August 2023 - A Pilgrim Walk

The journal notes of Peter's recent Pilgrim Walk from Winchester to Canterbury, south of London.  

220 kilometres in two weeks' of trekking. Click here to download

February 2023 - A Voice to Parliament

Writing in Support of a Voice - Click here to download

I guess that many Australians will have a view about the proposal to establish ‘A Voice to Parliament for Indigenous Australians’.

My view is based on several decades of experience in the social services, mental health and criminal justice fields across Australia.

As a young Social Work and Criminology graduate from the University of Melbourne in the 1970s, my earliest points of contact were in the juvenile justice field in Melbourne. Later, in the 1980s, I worked in the adult correctional field, at Pentridge Prison in Coburg and then at Barwon Prison in Lara. 

Later still, in the 1990s, I established mental health outreach programs for young adults who were not effectively engaged by the established government supported programs. Existing government run, or government funded programs, were restricted to those who had mental health issues or substance misuse issues, but not those who had both.

In each of these areas of community involvement, I began to learn a little more along the way about the nature of the issues faced by indigenous young Australians. What I began to learn, over several years, was that the circumstances of indigenous peoples were all too often compounded by accumulated trauma.

I set out to engage and win the confidence of young Australians, indigenous and non-indigenous, through a series of outreach and engagement programs, using music, art, drama, sport and creative expression.  This process took months, and sometimes years, to be effective.

Working from a Victorian base, the proportion of Indigenous persons was not as high as in other States and Territories across Australia. Nonetheless, I learnt a great deal over this time, by listening, by engaging, by encouraging, and by accompanying.

Generally, government operated programs, and government funded programs, were simply not effective in achieving positive results. This was because they tended to impose solutions from a set of prior expectations. Such programs set limits on how many hours a week an outreach worker could spend with one person, or how many weeks such a person could remain a ‘client’ in such programs. I quickly learnt that this was never going to be effective.

Instead, I found independent sources of funding to enable the programs I established to truly listen to the person concerned and to enable them to develop their own resources and capacities, with the support of others.

That is why the Indigenous Voice to Parliament that is proposed makes so much sense.

Government representatives, based in Canberra or the State Capitals, or senior public servants, simply do not have the experience or the local knowledge to shape programs that will be effective in a broad range of locations and circumstances across this big country.

This sense of distance has only increased in so many social services and health areas in the last two decades here in Australia. The program designs and funding requirements coming out of Canberra and the State Capitals have become more inflexible and more constricted during this period of time.

This is why ‘The Voice to Parliament’ has become so urgently needed as the years and decades pass by.

Some who are uncertain about this proposal suggest that the money would be better spent on providing direct services, whether this be in the housing, health, education or social services fields. My experience over several decades of direct involvement in these fields suggests that this approach would only repeat many of the mistakes of the past.

After many years years’ experience of direct service provision in such areas, always involving indigenous persons as consumers or, where possible, as employees, I felt the need to pass on the experience I had obtained to those who were making such policy and funding decisions in Canberra, and the State and Territory Capitals.

Engaging the late Professor Tony Vinson AM from the University of New South Wales, and later the University of Sydney, we hatched a plan to accurately measure the nature of the problem of disadvantage and alienation that we had observed over the years in the various roles we had worked in with persons with some form of disability or disadvantage or sense of exclusion.

I project managed a series of quantative studies that Tony Vinson completed measuring disadvantage by postcode, initially in New South Wales and Victoria, then covering the whole country. Our results identified the concentration of disadvantage in particular localities according to more than twenty disadvantage factors, ranging from low birth rate to mortality rates for every postcode area in Australia.

These results clearly showed the entrenched disadvantage faced by Indigenous peoples, and actually similar levels of disadvantage in the same postcode areas for non-Indigenous families too. The concentration of such disadvantage explained why mainstream government programs simply were not effective at engaging such persons with complex or serious disadvantage.

We presented these dramatic findings to Federal and State Ministers and the most senior Public Servants in Canberra and the State Capitals. They acknowledged the research findings but were simply not capable of implementing the sort of interventions that were required.

This is where ‘The Voice to Parliament’ is so urgently required, now more than ever. Indigenous leaders will be able to contribute to policy formulation at the highest levels where it is most required. Existing government initiatives are simply missing the mark. We must do better.

Honorary Doctor Peter Norden AO

Deakin University

Fellow of the Australian & New Zealand Society of Criminology

CRIKEY! November 2022

Precisely the wrong direction’: why is Victoria opening a $419m youth prison?

Victoria spends $1.4 million for each young person in detention. That cost is set to jump, and experts say it couldn't be a worse approach.

Victoria's $419m Cherry Creek youth prison is 'the wrong direction’ (

November 2022

Peter urges radical change by Federal Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus MP KC, to address the scandal of over imprisonment of Indigenous Peoples throughout Australia. 

His Blue Print for Change is to be found in his recent publication:


March 2022

The Crime Couch Podcast by Rochelle Jackson.

Click here to Listen 

February 2022

Deakin University Media Release

Seeking Justice publication. Click here to view

November 2021 

New Publication !

Click here to download the order form.

Click here to view in High Res PDF


March 2021

Aged Care Reform

ABC Melbourne radio interview with Raph Epstein

August 2020

Peter has been reappointed as a member of the Disciplinary Appeals Board of the Victorian Department of Education and Training for a further period of five years (1st August 2020 to 31st July 2025). 


June 2020

William & Lonsdale Podcast


Michael Green interviews Peter Norden who has worked for more than 30 years in our criminal justice system.

Michael Green was an AFL player, coach, chairman of selectors, tribunal and appeals board member.

Michael led and managed Green's List, one of the largest lists of Barristers at the Victorian Bar. 

Prior to this, Michael had 25 years' experience as a Solicitor.

CLICK HERE  To listen to this Podcast in which Peter Norden shares his experience in the law. 

February 2019:  Deakin University award of Honorary Doctorate to Peter Norden 

February 2019:  Peter Norden presented with an Honorary Doctorate by Deakin University, 'for eminent and sustained service to the Australian non-government sector in the field of community services'

Peter Norden presented with an Honorary Doctorate by Deakin University, 'for eminent and sustained service to the Australian non-government sector in the field of community services'.  

February 2019: Peter Norden with Deakin Chancellor Mr John Stanhope AM and Vice Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander AO

February 2019: Peter Norden with Deakin Chancellor Mr John Stanhope AM and Vice Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander AO

September 2018

The Professor Tony Vinson Memorial Lecture

Delivered by Professor Peter Norden AO

University of New South Wales, September 2018

1) ABC Radio National ‘Big Ideas’ Podcast of the lecture (click here)

2) Script of the lecture presented by Peter Norden on the evening (click here)

March 2018


"It’s only 5 days until the NSW state election comes to a head, and both parties are still announcing policies to try and sway voters to their side. The Coalition on Sunday announced a new trial, giving police the power to search houses are cars of convicted drug dealers without a warrant.

Premier Berejiklian, alongside Police Minister Troy Grant, said these powers could be enacted on anyone who had been convicted of a serious drug offence within the past 10 years.

But are these new laws going too far?"

Five new members appointed to the ABC Advisory Council in 2018

February 2018

Peter Norden appointed an Honorary Fellow in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin University

"Pentridge: Voices from the Other Side"

Wheeler Centre forum, 30th November 2017.

December 2017

Marriage Act Amendment!

Peter Norden is now available to conduct ‘same sex marriages’ following the recent legislative changes in Australia.

Detailed information can be obtained on his new website:

July 2017

Crime Prevention, not 'law & order'!

Click here to view

June 2017

"The Brosnan Centre: from Community Service to Social Action"  (January 2017)

(reflections on 40 years since Peter Norden founded The Brosnan Centre and Jesuit Social Services in 1977)

Click here to view

"Safe and Inclusive Learning Communities" (December 2016)

(a national consultation report completed by Peter Norden for Edmund Rice Education Australia in supporting sexual and gender diversity in its 53 schools across Australia)

Click here to view


ABC Advisory Council

December 2016

Peter was appointed a "Fellow" of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology in recognition of his contribution to the field of criminology over a period of 40 years.  This award was presented at the Annual Conference of the Society in Hobart in December 2016

December 2016

For the 5th year in a row, Peter was acknowledged as on of RMIT's top media performers.

June 2016

The June 2016 edition of the Australian Journal of Human Rights (22.1) contains an article by Peter Norden, entitled:  Not So Straight.

The article discusses the discrimination that currently operates in many Catholic secondary schools across Australia in relation to same sex attracted students.

The article (click here) addresses important issues of human rights affecting GLBTI students enrolled at Catholic secondary schools across the country, about one in five of all secondary students in Australia.

August 2015

Peter was reappointed as a Board Member of the Victorian Department of Education and Training Disciplinary Appeals Board, for a further period of three years.