13 Dec 2021
The Ross Trust is pleased to be supporting a Mornington Peninsula program that is helping teenage girls who are at risk of ‘falling through the cracks’ and landing in the justice and care system.
The trust is providing $75,000 to the Living Free Project on the Mornington Peninsula to fund a new support worker who will help vulnerable girls prone to school disengagement.
The worker will connect girls and their families to the right support as early as possible, ideally disrupting a dangerous trajectory.
The project is a collaboration between organisations including TaskForce Community Agency, Peninsula Health, Peninsula Community Legal Centre, Victoria Police and Victoria Legal Aid.
TaskForce Executive Manager Strategy and Communications Steven Helfenbaum says intervening can prevent the girls becoming involved in further risky behaviour, such as crime, drugs and alcohol use, and absconding from home and school.
“We often get involved after the girls have been reported missing, which is clearly a sign that something is not right,” Steven says. “We are then able to step in and work with other organisations to help.
“If they don’t get help, there is a real risk they’ll end up in the justice system.”
In 2020, there were 769 missing person reports across the Bayside Peninsula area - 137 of these were for girls aged between 10 and 17. The Bayside Peninsula Area covers the local government areas of Port Phillip, Stonnington, Glen Eira, Bayside, Kingston, Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula.
Victoria Police in Frankston Mornington Peninsula say there is an urgent need to support these girls as they are often targeted by older male criminals for sexual exploitation, who also encourage them into low-level street crime.
Steven says the Living Free project is already showing great results, with a 90% reduction in missing persons reports and 93% reengagement in education with girls in the project.