Sisters for Change – Prisoners leading change.
Changing prison. Changing relationships. Changing Lives.
Australian Red Cross prisoner volunteers are taking action in Townsville Women’s Correctional Centre to address prisoner identified health and wellbeing priorities. They have called themselves the Sisters for Change and they would like to share some stories and experiences from their first year with you.
“We were given the opportunity to pave the way for change and to improve the health and well-being and safety from a peer level in our prison community. Since we embarked on an incredible life empowering journey the following has been implemented to change women’s lives while being incarcerated:
– Safe Women Workshops
– Prisoner to prisoner education on diabetes and Hep C.
– Formation of a Change Clean-up crew to help improve hygiene in safety and detention units
– A Children’s Book has been written
-A Health Cart has been designed to outreach across the prison with medical staff
– A cultural wellbeing program is under development
– 37 certified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health first aiders are on site to improve responses to women in mental health crisis”.
The Sisters for Change have provided 362 hours of peers support, education and health promotion to other women in the centre in their first 4 months since graduation. The program methodology has contributed to personal empowerment and transformation amongst prisoner volunteers who use their personal experiences and skills to benefit others and has changed relationships between custodial officers and prisoners.
Rachel is the Team Leader of Community Justice and Partnerships Team in Queensland in Australian Red Cross. Rachel has been leading implementation of the International Federation of Red Cross flagship health promotion program Community Based Health and First Aid in Townsville Women’s Correctional Centre in close partnership with Cultural Liaison Officer Glenda Duffy since November 2018. This has required strong partnerships with Queensland Corrective Services, Queensland Health, Prisoners, Red Cross, and local Traditional Owners and Elders to build a positive environment for prisoner led projects to emerge. A Townsville local, and mother of two, Rachel has a background in psychology (B. Psych) and community development (Grad. Cert. ICD) and working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander communities across North & West Queensland and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Rachel is on the board of Townsville Multicultural Support Group a grass roots community organisation who has been facilitating humanitarian settlement of asylum seekers for 25 years. ‘This is quite possibly the best job and best project I have ever been involved in – The strength and resilience of the women has taught me much personally, and the program’s ability to change lives, minds and rules about what prisoners can do while part of the justice system provides no greater reward. Seeing women working together using their lived experiences to enhance the well being of others transforms how women see themselves and how the system views them. Thanks for providing the opportunity for us to share some stories from our first year’.
I am a proud Kalkadoon / Waayni woman from North West Queensland and the Gulf of Carpentaria Regions. I grew up in Mount Isa and Cloncurry and am have been living in Townsville for the last 15 years. I have worked in remote and rural Aboriginal communities, such as Doomadgee, Mornington Island and Palm Island for 25 years. Most of my work in the communities has been in the areas of community development, childcare, homelessness and community engagement protocols. I have worked extensively in Australian and State Governments agencies and non-Government Organisations. I am the Manager/Owner of Dawn Aboriginal Consultancy which provides Cultural Competency and Capacity training workshops to all organisations and individuals who would like to be competent and capable of working and engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their communities. I am currently employed part time by Australian Red Cross as a Cultural Liaison Officer to provide cultural advice and ensure that our programs and engagement process are culturally appropriate. My passion is equality and equity for all, in particular my people the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the First Australians. The Sisters for Change voices have been powerful in making big changes in relation to cultural safety.