19 March 2024

Probation Officers jump at professional development opportunity

 Rebecca and Maddie hold up the certificates awarded from the programme

North Shore Probation Officers Rebecca and Madelaine (Maddy), seized a unique professional development opportunity that came their way and are now graduates of New Zealand’s only postgraduate programme in Forensic Psychology.

“Thanks to a partnership between Victoria University Wellington (Te Herenga Waka) and Ara Poutama Aotearoa, the university invited expressions of interest from Corrections staff to enrol for the Postgraduate Certificate in Science in Forensic Psychology, and Maddy and I immediately put our hands up,” says Rebecca.

The postgraduate programme was launched in February last year by Dr Nichola Tyler, former Acting Associate Dean Academic (Undergraduate) at the Faculty of Science and Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology.

The one-year programme aims to help develop a sound understanding of offending behaviour and its effects on victims. It also provides the skills needed to produce and apply psychological theory and evidence to a variety of legal and criminal justice issues.

According to Rebecca, whose research focused on risk factors in female offending, it was challenging juggling both studies and work.

“It was full-on, especially since I was also working on completing the Postgraduate Diploma of Psychology through Massey University. My studies required a lot of dedication and time management.

“However, the support from Maddy and management was invaluable, and I really appreciate Corrections giving me the opportunity for further study in a field I’m passionate about.”

Rebecca, a former veterinary nurse of 15 years, has been working for Corrections for almost four years and plans to pursue a master’s degree in Psychology in 2025.

“While I was still working as a vet nurse, I started studying Psychology and decided to move into Corrections, as Forensic Psychology has always been an area of interest."

Maddy’s research focused on challenges that probation officers face when applying the Risk-Need-Responsivity (RNR) model in probation officer practice.

“I am always keen on pursuing self-development opportunities and acquiring new knowledge that would help me do my job to the best of my ability,” says Maddy, who has a Bachelor in Addiction Studies from WelTec and has supported people with mental illness, brain injury and addictions issues in the past.

She admits that her studies, alongside work challenges and responsibilities at home, required a huge personal effort. However, Maddy is grateful for the support she received from Rebecca and her mentor during her studies.

“I saw this programme as an opportunity to enhance my practice to make a real difference.”

Maddy, who worked as a corrections officer in South Africa for 10 years before relocating to New Zealand in 2007, has been part of Ara Poutama Aotearoa for about eight years – first as a corrections officer at Auckland Prison for three years, and since 2019, as a probation officer at North Shore Community Corrections.

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