A self-described nerdy kid from regional Victoria, Chloe Thomson has a double degree in social science and criminology and a professional background in social work. She joins Vacro to support the men at Langi Kal Kal Prison make plans for good lives after their release. Learn more about her motivation, expertise, and what impresses her about the ReLink program.

Hi, Chloe! Can you tell me a bit more about your background and experience?

I started off in social work, working in residential care. I worked in social work for six years in a variety of roles, and had a lot to do with the justice system. Forensics is my passion. Along the way I had roles in various fields – at the Department of Justice and sub-divisions of organisations managed by the Department of Human Services. While I was in those roles, I did a double degree in social science and criminology and have recently commenced a forensic science degree.

I know that forensic means to do with the justice system, but what exactly is forensic science?

It’s a degree that qualifies you to work as a forensic analyst or scientist, like in crime scene investigation. It’s focused on lab work, with hands-on, practical experience, which is really exciting. My passion is the study of human behaviours, specifically within the forensics field.  I started within social work, and I realised that while I love helping people, I needed something more aligned with my passion and that's what forensic science and social justice is for me.

You’ve just joined Vacro as a reintegration coordinator on our ReLink team, working at Langi Kal Kal Prison. What interested you about Vacro?

I had worked with people previously on post-sentence Supervision Orders and had really enjoyed that role. But it was on the other side of the spectrum, and so I was drawn to this role as it's from the other side, pre-release. That concept interested me. I feel like it's a completely different role, a different stage in their life. A crucial part. The role itself at Vacro has many functions, however its core is the implementation of a psychoeducational program that focuses on developing goals in order to ease the transition from prison to the community and to link participants in with support post-release. Previously I have run groups in other forensic roles, which was an activity I really enjoyed. So, I am really excited to be in this position.

You’ve not yet started running your own ReLink sessions – you’re shadowing our team as part of your induction. What are you noticing about the sessions?

There’s a lot of potential to work autonomously and work creatively. It's such a great role that you can personalise, and that's rare to find in a role. Obviously, there’s a structure to follow – a program manual with modules to deliver – but you can tailor this to the participant and the facilitator.  It's great to see the process of the program being implemented, to connect and encourage participants through motivational interviewing and other techniques, to find the goals they need, and the steps they need to take to be successful. Program documents fulfill some of the program's functions and create a great overview of the work completed. You can have the tough conversations, because that’s what fosters and creates change.

How do you think your social work background will inform your work on ReLink?

My background in criminology and social work will really help. I have a lot of experience with a variety of people from all walks of life, aged from 0-100 years. This is going to dictate how I communicate and connect with people. I understand complexities and also am not afraid to learn more about people to understand individual circumstances along the way, we as people juggle a lot of things and not one of us is the same. I emphasise with the overwhelming fear, and the feelings of entering prison as well as being released.

What interested you about criminology when you started studying it?

I am interested in how crime fits into human behaviour. At the time, I had been working in social work for four years, I had dabbled in a degree in social science and psychology, which I quickly realised I did not like. At work I was dealing with a lot of high-risk youth who were offending. I came to the realisation that i did not quite understand the contributing factors around offending or fully grasp the complexities around such and knew i wanted to learn more. In following this path, it affirmed my long-standing passion for Criminology and human behaviour and this then lead to my further degrees.

What do you want to achieve in your role at Vacro?

I would like to facilitate the program in a way that in mutually satisfactory and beneficial for both the participant and myself within my role.  I want my participants to feel comfortable and happy, able to come to me if they have issues or need assistance, feel like they are coming to the realisation of the goals of what they want to do on the outside, and assist them to do that.

What’s something about you that we won’t find from reading your resume?

I love the gym. That’s my thing. It’s my time, it’s transformed my life in so many different ways, and it continues to be a great stress release. Earphones in, going somewhere away from home, knowing it’s uninterrupted time to go in and do what you want.

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