One of the key principles at Mercy Works is to walk with vulnerable people, to empower them to take responsibility for their lives and become their own agents of change. Sometimes change can be slow and we accept that.
We are proud of our Prospering After Prison Pilot project, based in Port Augusta, South Australia. In partnership with Centacare Catholic Country SA, it has been running for two years and provides throughcare (or holistic care) for Aboriginal women leaving prison to prosper in their community.
In the past year, 21 Aboriginal women were assisted in the development of personal resilience, financial resilience, living skills, cultural healing and community connection under the guiding and dedicated care of three Sisters of Saint Anne of Chennai: Sisters Delma Rani, Elizabeth Royan and Sheela Thomas.
They accompanied women to their court hearings when they were released on parole, connected them with legal aid on their behalf, transported them to locations to access services and referrals for emergency housing, food and clothing as well as visited inmates in prison. They also delivered food packages in the APY lands during COVID-19 and basic amenities packs upon their release.
The project has worked tirelessly to empower and strengthen the families and communities of these vulnerable women, many of whom are dealing with alcohol and drug addiction, homelessness, prior traumas, poverty and domestic violence.
The project aimed to improve the capacity and connectedness of women leaving prison when they are vulnerable and at risk of re-offending due to the barriers of navigating through the transition from prison to everyday life in their community.
The need for a tailored project that meets the individual needs of offenders is currently not being met by services in the region. This project aimed to provide case management support to each individual as various needs arose.
“Women whose husbands or partners are incarcerated should be supported. Women suffer greatly on a mental, economic and emotional level,” says Sr Sheela of the wide range of women targeted in the program.
“By assisting them, we are supporting the entire family and ensuring productive and integrative living.”
We are happy to report their hard work, monitoring and evaluation is potentially going to be incorporated to advocate for ongoing funding for a range of providers including State and Commonwealth Government. Both Sr Delma and Sr Sheela have also been appointed by the prison to be volunteer chaplains.
“We hope the information and documentation we have acquired will encourage us in engaging the support of other stakeholders in this project,” says Sr Sheela.
Dr Jen Clearly, CEO of Centacare Catholic Country SA, says there is minimal or no preparation within the prison prior to release, and no services whatsoever available in the community upon release.
Which is why she has contacted Kornar Winmil Yunti Aboriginal Corporation (KWY), who have expressed interest in expanding their involvement with the Sisters. She has also had contact with the Kokatha Aboriginal Corporation with a view to involving Centacare in the future, should funding become available.
“We recognise their present predicament, which is the result of multiple of underlying issues in their lives including intergenerational trauma,” says Sr Sheela Thomas.
“After listening, we discovered how their sharing of their trauma had such an impact on us.”
Published with collaboration from Mercy Works.