Sisters making change at Townsville Woman’s Correctional Centre

A report into the Sisters of Change program finds a safer, cleaner prison, with more hopeful prisoners.

Measuring the success of a program can be done in many ways.

Elders who volunteer through the Sisters for Change program at Townsville Women’s Correctional Centre measure success in hugs.

Nurses in the prison clinic see it in the reduction in screaming and yelling in the medical centre, and the start of honest, caring conversations.

Prison management notes the empowering impact on women and the reduction in negative behaviours.

The prisoner volunteers involved in the program count the program's success in personal confidence, self-esteem and self-worth.

And an individual prisoner measures the success in change, from anger and hurt to acceptance and pride.

A formal evaluation of the Sisters for Change program by Flinders University found multiple measures of success after just 12 months from the introduction of the Community Based Health and First Aid (CBHFA) program in Townsville.

In summary, the report found that since the CBHFA program, Sisters for Change, started in 2019:

  • the prison has become cleaner
  • nurses are prescribing less medications
  • the prison is perceived to be safer with less conflict and better relations between prisoners and officers
  • there is improved capacity within the prison community to respond when someone is dealing with mental health problems.
An illustration from the book Mum's in Jail, written for children of prisoners to make prison less frightening by explaining in a simple way what life is like for their mum inside.

Sisters for Change projects in the first 12 months

Safe Women Workshops: weekly information sessions run by prisoners for incoming women to addressing the high rates of violence and sexual assault. Prisoners report less assaults, and less talk of assaulting others since the workshops began. 

Clean up crew: Volunteers hold clean up working bees to improve hygiene and wellbeing inside the high security units. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health Training: to increase the capacity of prisoners and staff to respond early and proactively to people experiencing a decline in mental health.

"We had to change their mindsets, but once they got a hold of it, it was like wildfire!"
Glenda Duffy, Red Cross Cultural Liaison Officer

Parents, Families and Carers Project: a kit for mums incarcerated for the first time, including information on how to organising visits, playgroup, receive mail and what to tell their kids. Includes a card so women can immediately write to their children.

Community contributions to the prison library: Over 200 new books added to the prison library to help improve emotional wellbeing of women, prevent frustration, worry, boredom and loneliness.

Elders for Change: Elders from the community are invited in to help women deal with grief and loss, provide connection to country and cultural safety. They champion the women, lift their spirits, and are caring figures.

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