There’s a real buzz around an innovative program that teaches young people in juvenile justice how to keep bees.

If there were no bees in the world, there would be no honey almonds, apples, blueberries or melons. There would be far fewer pumpkins, cranberries, squash and broccoli, which are also pollinated by bees, as they fly from one plant to another, spreading the pollen necessary for reproduction.
The planet’s food supply depends upon pollination, largely by bees. One in three spoonfuls of food is pollinated by bees. Put another way, of the 100 different crops that provide 90 per cent of the world’s food, more than 70 are pollinated by bees.
And if there were no beekeepers, there would be far fewer bees, doing far less pollination. Herein lies a double problem – bee populations are in dramatic decline worldwide, and Australia faces a shortage of beekeepers.
Claire Moore is the founder and managing director of Sweet Justice, which is training young people in the youth justice system to become beekeepers. The benefits of such training are multi-faceted.
“Since 2020, Sweet Justice has trained hundreds of young people at Malmsbury Youth Detention Centre in central Victoria, and has expanded the program to Beechworth Correctional Centre where we just had our first groups to complete the first six modules.”

The Sweet Justice project aligns with these United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals:

2. Zero Hunger 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 12. Responsible Consumption and Production

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The training starts on day one with how to light a smoker, which calms the bees, putting on the bee suit and opening the hive, and learning about the three types of bee – queen, workers (females) and drones (males). From there, training advances to how to open and reassemble a hive, how to build a hive, learning about the bees’ lifecycle, identifying plants important to the bees, and learning to recognise bee illnesses.

“The trainees just love it,” Claire says. “So many of them say that it is the best thing they have done in prison. Like so many people, they start off afraid of bees, and overcome their fear.”

The idea behind the beekeeping program is simple yet multi-dimensional: the training is ideal for young people who need a skill for when they are released; it is ideal for those young people with low literacy who struggle in a classroom; it provides skills such as nurturing and caring, and it’s healthy but hard outdoor work.
“One trainee said it’s really nice being outdoors – I don’t think he’d really spent much time outdoors at all, ever.”  Perhaps most of all, the training can provide not just the means for getting a job, but the skill set to provide a future.
Once trained, the young people hope to join the beekeeping industry, which badly needs skilled workers, or do related work, such as building bee boxes.

Trainees could even start their own apiary and become self-employed or maintain their skills as a hobby.

“I don’t expect every trainee to become a beekeeper, but this is a stepping stone to the next part of their life,” says Claire.


Beekeepers in Australia are declining in numbers with the average age of a beekeeper being 55 plus. Increasing the number of beekeepers is necessary to keeping the beekeeping industry afloat – and the European honeybee is a big industry of small businesses, worth half of the nation’s $32 billion pollination industry. Beekeeping is the nation’s biggest livestock industry.
The more beekeepers, the more self-sufficient Australia will be in providing itself with food – which is vital given the multiple threats to the food supply. We have already seen the impacts that climate change, war and epidemics have on disrupting supply chains, as well as the adverse effect that insecticides, new viruses, and the loss of flower habitat are reducing the population of bees and other pollinators, such as ants, wasps and moths.


There is another problem that Sweet Justice is solving – it is not possible to get a commercial qualification in beekeeping, such as a Certificate III, in Victoria. There is no provider and so interested students have had to travel to New South Wales.
Sweet Justice, funded by Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, is extending its training to provide the Certification III qualification. Sweet Justice will hire a specialist writer to develop and write a special curriculum for young people with low literacy.

“Sweet Justice is an exceptional project that the Foundation funded through our Next Economy Jobs Challenge,” says Dr Catherine Brown OAM, the Foundation’s CEO.


“It was particularly appealing because it tackles two key issues that the Foundation is concerned about: climate change and youth employment. In the Next Economy Jobs initiative, we are looking for fresh thinking about solving tough social and environmental problems. The outcomes so far have been great, and we can see a real impact for young people in the Sweet Justice program.”
Claire said, “The art of beekeeping has always been passed on verbally, by storytelling, and that is what we are doing with our curriculum. You won’t need to read or write to pass our beekeeping course, you can do it verbally and practically.”
This month the first Sweet Justice Honey – a separate business producing honey that employs people leaving the justice system – has been shipped.
“We have the first jars of honey out in stores now, we’re just getting started and there’s so much to do.
“We received great support from the team at the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation. Our impact on the future of trainees and the beekeeping industry in Australia is already significant.”

What we're working towards

2. Increased economic inclusion, resilience and workforce adaptability.


Sweet Justice Registered Training Organisation And Curriculum Development.
Sweet Justice Ltd
Active grant
Next Economy Jobs
Grant Amount
Grant Type
2. Increased economic inclusion, resilience and workforce adaptability.

Sustainable development goals
2. Zero Hunger 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 12. Responsible Consumption and Production