Claire Moore’s bees are usually busy collecting honey at her farm, but for the past 10 weeks more than 20,000 of them have been at a youth justice centre.
Claire Moore’s bees are usually busy collecting honey at her farm in central Victoria, but for the past 10 weeks more than 20,000 of them have been at the Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre.
- A new beekeeping program is hoping to aid the rehabilitation of men in the youth justice system
- The five-week program teaches students the fundamentals of commercial beekeeping
- The program aims to help youths gain full-time employment once they are on parole
Inside the centre, a handful of young men are learning the art of beekeeping.
Ms Moore is the apiarist behind Sweet Justice, a new program hoping to aid the rehabilitation of disadvantaged youth.
“We’re teaching up to a Certificate III in beekeeping within the justice system so our young people are coming out very well educated and ready to start working in the beekeeping industry,” Ms Moore said.
The five-week program — which Ms Moore hopes to roll out nationally — teaches students the fundamentals of commercial beekeeping with the hope of providing ongoing employment to students once they leave the centre and are on parole.
“They can pick up and start working the day that they leave,” Ms Moore said.
One of the young men at the centre, who asked not to be named, said Ms Moore was teaching him how to build hives, extract honey and develop the skills needed to run his own business.
“It’s good learning from someone with a lot more knowledge. I researched the program before, but actually learning from somebody that knows and has done it for a while, it’s just been a real eye-opener and really enjoyable,” he said.
“Basically, if we don’t have bees we don’t have food, and then we don’t live, because bees pollinate the majority of our foods and flowers.
“It’s another job opportunity and something to look forward to on the way out.”
Ms Moore said a similar program in the United States — called Sweet Beginnings — saw reoffending rates dramatically decline.
“It linked young people with jobs in the beekeeping industry and it changed the reoffending rate from 65 per cent to four per cent,” she said.
Rebuild lost bee populations
Ms Moore is hoping her program will help to boost the number of beekeepers in Australia, and rebuild lost bee populations.
“At the moment, the average age of a beekeeper in Australia is 65 and we don’t have a lot of young blood in the industry, so I’m hoping the young people trained at Malmsbury will be part of the next generation of commercial beekeepers,” she said.
Victorian Minister for Youth Justice Natalie Hutchins said the program had so far been a great success.
“I think the big value in this program is the fact that they get one-on-one mentoring, and it’s one-on-one mentoring that lasts beyond their time here at Malmsbury.”
Ms Moore said she hoped to expand the program.
“Ideally I’d like to be able to involve other juvenile justice centres and be able to push the program out nationally,” she said.