team highlights an investment from ACSO’s Board in increasing the standard of evidence-based practice across the organisation. The Practice Team consists of two senior practice advisors, supporting front-line service delivery across Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales.

During the 2020-2021 financial year, the Practice Unit led the development and introduction of organisation-wide clinical and practice frameworks. These frameworks align with evidence-based principles and guide inclusive practice, particularly with regard to assessment, service planning and client support, assessment, treatment and care across all programs and services in the organisation.

ACSO’s Clinical Services plays a pivotal role in the provision of behaviour support services to NDIS participants, clients with a cognitive impairment and particularly those residing across ACSO’s Specialist Forensic Disability Accommodation Services.

Highlights from the year include

Client Case Study

Zac* arrived at ACSO’s Specialist Forensic Disability Accommodation (SFDA) and Clinical Services in 2013. Zac has a cognitive impairment and has experienced trauma associated with family violence and disruption from an early age. Prior to entering ACSO’s SFDA residential services, Zac had been through various youth and disability service providers, with varying degrees of stability and success. This was due to the emergence of problematic sexualised behaviours, which at one stage resulted in Zac being placed on a Custody Order under the Secretary of the then Department of Health and Human Services.

Read more

Upon entering ACSO’s residential services, comprehensive needs and risk assessments were undertaken, which were used to inform support and treatment plans. Between 2013 and 2021, Zac was subject to a Supervised Treatment Order under the Disability Act 2006 (Vic) and he was supported by a multi-disciplinary care team to engage in treatment, services and support that met his needs and provided benefit. Over time, the care team and Zac worked towards reducing the frequency, intensity and severity of problematic sexualised behaviours. The work undertaken by Zac and his care team ultimately led to an assessed reduction in his risk to others and himself. Zac continued to be afforded stable support arrangements, opportunities to engage with his chosen community in preferred activities and he participated in a graduated reduction in supervision arrangements, culminating in the removal of the Supervised Treatment Order in May 2021.

The practice and approach adopted with regards to Zac’s care and support ultimately helped him develop meaningful connections and relationships in the community, while preventing further contact with the criminal justice system. The past eight years have been among the most stable in Zac’s life and he has continued to report overall satisfaction with his personal relationships, sense of safety in the community and quality of life.

- COATS Client

ACSO Participation
Strategy

Throughout its history ACSO has engaged people who use our services to advise the organisation in its direction. The lived experience of those we support is imperative to include when designing, evaluating, and recruiting to the services and programs that hope to support them. It is for that reason ACSO has this year completed a participation gap analysis and developed a participation strategy.

Read more

The strategy redesigned the Consumer Advisory Group (CAG) into the Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP) and a LEAP Alumni to leverage the expertise of people with lived experience, enhance client engagement, program outcomes, and social change. Existing CAG members are currently working towards the recruitment of a new LEAP and will eventually take on the role of the first LEAP Alumni. Alumni members will continue to support ACSO with advocacy to de-stigmatise those who have encountered the justice system.

Within the first year of the strategy’s implementation we have:

You don’t feel the fire until it burns you and I’ve touched the fire. You don’t know what it’s like until you’ve experienced jail and how it affects you.

Since the age of 13, I have had many encounters with the justice system, in part due to a culmination of childhood trauma, substance abuse and many bad decisions. By 30 I was living on the streets and facing a count of murder. As a result of being convicted, I received a 14-year sentence, with a non-parole period of 10 years.

Read the full testimonial

It wasn’t until I was getting ready to be released on parole, that I fully understood what it was going to take to change the direction of my life narrative. I had to let down those barriers, and trust people if I were to successfully re-integrate back into society. So, two years my into four-year parole period, that’s exactly what I did. I tried something different, I gave a little trust to my case worker, and asked for help. Taking her on her word, I ended up signing parole application papers and this was when doors started opening.

In order to get parole in Victoria, one needs secure accommodation and my case worker said I fit the criteria for ACSO’s McCormack Housing program. An application was put in, and I was accepted. After a few meetings, I could tell that these people were there to help, something that I had never experienced before. But it wasn’t until I was released on parole that I would learn how truly serious these people were about helping prisoners break the cycle of recidivism. I also met the criteria for ACSO’s ReConnect program and was granted funding.

During the first six months, Bree (my ReConnect worker) and I worked on a number of crucial goal objectives, such as obtaining the DSP, which meant I now had an income, applying for NDIS funding, and stable accommodation. These are some of the most important things that anyone needs to live a self-fulfilling life.

I recently joined LEAP because I can make a difference and make it easier for younger people coming through. I don’t want our children going down the same path as I did. I never had this kind of help myself until I found ACSO. If we can open more help in this area, there’s a good chance we can catch younger people before they go too far into the justice system.

- CLAYTON, VICTORIA

Increasing Employee

Engagement During

the Pandemic

Pandemic Support
Package

Ian Heycox

Chief People Officer

One of the highlights of the last financial year has been inreasing support to ACSO team members with a comprehensive and sector-leading support package. The Pandemic Support Package (PSP) included specific paid pandemic support leave of up to five weeks, for both full-time and part-time team members, a contribution of $200 to encourage engagement in a wellbeing activity, career development education support payments of up to $500 to foster engagement in further individual learning, additional Employee Assistance Program (EAP) sessions and leadership coaching resourcing which included 10 x $1,000 employee scholarships and 1 x $2,500 leadership scholarship nominated by leader peers.

Since the package’s introduction in May 2020, over 350 team members have accessed the additional support and opportunities. I would also like to acknowledge the hard-working People and Culture Team who have dedicated themselves tremendously throughout the past year to positively impact and build a cohesive “One ACSO” culture.

Employment Engagement Survey

Participation Rate
89%
Employment Engagement (Compared to 69% average for NFP Sector)
76%
Employees said they are “proud to work at ACSO.”
91%
Employees from all backgrounds believe they have equal opportunities at ACSO.
88%

Diversity and Inclusion at ACSO

13 Employees are engaged as Inclusive Practice Champions

ACSO Board – 8 out of 13 members are female

ACSO Exec – 3 female, 3 male

I have worked at ACSO for a number of years and am so grateful for all the support ACSO has provided as an organisation during the pandemic.

 It has been a stressful time of change, uncertainty filled with many unknowns but all that has been made easier by the ACSO Pandemic Support Package. I have appreciated the flexibility around working hours, working from home, meeting safely with the team and program participants in the community when restriction levels allowed.

I have utilised the additional COVID-19 leave, the $500 training funding, contacted the EAP for support and tuned in to ACSO TV during the first and second waves. ACSO TV was a way to feel connected to the wider organisation and also to remain informed on what is happening within the various states and programs in relation to the pandemic. It was such a lovely surprise to receive a care package from Cath.

- ELISE WARD, NSW HUB LEAD, YOUTH DEVELOPMENT COACH, CORRIMAL

Learning and
Development

Over the past financial year, ACSO’s leaders have been working hard to develop their skills and knowledge through our leadership development program. Our leaders completed 730 external leadership coaching sessions, culminating in 512 hours of coaching time completed.

ACSO’s people have also invested in their learning journey and undoubtedly contributed to two of ACSO’s strategic priorities, meaningful client experience and wellbeing of our people.

Tim Stevenson

Learning and Development Lead

 Our suite of learning opportunities has included:

Hi, my name is Henry Vueyaunzi and I work for ACSO’s CREST program in Queensland. I have been working for ACSO for three years.

I started as a post-release case worker and moved to an in-prison case worker role. Currently I am at Brisbane Correctional Centre. For some people, scholarships provide an opportunity to earn an education. For me it was for career development, as I have a degree in public health. I have always had an interest in the community sector, however, and hope to use my knowledge and skills to help improve people’s lives.

Read the full testimonial

When I received my ACSO scholarship, I put the money towards my Diploma of Community Services, which I had been unable to finish because of financial hardship. I lost my daughter in 2019 and my brother in Africa in early 2020, which became a turning point for me until this miracle happened.

It was important for me to study community services because of my current role as a case worker at ACSO. My job requires case management, where I’m involved in case coordinating with external service providers and delivering person-centred services to individuals. I work autonomously under broad directions from management within ACSO and Brisbane Correctional Centre supervisors. I also look forward to future opportunities in the ACSO family.

No words could express how happy I was when I was informed in the middle of a meeting that I had won $1,000 towards my study. My team leader, Cassandra, recommended I apply for the scholarship, and this motivated me. When you have a boss who supports your career growth, you are at the right organisation.

- HENRY VUEYAUNZI, FORENSIC CASE WORKER, CREST

Launch of ACSO’s Internal
Mentoring Program

Karen King

Acting People and Culture Manager/P&C Partner

ACSO was pleased to introduce its Internal Mentoring Program in February 2021. The program has created a framework for structured internal mentoring to foster professional growth and development among ACSO employees to advance career opportunities and development, support internal succession planning and aid employee retention. The Internal Mentoring Program is the first time ACSO has invested in establishing an organisation-wide mentoring program, and is a strategic action based on employee feedback from the Employee Engagement Survey.

To establish the program, experienced employees were matched with those who would like to learn from a mentor to enhance their professional growth. Learnings have been aligned to a specific role/level/program as well as being behavioural/competency related.

The program cycle ended in October and outcomes have been valuable learnings/experience for both mentee and mentor and demonstrated practical progression – i.e. PDP alignment, undertaking acting up/secondment opportunities across ACSO, succession planning activities, progressing further learning (internal/external) and enhanced employee commitment to ACSO.

The Internal Mentoring Program will run for a second year in 2022!

I applied for the Mentee Program because I realised how much I wanted to stay with ACSO right from the start and I have always been interested in progressing myself further.

When I was first informed my mentor would be Rem, the CFO of ACSO, an accountant, I was very surprised! I wondered how an accountant could assist with an employee who wanted to progress into prisoner reintegration. I soon learnt it was an amazing match by P&C. Rem was able to share so much with me that I feel this has been a huge step forward for my career.

- Nathan Pettet, Intake Worker (VAOD)

Diversity and Inclusion
at ACSO

As part of ACSO’s 2020-2023 Strategic Plan, we have committed to ensure our practice is inclusive, culturally appropriate, and responsive to people from diverse backgrounds. In 2020, ACSO invested in the development and implementation of a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.

Claire Noone

Diversity and Inclusion Lead

Diversity and inclusion is important to ACSO. In our ACSO employee engagement survey in June 2020, our employees rated ACSO as 87% diverse and 82% inclusive. We are also proud members of the Diversity Council Australia.

ACSO has begun to build foundations for a more culturally responsive organisation, with a focus on engaging and partnering with diverse communities, building our workforce’s cultural competencies, and strengthening our systems and accountability structures. 

While the global pandemic has changed the way we work in many ways, ACSO has remained steadfast in its commitment to equity and inclusion, achieving notable accomplishments in challenging times, and at the end of the 2021 financial year we are proud to have achieved the following:

What Inclusion Means to Me

ACSO was the first organisation where I felt comfortable being my authentic self. Although I already felt welcomed and accepted within ACSO, the implementation of Access and Equity Leave for our LGBTQIA+ and our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees gave me the confidence to come out to my colleagues.

I knew that I was not alone, and that there were programs in place to support me and my colleagues. While this is but one step on the journey of inclusion, I know that ACSO is always looking for the next one, and I’m proud to be a part of that journey with the Inclusive Champions workgroup.

- LIV BRADFIELD, FORENSIC AOD ASSESSOR, RAPIDS

Improving ACSO’s
Client Case

Management

Janine Gledhill

Transformation Project Director, Business Services

Over the past 12 months, we have been progressing the implementation of OSCA, our new client case management system, and in the coming months will have completed the implementation of all of our case work services and residential services programs into OSCA. Since the implementation of OSCA for our ReConnect case management last October, we have now implemented OSCA across all our residential services:

Whilst the initial program of work to implement OSCA is nearing completion, enhancements and innovations will continue to improve our client case management and support our staff in the work that they do.

Implementation
of House 360

Throughout 2020 and 2021 we have co-designed a tailored case management system solution for our residential services, ensuring all client and house-related tasks are raised for completion at required intervals and documented clearly. Our ‘House 360’ integrated feature allows for recurrent and ad-hoc scheduling, reporting and tracking of all key house-related tasks and functions, as well as allowing for vacancy management, emergency planning/relocation, and access to all key documents required by staff in the maintenance of the residential service. All staff complete the residential digital “report book” at the commencement and completion of each shift, signing off on all required tasks and confirming hand over to the incoming residential staff member.

This allows ACSO to carefully monitor the completion of necessary functions, ensuring the smooth upkeep of the residential facility, including:

McCormack Housing

Inspired by ACSO founder Stan McCormack, McCormack Housing was established in 2016, specifically to enhance and grow access to social and supported housing for ACSO clients exiting prison into homelessness.

McCormack Housing Logo 2

Sylvia Cassar

Operations Manager, McCormack Housing

Traditionally, this cohort experiences high levels of exclusion from public and private housing markets and have no housing history to support their applications. Although it is well researched and recognised that there is a link between housing insecurity and recidivism, the number of people exiting prison into homelessness remains high in Victoria.

With the support of ACSO’s post-release programs, McCormack Housing provides a wraparound service model including behavioural and reintegration support programs.

Each housing program within McCormack Housing offers between six to 12 months of accommodation. During this time, tenancy officers work closely with participants, identifying needs and creating tailored housing plans to exit tenants into safe, affordable, and accessible housing. McCormack Housing officers also provide support beyond housing goals, including forensic case management for individualised care that allows tenants to thrive, achieve life skills and gain independence.

This wraparound service model includes working collaboratively with key stakeholders such as ACSO post-release programs, Corrections Victoria and NDIS providers to establish an individualised care team for each participant.

When the client exits McCormack Housing, tenancy officers offer an additional six months after-care support to ensure clients have made a successful transition to long-term housing.

McCormack Housing
has changed the lives of

92

participants

McCormack Housing has changed the lives of 92 participants who have successfully transitioned into safe, long-term accommodation since 2018.

In 2020-2021, the supported housing model saw 64 referrals made, with 25 participants exiting into long-term accommodation.

25

participants exited into
long term accommodation

Sketch of McCormack House

Original sketch by Stan McCormack

Alan joined the McCormack Housing program in September 2020 after having been in and out of prison over the past 30 years.

[McCormack Housing] a million per cent helped with drug and alcohol use. I would have fallen back into the same hole if I didn’t have this opportunity. I have reconnected with most of my family, and I am working on getting the trust back from others. McCormack Housing was heaps better than expected and I cannot fault the place, everything I needed was there.

I would recommend the program to others for sure. McCormack Housing has made me more confident and now I feel like I can stand on my own two feet. I have been in and out of jail for 30 years and I know I will never go back. This is the first time I have ever accepted support. I cannot thank you enough.

- Alan

Costas joined the McCormack Housing Program after spending four years in prison.

I am a 48-year-old father of three children.

I was released from prison close to two months ago [after four years]. I feel like I am the luckiest man alive as McCormack Housing has put me up in a nice, cosy unit. I have found my peace and quiet and can make my own decisions.

Being on parole is scary no matter what but thank God for McCormack Housing — my saviours — who have placed me in a quiet, beautiful, warm place and have given me hope for my future. For now, I will keep going with my psychologist, my doctor and my alcohol and drug worker who I speak to on a weekly basis.

I am in a great place because of McCormack Housing, and I thank you so much for providing me with exactly what I needed; a safe place to live.

- COSTAS

Financial Summary

Despite being in intermittent lockdown across NSW, Queensland and Victoria, for the whole financial year, ACSO’s service delivery to clients has continued unabated.

Remberto Rivera

Chief Financial Officer

Mona Khan

General Manager, Finance

All our business services units, including finance, ICT, contracts and facilities, as well as our housing company McCormack Housing, have worked very hard to transition to working from home without diminishing their support to the business.

All business units have commenced or completed very important strategic projects to position the organisation to achieve its planned objectives for the next three years. Our finance department completed the migration of TechOne (our ERP) from on-premise to SaaS. This migration has not only enhanced TechOne speed, but system stability, along with addressing employees’ frustration at the slowness of the system prior to the change. Our facilities area transitioned to a new national line set up that allowed our admin employees to share the workload across the three states by allowing calls into our different hubs to be answered from anywhere in Australia. This team has also worked hard in the middle of the pandemic delivering two new hubs for the organisation, one in Traralgon and another in Shellharbour, NSW.

McCormack Housing saw the completion of five brand new houses in Bendigo, while ICT have commenced the implementation of a new digital telephony system and are currently implementing SD-WAN (Software Design Wide Area Network) which will not only render our VPN need obsolete but is expected to deliver a much more stable WAN.

All credit to the members of these teams who have worked tirelessly to enable the organisation to continue to deliver its valued services.

Performance Measured

In 2021, our consolidated revenue was $57.8 million (2020: 54.1 million).

Revenue by Source

The Revenue by Source chart indicates the level of funding ACSO has received from federal and state governments, along with other sources of revenue. This represents the fact that ACSO’s work is made possible through a wide range of contracts with government and other partnerships. As with many other organisations, COVID-19 has changed the way we are operating, with increased remote service delivery and enhanced COVID-safe procedures.

Expenditure by Purpose

The Expenditure by Purpose chart shows that ACSO spends most of its revenue in service provision to clients; but it also highlights its focus on governance and risk management and the investment we continue to make on the safety and wellbeing of our employees. It underscores the risk embedded in our programs and our continued efforts made to manage that risk.

Despite COVID-19 and working from home challenges, 2021 was a good year for ACSO, resulting in a net surplus of $1.9 million (2020: $2.8 million). We continue to be an organisation that uses surpluses for purpose, by reinvesting in the community, our staff and our clients.

REVENUE ($'000) 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21
Government funding & fees
36,716
37,626
45,319
46,530
47,054
COATS brokerage
7,394
4,975
6,851
4,023
6,796
Other income
787
704
1,276
3,364
3,863

44,897

43,305

53,446

53,916

57,714

EXPENDITURE ($'000) 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21
Employee benefits
27,788
26,239
31,569
34,215
36,124
COATS brokerage
7,394
4,975
6,851
4,023
6,796
Depreciation & amortisation
1,341
1,257
2,265
2,903
2,436
Rental expenses
1,421
1,602
1,654
475
553
Other expenditure
7,542
7,958
10,076
9,602
9,919

45,486

42,031

52,415

51,218

55,828

NET Surpluss / Loss Before Interest

(589)

1,274

1,031

2,698

1,886

Interest received

214

217

250

147

68

NET Surpluss After Interest

(348)

1,491

1,281

2,845

1,954

CURRENT ASSETS ($'000) 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Cash & cash equivalents
11,734
14,722
20,917
28,131
28,632
Trade receivables
1,986
1,509
780
369
6,496
Other
1,046
975
2,766
3,698
3,063

14,766

17,206

24,463

32,199

38,192

NON CURRENT ASSETS ($'000) 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Intangibles
732
1,642
709
364
1,957
Plant & equipment
2,175
3,113
5,123
10,288
10,590
Other
1,840
1,887
20
20
20

4,747

6,642

5,852

10,672

12,567

LIABILITIES ($'000) 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Trade & other payables
7,911
11,261
15,950
24,983
30,910
Provisions
3,142
2,636
3,134
3,810
3,818

11,053

13,897

19,083

28,794

34,728

NET ASSETS

8,460

9,951

11,232

14,077

16,031

Thank You

ACSO gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Commonwealth Government and Victorian, Queensland and New South Wales State Governments and the following agencies.

Central Gippsland Health Logo

Disclaimer: Stock photos have been used to protect the identity of our clients.