VOLUNTEERS are needed in the Wimmera to sit in on police interviews with people under 18.
The Youth Referral and Independent Person Program is a State Government-funded program which supports young people in police interviews.
The law states a person under 18 must have an independent adult present in an interview.
Ararat resident David Lowing is a program volunteer who responds to call-outs in a wide area west of Ballarat.
“I’m completely independent – I’m there purely as an independent person,” he said.
“My role is to go in and make sure the young person understands entirely what they’re there for and what their rights are and explain the whole thing to them.”
Mr Lowing said there were a few volunteers in the Wimmera, but more were needed to meet demand.
“We need more people west of Ballarat, there are more and more young people needing to be interviewed by the police,” he said.
Mr Lowing said it was important police interviews were monitored to ensure young people were treated fairly.
“Sometimes the parent or guardian might not be able to attend because of whatever reason,” he said.
“Sometimes they might say they don’t want to be there because in a lot of cases what the young person has done affects or involves the parent or guardian.”
Mr Lowing said it was satisfying to know he could make a difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of the community.
“It’s very rewarding for me personally because I have been interested in welfare for youth all my life,” he said.
Program manager Sarah Nicholson said volunteers also provided information to young people on support services such as counselling in an effort to reduce their likelihood of re-offending.
“Volunteers are fully trained and receive support to help young people at a really scary time,” she said.
She said people interested in volunteering could call 9340 3777 or visit www.yripp.org.au.