Carmel Benjamin AM

Carmel Benjamin's work is driven by the belief that the community's contact with the justice system will lead to a more enlightened society.

Honour Roll

Carmel Benjamin founded and was Executive Director of the Victorian Court Information and Welfare Network Inc. (Court Network) and designed and founded 'woman to woman', a mentoring support program for women exiting the prison system. Throughout her career, Carmel has served on numerous correctional services councils and committees and has been instrumental in trying to make the criminal justice system more userfriendly.

Born in London in 1932, Carmel's family moved to Australia when she was a child. At 19 she married and after having her children became concerned about the welfare of children, leading to her involvement with the criminal justice system. She completed a degree in Welfare Studies at Chisholm Institute as a mature age student in the mid-1970s.

Her first contact with the criminal justice system was in 1970 when Carmel became an Honorary Probation Officer with the Children's Court. In 1977, she started to design and plan the Court Network - a unique, non-government, court support and information service for all court users. Its first services in a suburban magistrates' court began in June 1980, starting with 15 volunteers which, by 1995 when Carmel retired, had grown to 300 trained volunteers delivering services in 40 metropolitan and regional courts across all jurisdictions. The Court Network structured a four phase support program (before, during and after the trial plus follow-up and referrals) for all parties, including the victim, the accused and their families. It was the pioneering service of its type in Australia and has become a model for other states and is the model is used internationally.

In 1974 she was appointed to the Prison Advisory Council of Victoria and from 1980-83 she was a member of the Correctional Services Council of Victoria. Since 1977 she has been a council member of the Victorian Women's Prison Council (formerly Fairlea Women's Prison Council) and served as Vice-Chairperson 1995-99 and Chairperson in 1999. Carmel was appointed to the Women's Correctional Services Advisory Committee in 2003.

In 1988 Carmel was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) and in 1993 was awarded the A.R. Whatmore Victorian Association for the Care Resettlement of Offenders (VACRO) Award for Services to Corrections. In 2001, she received a Vida Goldstein Award from the Women's Electoral Lobby in the women and community category.