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, 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 of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who have come in contact with the justice system.
ACSO proudly acknowledges Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and their rich culture and pays respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and their elders past and present.
We recognise 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.
For thirty-seven years, the Australian Community Support Organisation has supported vulnerable people at every juncture of the criminal justice system.
Before, throughout and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic our incredible employees provide a range of support services including mental health, alcohol and other drug treatment, forensic disability residential support, social enterprise as well as social and transitional housing.
Our employees passionately deliver this specialised work to create a community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive, and prison truly is the last resort.
Board of Directors
Our purpose is to strengthen the wellbeing of our communities by advocating for and delivering services which divert people away from the justice system.
Throughout 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020,
we have supported over 39,727 people across Australia
Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP)
Appreciation and respect for the expertise of people with lived experience of the criminal justice system are in the very origins of ACSO, as our organisation was founded by an “ex-offender”, Stan McCormack. Formerly known as the Consumer Advisory Group, our Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP) is made up of previous ACSO consumers and family members of those who have received support from our organisation. LEAP offers our organisation invaluable and expert insight which ensures our services are beneficial to those accessing them.
Forensic Assessment and Treatment Team (FACT)
Our Forensic Assessment and Counselling Team (FACT) provides alcohol and other drug assessments and counselling to people on bail or in the Court Integrated Services Program. Operating across seven metropolitan Magistrates’ Courts, FACT aims to improve community safety by reducing substance-related harm and risk of reoffending. During the past financial year, FACT completed 696 assessments. Of these, 232 clients engaged in treatment with FACT and either completed or partially completed an episode of standard counselling.
Client Services Unit (CSU)
Whether on remand, bail, mandated or voluntary, our Client Services Unit (CSU) has been an entry point for over 17, 000 referrals to receive alcohol and other drug assessment and treatment. CSU is a specialised administrational team who are responsible for providing the Department of Health and Human Services-funded forensic brokerage to all publicly funded AOD assessment and treatment providers across the state of Victoria.
The Community Offenders Advice and Treatment Service (COATS)
Operating across the entire state of Victoria, our Community Offender Advice Treatment and Service (COATS) team provides an opportunity for individuals who have an alcohol and other drug concern to divert away from further contact with the criminal justice system. COATS has facilitated over 10, 000 referrals to assist people in overcoming adversity with holistic assessment, case formulation and treatment planning advice to specialist AOD treatment services across Victoria.
Responsive Assessment Planning, Intervention and Diversion Service (RAPIDS)
Our Responsive Assessment Planning, Intervention and Diversion Service (RAPIDS) is a small team of five forensic assessors delivering service across metropolitan and regional Victoria to people requiring rapid and enhanced responses due to high-risk circumstances. RAPIDS, which sits under Forensic Assessment and Coordination parallel to COATS, has provided 1,548 appointments, with 71% were within two business days of receiving the referral. Bridging support was provided to 79% of clients with almost 4,000 contacts made.
Voluntary AOD Intake (VAOD)
Across regional Victoria, Our Voluntary Alcohol and other Drugs Intake team has provided ‘front door’ access, local knowledge and support pathways for 4,461 community members to access treatment services.
Family and Carer Program
Our Family and Carer program has provided 240 individuals; family members, friends and carers of people who are misusing substances, with guidance and support. This program aims to inform and advocate for a range of families and carers, including vulnerable groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, LGBTQI, culturally and linguistically diverse, remote, and people who have experienced a history of trauma.
Six years ago, ACSO’s Board created a new company to build a social housing response for people in or at-risk of entering the criminal justice system. McCormack Housing provides housing support for people who are exiting prison and are at-risk of homelessness. Our McCormack housing program offers six to 12 months of accommodation and intensive housing support and has assisted 24 clients over the last financial year; 11 who are currently in the program and 13 who have found and secured long-term, safe and stable homes.
The Safe Steps program commenced on 1 May 2020, to provide safe and stable accommodation options for individuals with serious offending histories. The program aims to enhance successful transitions from custody or residential facilities through the provision of opportunities to create or improve a tenant’s rental history whilst enabling them to engage with services that address their complex support needs.
Forensic Residential Services
Across Victoria, 365 days a year, our eight forensic residential houses support residents with a cognitive disability who are either engaged in or at-risk of engagement in the criminal justice system. Over the last financial year, our forensic residential team have helped over 35 residents to identify pro-social strategies to reduce behaviours of concern, increase independence with daily living activities, explore future accommodation opportunities, increase pathways to employment and to positively participate in their community.
STEP Residential Program
STEP is a Forensic Disability Residential Program which has assisted 100% of residents to abide by the conditions of their Supervision Order and close the gap on the shortage of specialist accommodation available to support supervision order sex offenders with a cognitive disability. Our STEP team offers intensive support to its residents to help them adjust and reintegrate in the community.
Youth Residential Rehabilitation Service (YRRS)
Our Youth Residential Rehabilitation Service (YRRS) supports and provides accommodation to up to ten young people aged 16 – 25 who have been diagnosed with mental health concerns or are at-risk of homelessness. Operating on a 24/7 staffing model, the YRRS team have supported residents to complete 16 individual OnePlans which aim to meet personal goals set by the young person and their care team. YRRS also offers activities such as gardening, cooking and personal finance education to develop life skills and increase opportunities for community reintegration.
Atrium Housing and Support program
Our Atrium Housing and Support pilot program received 143 referrals in total and has been the first of its kind in Victoria. The program supports individuals who would ordinarily be unlikely to obtain bail, due to lack of housing, high complexity and needs. Delivered in partnership between Melbourne City Mission, Caraniche and ACSO, Atrium offers short-term accommodation, case support and intensive AOD treatment.
Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP)
Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) provides support to people who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless. Services provided by SAAP include transitional supported accommodation and other services, designed to encourage clients achieve a high level of self-reliance and independence.
Over 12 months, ReConnect has supported a total of 983 people that were on parole and straight release to transition into the community successfully. ReConnect case workers connected participants to relevant services to address their risk of offending while increasing their ability to participate in their local community.
Once someone has served a prison sentence, no matter how short, they become more likely to return to custody. Our ReStart team aims to address the diverse and complex needs of people and priority cohorts including women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, those with cognitive impairment and young people on a short sentence, three months or less, or on remand. Working across eight Victorian prisons, ReStart has received 1930 referrals this financial year, and are currently supporting 320 people, providing them with pre-release and intensive outreach support as well as sustainable links to support successful reintegration.
Client Support Program (CSP)
The Community Support Program (CSP) has provided 113 people with post-sentence detention or supervision orders, with proactive, practical, flexible and individualised support. CSP focuses on the identified critical life domains including mental health, alcohol and other drugs, employment, education, housing, social connectedness and independent living skills to assist the successful transition into the community.
Community Re-Entry Services Team (CREST)
Based in Queensland, our Community Re-Entry Services Team has supported 3,860 people to complete individual requirements during the first three months of their parole. Working in partnership with Queensland Corrective Services, the program directly targets the identified needs of the person, before release and during their transition into the community.
The Clinical Services team made up of Psychologists, an Occupational Therapist (OT) and Behaviour Support Practitioners support clients to address problematic behaviours, develop their skills and reach their goals. We also continue to provide regular training to the wider organisation, as well as Corrections Victoria (CV) on a monthly basis. Our OT has completed 10 assessments with clients, providing ongoing intervention to 4 clients within our residential services. Our OT has also continued to facilitate a Cooking Program and developed an Inter-House Games program, in collaboration with residential services, to keep clients engaged in meaningful and enjoyable activities during the pandemic restrictions. Our team of Behaviour Support Practitioners currently provide NDIS-funded behaviour support to 17 clients within residential services, as well as to clients in the CV-funded beds at Nicholson Program and STEP.
NDIS Outreach Services
NDIS Outreach Services supports individuals with cognitive disabilities who are engaged in the criminal justice system or at-risk of engagement. Our NDIS Outreach Services have assisted 6 people to achieve their goals, such as ‘get better with money’, ‘learn how to live by myself’ and ‘learn how to live with other people better’—helping them to positively engage in their community and reduce their risk of reoffending.
Transition to Work (TtW)
Across Corrimal and Shellharbour in New South Wales, our Transition to Work (TtW) team has encouraged over 139 young people, aged 15-24 on their journey to employment. TtW supports early school leavers and young people for up to 18 months. TtW uses an Advantage thinking model to identify strengths and promote self-advocacy. The program provides intensive, pre-employment support to improve the work-readiness of young people, encouraging them to achieve employment including apprenticeships, traineeships or alternative education.
Location: New South Wales
ACspresSO is our social enterprise café which focuses on growing the resumes of our trainees by offering hands-on hospitality training. At some time in their lives, the trainees have been in contact with the justice system. ACpresSO aims to support their journey to meaningful employment by teaching food preparation and barista skills. Over the last 12 months, trainees have helped ACspresSO make and sell Melbourne caffeine lovers over 20,374 cups of coffee.
Mental Health Access Project
Through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Access Project, our Mental Health team has supported 144 clients to navigate the NDIS application process. The voluntary program is available to Victorian community members as young as 16 to the age of 64 and who face significant barriers in applying to the NDIS, such as homelessness, alcohol and other drug concerns or those who are culturally or linguistically diverse. The program is tailored to Victorians experiencing severe and enduring mental illness which is likely to be lifelong.
Partners in Wellbeing
Partners in Wellbeing assist Victorians who are experiencing the psychological, social and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing hotline service for free one-on-one support. Since 22 June, Partners in Wellbeing have already received 173 referrals to help improve community members’ wellbeing, develop strategies to cope and provide emotional support to lead a meaningful life both during the pandemic and beyond.
Meaningful client experience
The experience of our clients is at the ‘heart’ of everything we do. Our organisation exists to deliver high-quality programs that assist people to divert away from the criminal justice system and support services which provide everyone in our community an opportunity to thrive.
The first friendly face in a strange new world
ACSO’s Community Re-Entry Services Team, also known as ‘the CREST program’, works closely with Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) across five prisons in the South East Queensland region since August 2016. The primary goal of the program is to work alongside people leaving custody to support their success in the community.
“During COVID-19 we altered our prison pick up processes to ensure the safety of both our employees and the clients we were working with. We are incredibly proud that our team has never had to cancel a pickup and we could continue providing the best support possible. We now wear masks, use sanitiser, and as we asked about their experience in custody and we also talk about the change in the community.” – CREST Forensic Case Worker, Paris
“Because of COVID-19 I was turned away from hostels, caravan parks, boarding houses…Without this program, I don’t know where I’d be.”
“Frank is one of three people McCormack Housing has successfully transitioned out of the program to long term housing during the challenging period of COVID-19. Our program has achieved this through a strong relationship with internal and external networks such as Real Estate Agents, Local services, and Social Housing organisations. We also acknowledge the outstanding wrap-around services provided by ACSO Reconnect Gippsland and Bendigo and our Rebecca La Frenz who provided therapeutic support that assisted our program in achieving these outcomes.” – McCormack Housing Operations Manager, Sylvia
Advocating for our clients and participants:
Award winning, Family and Carer Program
“Our program’s purpose is to support and educate family members and significant others who are struggling with a loved one’s substance misuse. Our wonderful team was kindly nominated by one of our family clients whom we supported to make a submission to the Mental Health Royal Commission. This client was so very grateful when we rang her and explained that we were trying to gather as many of our family and carer clients as possible to tell their stories. We are very proud to have supported 22 people (our participants past and present) to submit their stories to the Mental Health Royal commission, so they could be heard on the highest platform, and contribute their recommendations to determine the long overdue and desperately needed changes to our Mental Health systems that would give families and significant others the recognition, support and inclusion they so deserve.
ACSO’s Family and Carer Program was recognised as a service who had significantly improved the experience of families and carers of people in the mental health system in Victoria. Our program received the Tandem Service Award and a training credit for the team to attend one of the many education sessions from Tandem. The client who nominated us felt a great sense of accomplishment and validation to have told her story and be able to contribute to a better mental health system in the future.” – Family and Carer Program Team Leader, Charlotte
Wellbeing of our People
The Wellbeing of our People is a top priority for ACSO. Our focus is to ensure our people are safe, well and engaged with our OneACSO culture.
- Meaningful and rewarding careers
- An engaging and inclusive OneACSO culture
- Industry leaders in safety and wellbeing
To attract, engage and retain the best people, ACSO aims to provide meaningful and rewarding careers. We have seen over 80 internal employee position and program movements, including promotions that support career and professional development.
As a part of our Learning and Development offering and to support the growth of our leaders and emerging leaders, ACSO has introduced its new Leadership Development Program.
This program gives our leaders and emerging leaders one-on-one leadership coaching and access to in person learning and an online resource platform, which identifies individual growth opportunities and tailors its development plan accordingly.
*92 of our leaders and emerging leaders completed 645 coaching sessions, utilized 489 coaching hours and completed 276 individual leadership goals.
“Our Ipswich office is very proud of the chameleon vibe we have adopted. We have overcome challenges this year by making creative changes and by pulling together as a team. The focus is always on the client, their journey and how best we can efficiently support them. Our CREST program manager, Bree Champion, provides us with the opportunity to explore new and innovative ways to achieve outcomes, our entire team is amazing. I believe it’s this team environment that has given me the space to excel! Just to learn that I had been nominated for such an award, was very humbling. I’m incredibly grateful, so sincerely thankful and am going to make the most of this opportunity ACSO has given me!” –
– Chanel, 2019 winner of the Cappello Values Award and CREST Forensic Case Worker
“I love the culture here, the professional development is incredible, as is the work culture is also amazing. I love the dedication of the staff and the commitment to clients.”- ACSO employee, 2020 employee engagement survey.
At ACSO, we are committed to supporting our people to pursue and develop their ACSO careers with flexibility and purpose. Our annual Employee Engagement Survey offers our organisation invaluable insight into our peoples’ experiences at work. Their feedback helps us to understand what we are doing well and how we can improve as an organisation.
Though this year has been challenging, we are proud that we have achieved record results across our engagement survey with 97% employee participation, 1,637 comments with an overall 73% employee engagement rate.
“I believe that ACSO’s special leave helped tremendously as some team members did not have to use their own sick leave or annual leave to use when tested, and I think this was a driving factor to ensure employees stayed home from work if they were starting to feel any flu-like symptoms.” - Lesley Olsen; Team Leader, Youth Residential Rehabilitation Service
Our research, clients and partnerships contribute to inclusive communities and criminal justice reform.
Our organisation aims to deliver innovative services informed by evidence and enhanced by digital transformation.
Transforming ACSO through OSCA
OSCA is built for the future and will grow and adapt to ACSO’s growth and strategic direction.
OSCA is ACSO’s new enterprise client case management system, built on the Pega Platform which is a best of breed global system helping us to meet the demands of working in multiple communities and government sectors undergoing change and disruption.
This digital transformation directly enhances a meaningful client experience by ensuring that they only need to tell their story once; all relevant information is then readily available for anyone providing client care and our responses and interventions are better tailored to their individual needs and experiences.
OSCA enhances our ability to improve client experiences and outcomes by facilitating the capture of holistic client history and the continuous recording of all interactions across any ACSO program. An early example is that we have halved the amount of time our ReStart Program team needs to prepare Quarterly Reports and audits for Corrections Victoria. Our development roadmap has continued during 2019-20 with ACSO’s case work services being implemented. Planning has commenced for the implementation of our Residential and Intake and Assessment services in 2021, resulting in the decommissioning of the legacy Penelope client management system.
Our Future Directions – OSCA Creating Collaborative Impact for Justice Reform
The Pega Platform that OSCA is developed on is more than a technology solution. It is an innovative and dynamic system that will enable transformational change in ACSO’s service delivery, organisational processes, and the sharing of information with external stakeholders. The ACSO Board is committed to the ongoing investment in OSCA and has a strategic vision to use data analytics and innovative technology to measure the impact that we have for each individual client, for community and for government policy. The investment in OSCA will help ACSO influence change by:
- Enabling evidence-based research and collaboration to inform future Justice policy and practice
- Creating opportunities for ‘interoperability’ between ACSO, Government and the community and health service sectors that help divert ACSO clients away from the Criminal Justice System.
Enhancing our day-to-day with TechOne
To consolidate our systems and improve our employees’ journey with our organisation, ACSO has introduced TechOne. TechOne allows our people to access Payroll, Finance and People and Culture elements all from one platform known as ‘MyPortal’.
With push-notifications, this fully integrated and online system allows our employees to easily stay on top of their administrative duties, freeing up time to further support participants and clients.
Benefits of TechOne
- Fully integrated system and online system.
- Centrally stored employee information.
- Automatic push notifications via email.
- Online sign off/approvals such as probation and professional development plans.
Our financial health continues to allow our organisation to grow and be innovative, and as we responsibly expand, we are moving towards becoming a national provider of services aligned with our vision.
Partners in Wellbeing
During these uncertain times, a growing number of people in our communities require additional assistance. The urgency of the pandemic meant that our organisation needed to establish specialised support for people as soon as possible, and together with two other organisations, we made this happen.
Utilising a well-established partnership, which was set into motion by our Mental Health Intake program and the NDIS Access Project, resulted in Neami National, EACH and ACSO developing a new COVID-19 response program, Partners in Wellbeing.
Providing services to Victorians from 22 June, Partners in Wellbeing assists people experiencing the psychological, social and economic effects of the COVID-19. The program provides access to a free hotline for one-on-one support to help improve wellbeing, develop strategies to cope and provide emotional support to people across Victoria. Partners in Wellbeing is tailored to the individual’s needs and can include Wellbeing Coaching which offers support to help make changes, so people better connect with others, can be hopeful about the future and lead a meaningful life both during the pandemic and beyond.
“People more than ever are realising the importance of connecting with others and talking about the issues at hand. The Partners in Wellbeing program provides that much-needed opportunity to learn to cope with this new world, in a safe, warm, empathetic and professional environment.” – Team Leader, Harry Constantinou
The impact of COVID-19 is far-reaching, and the community is experiencing unprecedented levels of distress. As such, the program has already received a high volume of referrals. Though Victoria is welcoming the gradual progression to normality, ‘COVID normal’ will pose its own challenges for many people within the community for years to come.
We would like to thank our Partners in Wellbeing team for their tireless effort and phenomenal work to ensure our partnership could provide support to our communities when they need it the most.
“During the development of this new program, I’ve been most proud of the team’s continual feedback and suggestions as to how we can improve our service and our responsiveness to clients, and the way that our team has continued to support each other during a really busy and challenging time.” Team Leader, Laura Botterill
Piloting programs to test our growth opportunities
Atrium Housing and Support Program
Piloting innovative programs allows us to analyse the success of program model to address the needs of participants, as well as assess its impact, sustainability and scalability.
The Atrium Housing and Support Program has been delivered at a time when Victoria’s remand prison population had increased from 19% in 2014 to 38% in 2019. This rise of unsentenced prisoners comes at a tremendous social cost to the individuals, their families and at a substantial economic expense to the State.
Atrium is the first of its kind in Victoria, and piloted by consortium partners; Melbourne City Mission, Caraniche and ACSO. Atrium aims to assist people who would otherwise be unlikely to receive bail due to a lack of stable housing, no fixed address, or because they require drug and alcohol support.
During one of several pilot review assessments, the partnership adapted the program in response to the needs of people in prison and the community – and expanded to include a second house to address the needs of women.
“The client… is someone who has been cycling in and out of the criminal justice system for a really long time. She has attempted residential rehabilitation before and was really looking for something with a supported pathway into long-term housing because that was her ultimate goal…I don’t know of too many other programs that are offering that kind of intensive support.”
– Client Lawyer
The critical learning during the two-year pilot is that once the reputation of the program was established and a regular flow of referrals were received, the Atrium model was proven to be both needed and effective. Atrium has demonstrated its ability to fill a need within the transitional space, working at full capacity with a range of programs and embedded services and has provided important learnings about working effectively with this client cohort. Importantly, Atrium has safely provided service continuity during the COVID-19 restrictions.
The Atrium model is an effective solution for some of the most complex clients being released from custody or on bail in the community. Though the pilot is winding down, ACSO will continue to work with our partners and the State government to further refine the program model to meet community needs.
“The magistrate had never heard of the program but said it was so fantastic that there was finally a program in place like this. He absolutely applauded it and was looking forward to hearing how it was progressing.”
– Client Lawyer
- Fortitude Valley
NEW SOUTH WALES
- STEP Program (Armadale)
- McShee House (Bendigo)
- Aspin House (Bendigo)
- Gippsland House (Gippsland)
- Cappello House (Yarraville)
- Francis House (Coburg)
- Calabro House (Ormond)
- TK House (Noble Park)
- Atrium Housing and Support Program (Sunshine)
- Atrium Housing and Support Program (Preston)
- Nicholson Program (Preston)
- McCormack Housing (Traralgon, Moe and Bendigo)
In 2020, our consolidated revenue was $54.1 million (2019: 53.5 million).
The Revenue by source chart indicates the level of funding ACSO received through the financial year, from Federal and State Governments, along with other sources of revenue. This is representative of the fact that ACSO’s work is only made possible through partnerships with Federal and State Governments. As is the case with many organisations, COVID 19 has changed the way ACSO is delivering its services, with increased expenditure and new procedures, to above all, ensure the safety of our people, without compromising on service quality. The Expenditure by purpose chart shows ACSO’s focus on governance, risk management and the investment we continue to make on the safety and wellbeing of our employees; as well as the impact of the adoption of AASB 16 Leases for the first time. It also highlights the risk embedded in our programs and the effort we continue to make to manage that risk.
2020 was a good year for ACSO, resulting in a net surplus of $2.8 million (2019: 1.2 million). We continue to be an organisation that uses surpluses to achieve its vision, by reinvesting into the community, our employees and our clients.
INCOME & EXPENDITURE
|Government funding & fees||28,818||36,716||37,626||45,319||46,530|
|Depreciation & amortisation||1,192||1,341||1,257||2,265||2,903|
|NET SURPLUS/(LOSS) BEFORE INTEREST||(487)||(589)||1,274||1,031||2,698|
|NET SURPLUS AFTER INTEREST||(142)||(348)||1,491||1,281||2,845|
ASSETS & LIABILITIES
|Cash & cash equivalents||12,597||11,734||14,722||20,917||28,131|
|NON CURRENT ASSETS|
|Plant & equipment||2,194||2,175||3,113||5,123||10,288|
|Trade & other payables||5,270||7,911||11,261||15,950||24,983|
Remembering Peter Daley
Peter Daley, Team Leader for the COATS Metro Sunshine team.
Peter commenced with ACSO as a COATS Assessor in 2017 and became a Team Leader in 2019. Peter was a lovely, gentle man who liked to laugh, he was dedicated, worked hard for his team and the organisation, particularly when it came to achieving positive outcomes for our clients.
“The kindest man with the most beautiful heart!”
“Peter obviously has left a major hole and I feel so privileged to have worked alongside him. What a mentor, friend and valued Team Leader. Shall always be grateful.”
“Pete was such an integral support for me through my onboarding and learning process into my new career and he was so gentle and kind. He would always take the time to answer any questions I had. I will never forget his lovely nature.”
A few of the many comments shared by employees during Peter’s remembrance held on 1 October 2020
ACSO acknowledges funding from the Victorian, New South Wales & Queensland State Governments and Federal Government.