Changing hearts and minds
In just 12 months, 75% of those that took part in the Sisters for Change program said they felt like a different person from who they were when they came into prison.
They now feel empowered. Appreciated. And they’ve moved beyond being judged for their crimes, to being thanked for their actions.
“We had to change their mindsets, but once they got a hold of it, it was like wildfire!” says Glenda, Cultural Liaison, and Kalkadoon Waayni woman from Mount Isa and Gulf of Carpentaria.
Almost 70% of the women at Townsville Women’s Correction Centre come from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds. Staying connected to culture and country is important for them – it helps them feel safer, and more supported when they return home.
Glenda brings in Elders from the community to visit the women, helping them connect with their culture, conduct bereavement ceremonies for loved ones who have passed back home and advocate for cultural education and safety within the prison.
They’re also their cheerleader on what is a difficult, but life-changing path to breaking a cycle of insecurity and disadvantage.
“I think them having connection with the Elders gives them a sense of belonging, a sense of, ‘well, when I get out, I'm going to have that support [of] my community’,” says Glenda. “Why can't we heal them in there before they come out, you know?”
There are many ways to measure the success of Sisters for Change: the prison is now cleaner, nurses are having more open and honest conversations with the women, and there’s less conflict and better relations between prisoners and officers.
Kellie measures it by how she feels now, compared to when she first arrived.