Arthur challenges young people about what it means to them to be a success not only in VCE but in life.  Students are confronted with ‘big picture’ issues such as who they are, what is important in life, and who they aspire to become. To this end, much more than an academic quest, VCE is presented as an important foundation for one’s ongoing ‘education of life.’

Young people will be challenged to:

  • consider VCE in the total context of their lives
  • be clearer about why they’re doing VCE
  • not take opportunities or education for granted
  • embrace Arthur’s practical ’Tips for VCE’ (or VCAL) success
  • think for themselves and make positive choices
  • appreciate their leadership role and potential
  • develop a social conscience
  • consider the importance of a mentor / confidante
  • develop resiliency, self confidence and self esteem
  • achieve ‘holistic’ integration and a balanced life – the ’4-legged stool’ analogy
  • build a successful future and enjoy life

The presentation is available in two formats:

A.  Standard – approximately 90-100 minutes

  • This is a general talk incorporating the above points and including question     time.  Arthur is available to debrief with any students who might need to.

B.  Three parts – up to 3 hours (with a break)

  • ‘School Reunion’ – a fun, interactive activity where students are invited to share what they imagine life will be like for them 20 years from now at a school reunion. This is a good lead-in that gets students thinking about their personal lives,
    aspirations and values, etc;
  • Arthur’s presentation on success in VCE and Beyond – incorporating his own life story;
  • Tips for VCE – an hour-long Powerpoint presentation (with accompanying 11 page handout) about getting the best out of oneself in VCE.

This seminar is suitable for students commencing Year 11 and 12, or for those who are about to enter VCE



Having failed a mid-year exam Arthur went on to be dux of his final year, only to ‘bomb out’ again halfway through an Arts-Law degree and land in prison.  Arthur dropped out of several other university courses, but managed to overcome great adversity and eventually complete an MA in criminology – which he now uses to empower others.  Arthur shares how he achieved this and why he was so motivated to finish what he had started so long ago.  Stories of students who succeeded against the odds are also included.

Issues addressed include:

  • where are you at, and why bother?
  • VCE – remember why you’re doing it?
  • the intrinsic value of education
  • (dis)empowerment
  • failure – success in disguise
  • resiliency and self confidence / esteem
  • thought-action-habit-character-destiny – a paradigm for success in VCE & beyond
  • the importance of completing what you started
  • practical tips
  • life beyond VCE

This seminar can be a one-off presentation around the mid-year exam mark when students may be feeling weary and disillusioned, or incorporated into the seminar Success in VCE = What? 


Imprisonment is society’s most severe sanction. However, apart from media (mis)representations, how many of us really know or care about prisoners: Who are they and why do they end up in prison, what happens to them there and after they’re released back into the community? Drawing on over 30 years of academic, professional, and lived experience of imprisonment, Arthur addresses these and related issues.

Available topics covered:

  • The history of imprisonment
  • Penitentiary v. Therapeutic models
  • Aims of imprisonment
  • Imprisonment in Australia – facts/stats
  • The adult Criminal Justice & Youth Justice systems
  • The ‘prison industrial complex’ – burgeoning incarceration rates
  • Who are prisoners? – the stereotypical ‘crim’
  • Where do they come from? – ‘prison catchment areas’
  • Experience of imprisonment – incorporating Arthur’s personal story
  • The ‘pains of imprisonment’ – a series of deprivations
  • Institutionalisation v. rehabilitation
  • The long-term psychological effects
  • Problems of release and reintegration – the ‘caterpillar-butterfly’ syndrome
  • Society’s response and responsibility
  • Alternatives to imprisonment
  • Future directions
  • Victims of crime
  • Discussion / workshop

Timeframe (options)

  1. Up to 2 hours – audio-visual, overview of imprisonment, Arthur’s story, questions
  2. 3 hours/full day+ – the above plus ‘Prison Reform Project’ workshop (either on the day or as a follow-up activity over several weeks), whereby groups of collaborating students produce a report of proposed reform measures – the best proposal presented back to the wholegroup by the winning team
  3. Seminar can be modified to meet your particular needs

 Cost:  dependent on timeframe and other variables

 Available referees:

  • Gabrielle Wilson – Legal Studies Coordinator, Toorak College           9788 7200
  • Eleni Stavrou – Legal Studies Coordinator, Lilydale High School      9735 5644
  • Dr Diana Johns – Lecturer in Criminology, University of Melbourne      0425 791 934
  • Kevin Maddock – Founding director, Dismas Fellowship (ex-offenders) 0438 370 082
  • Glen Fairweather – General manager, Prison Fellowship Australia  0409 334 556
  • Mick Cronin – Manager, YMCA Bridge Program (young offenders)  0424 444 299


The late 18th century model of the prison, the penitentiary, was founded by Christian leaders who wanted to reform lawbreakers through a strict regime that included religious edification. But by the early 20th century, as religious influence diminished the notion of ‘reform’ was displaced by its secular equivalent: ‘rehabilitation.’ However in an era of unprecedented prison growth Christian influence has persisted, raising important socio-religious issues with far-reaching implications.

Available content:

  1. Christianity-imprisonment – an enduring relationship
  • Joseph, Daniel, Apostle Paul, Jesus Christ, etc. were prisoners
  • Prison ministry commenced from 1st century of the church
  • The ‘penitentiary model’: an attempt to spiritually reform criminals; precursor of the modern western penal system
  • Replaced by secular therapeutic model aimed at treatment/rehabilitation
  • The mid-1970s dictum ‘nothing works,’ and subsequent philosophical approaches to dealing with offenders: just desserts/retribution, humane containment, re-entry/re-integration, and restorative justice
  • ‘Lives in Transition’ program (Prison Fellowship Vic) and ‘Multi Faith Based Unit’ (Corrections Victoria) – promising initiatives that failed
  1. Why ministry to prisoners matters
  • Ethical, moral and utilitarian considerations
  • Biblical injunctions to care for outcasts
  • The evocation of compassion – Jean Vanier, founder L’Arche communities
  • The paradox of Matthew 25 – caring for the marginalized/Jesus
  • The mandate to love – a trinitarian paradigm
  1. Criminal Justice System
  • Police–Judiciary–Prison
  • Adversarial – ‘an eye for an eye’ / retributive justice
  • The symbolic Lady of Justice v. Reality
  • Youth Justice system – a stepping stone to prison   
  1. The ‘Correctional’ System  
  • Aims of imprisonment
  • Australia’s convict history
  • Modelled on American and British systems
  • International v. Australian perspective – increasingly punitive
  • Examine audience’s particular jurisdiction
  • Overview of a typical maximum/medium/minimum security facility  
  1. Who are prisoners? 
  • Profile of stereotypical prisoner
  • ‘Prison catchment areas’ – postcodes over-represented in prison
  • Poor and powerless
  • Victims-create-victims  
  1. Experience of imprisonment 
  • First-timers v. recidivists
  • The prison sub-culture
  • Dehumanisation and ‘The Pains of Imprisonment’  
  1. Problems of release  
  • Imprisonment dehabilitates offenders
  • Habilitation v. rehabilitation
  • ‘Caterpillar-butterfly’ syndrome
  • ‘Revolving door’ syndrome
  1. Needs of returning offenders  
  • 3 essential needs – Fr John Brosnan (30 years Pentridge prison chaplain)
  • Community – ‘people-caring-people’
  • Network of support – COSA and Five8 models
  • Integrated pre-/post-release holistic program  
  1. Particular problems of the Christian releasee  
  • Distinction between pre-existing Christians & new believers/spiritual seekers
  • Transcending the polarised prison–church subcultures
  • Social and spiritual isolation
  • What more the church should be doing  
  1. The ‘Criminal-Christian’ paradox – can a criminal be a Christian?    (Based on Arthur’s thesis: The Significance of Christianity in Reforming Prisoners)                                                                                                    Explores offenders’ religious faith; qualitative difference of faith to life in prison; unresolved personal problems, needs, and difficulties post-release
  1. Possible reform measures  
  • Restorative Justice (RJ)
  • Justice Reinvestment
  • Social Justice
  • Diversion and early intervention programs
  • Public education campaign
  1. Future directions  
  • Empirical research / best practice
  • Lessons from the USA and other jurisdictions
  • The ‘Prison Industrial Complex’
  • Implications of privatisation
  • Systemic drivers of imprisonment
  • Moral/spiritual imperatives and the Church’s mandate to lead  
  1. Arthur’s story                                                                                                     Law student turned armed robber’s fall from grace and redemption during his 5½ year prison sentence  
  1. Discussion / Workshop / Follow-up project (3 options depending on time) 
  1. General discussion from the floor  
  1. Workshop activity: small group discussion and report back ideas  
  1. Follow-up ‘Prison Reform Project’: over several weeks groups of collaborating students produce a report of proposed reform measures – Arthur choosing the best proposal which is presented back to whole group by the winning team

Timeframe: (options)

  1. Up to 2 hours – overview / optional follow-up exercise by teachers
  2. 3 hours / full day – audio-visuals, workshop activity / ‘Reform Project’
  3. Seminar can be modified to meet your particular requirements

 Cost: dependent on time-frame and other variables

 Audience: senior students, but can be adapted for middle level

 Numbers: unlimited

 Requirements: microphone, whiteboard, audio-visual equipment,     photocopies

 Availability: all-year-round, Australia-wide

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