The next step in our 150-year evolution

Following a successful celebration of our 150th anniversary in 2022, the Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders is announcing a move to a streamlined new name: Vacro.

In 1976, when we updated our name from the Prisoners’ Aid Society of Victoria to the Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (VACRO), the term ‘offender’ was regarded as more neutral and preferable to ‘prisoner’. At that time, we were expanding our work into the community, and particularly to the families of people in prison. The words ‘care’ and ‘resettlement’ signalled how VACRO was orienting its work.

“The name VACRO has served us well,” said Vacro’s CEO, Marius Smith. “However, as an acronym it is now dated, particularly, the word ‘offender’. We long ago stopped using the word 'offender’ to describe the people we work with, and we also encourage others to use more strengths-based terminology when supporting people’s transition from prison to the community.”

Calling a person an ‘offender’ traps them permanently in the worst mistake they’ve made. For us, offending is one small part of a much bigger picture. A person can’t change the things they’ve done, but they can still change the course of their life. We believe in people’s capacity to change, and that’s why we strive for language that doesn’t label and shame, but instead reflects people’s dignity, humanity, and diversity.

When planning for the name change, we considered keeping the VACRO acronym with a different set of words attached or changing to a new name altogether. We also looked at organisations overseas who adopted similar names in the 1970s: the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO), and the Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NIACRO). Both organisations moved away from their acronyms, legally changing their names to Nacro and niacro.

“Our name has developed considerable goodwill and trust over almost 50 years, and for that reason we decided to become ‘Vacro’, and add the tagline, New Beginnings, Stronger Communities, to describe in broad terms what we do,” said Marius. There are no changes to the structure of the organisation, only a change to the name.

For more than 150 years we have adapted to best respond to the needs of people caught in the criminal justice system. We invite others working in this space to also move away from the outdated labelling of ‘offender’ to terminology that is reflective of current times.