Griffith University: Multi-million-dollar donation to transform lives of incarcerated women and families

Mothers in the corrections system will benefit from a Griffith University led pilot project designed to support their wellbeing and social inclusion, thanks to a multi-million-dollar donation.

Griffith University’s Professor Susan Dennison, Griffith Criminology Institute and School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, welcomed the generous contribution from the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

“Mothers in prison are some of the most vulnerable people in society,” Professor Dennison said.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Foundation for the donation and its commitment to helping Australians defy and break the cycle of disadvantage.

“This is the largest single philanthropic pledge ever received by the University and this pledge of support will allow us to pilot the Transform Lives Program, introducing it to women’s prisons and communities in South East Queensland and Townsville, alongside Queensland Corrective Services, to support incarcerated mothers and their children and improve outcomes for their families.

“Our team has been working with these mothers, service providers, policy makers and researchers to develop an evidence-based, holistic system of practice to underpin the pilot.”

The Transforming Corrections to Transform Lives Centre will embark on three different bodies of work and is looking to implement the Transform Lives Program in 18 months.

“This will trial a more intensive, trauma-informed, continuity of care program, working with mums and their children before mothers are released and continuing over three years after release to empower both mother and child to build essential life skills and reconnect with their community,” Professor Dennison said.

“We will also assign a coach to essentially walk beside the mothers, providing them with therapeutic support, empowering them to navigate and engage with different services.

“From July 1, the Transforming Corrections Hub will bring together government departments and the not-for-profit sector to drive the system level changes that are required to provide integrated service delivery.”

She said it will work to improve information sharing across agencies, build a shared understanding of mothers’ and children’s needs, and develop greater capacity for services and agencies to work holistically to provide support for mothers and their children.

This includes drawing together criminal justice agencies with other departments and not-for-profit organisations to address issues such as education, learning and wellbeing support needs for children, child safety and youth justice contacts, homelessness and housing instability, and continuity of physical and mental health care and other services when mothers enter prison and when they transition back into the community.

“Ultimately, this is about improving the way agencies work together so mothers and children don’t fall through the cracks,” Professor Dennison said.

“The third body of work is evaluating the success of both the Hub and the Program over five years, building an evidence base for sustainable change and program adoption by the Queensland Government.”

Paul Ramsay Foundation acting CEO, Professor Kristy Muir said the Foundation wants mothers and children to fulfill their potential in life and to live with safety and stability.

“We want to give them the opportunity to find meaning in their lives, reach their aspirational goals, to have choices and be empowered to make those choices that are important to them,” Professor Muir said.

“This program is about finding ways to break the intergenerational cycles of disadvantage that can lead to offending and incarceration, giving young mothers the opportunity to reach a better outcome, for themselves, but more importantly, for their kids.”

Assistant Commissioner Ursula Roeder ACM said Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) was adopting an evidence-based approach to women offenders, taking into consideration that they are among the most vulnerable people in our society.

“Women who enter the criminal justice system often come from lives characterised by poverty, sexual, emotional and physical abuse, domestic and family violence, substance addiction and low education levels,” she said.

“A gender-responsive, trauma-informed approach to managing women offers us the opportunity to rehabilitate and not only prevent the woman from further offending, but to break the generational cycle of harm seen in the children of incarcerated women.

“Turning around the life of women in our care has the potential to create a flow-on effect with a much bigger impact on the whole of society.”


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