Statewide – mainly South East Queensland (SEQ) & North Queensland (NQ)
Summary of Service
As an organisation, Sisters Inside has 2 arms. At a management level, we advocate for the collective human rights of criminalised women with governments and within the legal system. At a service delivery level, we work alongside criminalised women and girls to address their priorities and needs, and build their power over their own lives. All our activities are driven by criminalised women themselves.
Sisters Inside has developed a model of service, Inclusive Support, which is customised to the particular needs of criminalised women. (This was developed alongside women themselves, and is available on our website.) Our approach is characterised by 100% voluntary involvement by women, confidentiality of the highest order, and continuing to support women for as long as they want this. We walk alongside women for life! Women and girls can self-refer to any of our services.
Programs and Initiatives
Sisters Inside employs 5 Anti-Violence Workers, who collectively offer support to women in all prisons in Queensland. The SEQ service is dedicated to sexual assault counselling, and was established in 1994 in response to priority needs identified by women prisoners themselves. 2 Anti-Violence Workers (Sexual Assault) work with women the 3 SEQ prisons, and over 3,500 women have accessed this service. Commencing in 2019, Sisters Inside is also funded for an Anti-Violence Worker with women prisoners in the South Queensland Correctional Centre (SQCC - Gatton) and 2 Anti-Violence Workers (based in Townsville) in NQ prisons. These additional workers support women to address any issues arising from a history of violence, including sexual and domestic violence.
Decarceration Program (SEQ only)
As an abolitionist organisation, Sisters Inside aims to reduce the number of women in prison, particularly, the number of women being imprisoned remand. Our Decarceration Workers work with women being held in police watch-houses and/or appearing in court throughout SEQ to improve the likelihood of a successful bail application at their first appearance in court. This includes ensuring women’s access to suitable and stable housing, community-based services and support. The program may also provide post-release support to enable women to continue to meet their bail (or parole) conditions.
Supreme Court Bail (SCB) Support Program
Almost half of all women prisoners in Queensland are on remand – most commonly due to being refused bail as a result of homelessness and/or failures of the mental health and substance abuse systems. Our SCB Workers coverall women’s prison in Queensland - in SEQ prisons, Gatton and NQ). Our Workers go into the prisons and interview women to assess their eligibility for Supreme Court Bail. Eligible women are supported to make application to the court, with a SCB Worker available in court to provide advocacy and support. Other Sisters Inside workers assist the woman to make arrangements to apply for bail (e.g. housing) and offer support following release.
Health Support Program
The Health Support Program offers personalised support to improve the health and wellbeing of criminalised women and their children. We work alongside women to identify and respond to all aspects of their health - their physical, mental, emotional and social health. This program provides referral to health and drug and alcohol services and practitioners as well as support with social wellbeing and health living (e.g. assistance with housing, employment, income support). This program prioritises supporting women to overcome the trauma of imprisonment in the first month after their release, and supporting women with complex health needs. We have Health Support Workers in Brisbane (focused on SEQ) and Townsville (covering NQ, with outreach to Central and Far North Queensland).
BOWS (Building On Women’s Strengths) Program
The majority of women in prison were sole parents of dependent children before they went to prison. Sisters Inside has BOW Workers in Brisbane and Townsville dedicated to working with criminalised mothers. Whilst in prison, the workers help mothers to maintain their relationship with their children (e.g. through bringing children to the prison for visits, or negotiating with child safety authorities). Following release, BOWS provides intensive support for women and their children in rebuilding their lives after the trauma of prison and works toward ultimately reunifying families.
Child And Parenting Support (CaPS) Program (SEQ only)
Children are often traumatised by the process of arrest and/or the enforced separation when mum went to prison: as a result, many develop difficult behaviours and are harder to parent following their mother’s release from prison. Some children are taken into care when their mother goes to prison, and their mum needs to learn about dealing with the child protection system and non-residential parenting. Our CaPS Worker provides intensive support to a small number of women in SEQ wanting help to improve their parenting skills and/or respond more effectively to their children. The Worker also facilitates parenting education and peer support groups.
Crucial Connection (Reconnect) Program (SEQ only)
As they become teenagers, children who have been impacted by the adult or youth prison systems need a different type of support. Our Reconnect Workers in Brisbane support 12-18 year old young people whose mother is in prison or who are themselves criminalised and at risk of homelessness. Our Workers focus on addressing homelessness and improving young people’s connection with extended family, work, education, training and their community. This includes providing family and individual counselling and support for young people, their mothers and families. We advocate for young people and their families with government, community and non-government organisations, when this is needed. We also have weekly after-school art sessions, which encourage peer support amongst young women.
Youth Skills Program (SEQ only)
This program aims to reduce the number of 15-24 year old young women living in poverty through improving their access to education and employment. The program primarily works with young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in Brisbane who are engaged with Youth Justice or Queensland Corrective Services. Our Youth Skills Worker supports these young women to access employment, education or training. The Program provides a Certificate II in Hospitality, and our social enterprise project - Barista Sistas –provides an opportunity for these young women to gain practical barista experience in preparation for employment. The Youth Skills Worker also provides individual support to enable young women to begin to access the employment market through work in the hospitality industry.
Yangah Program (SEQ only)
Yangah means “get up” (Yugambeh language). This program aims to reduce the number of 10 – 17 year old girls and young women being held on remand in the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre (BYDC) and/or police watch houses in the Greater Brisbane Area. Our Yangah Workers engage with the girls as soon as possible following arrest, and improve their likelihood of a successful bail application, through ensuring access to suitable and stable housing, community-based services and support. It also offers post-release support via outreach to enable girls to continue to meet their bail conditions.
Next Step Home Pilot Program (NQ only)
This program aims to reduce the number of women (particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women) returning to prison due to homelessness in NQ, through optimising their access to safe, secure, affordable, independent housing. Our Workers engage with women 3 months prior to release to assess their eligibility for access to 15 dedicated head-leases annually. They then support eligible women prisoners to access dedicated head-leases immediately post-release, maintain their tenancy for 12 months and build their capacity to maintain ongoing, independent tenancy. The program also supports criminalised women more widely to access housing.
Gatton Re-Entry Program (SQ only)
This program aims to reduce the number of women prisoners released from SQCC (Gatton) who return to prison. Our Re-Entry Workers focus on provision of up to 3 months’ pre-release support to women prisoners; transport to accommodation on the day of release; up to 6 months’ post-release advocacy and support; and ensuring each woman’s access to support from Sisters Inside for as long as she wants. The program can address any issue or need faced by each woman, and includes brokerage funds to enable to program to meet women’s needs which are not available through other agencies and services.
Waiting Space/Safe Space
Almost all Sisters Inside services are provided via outreach to the location preferred by each woman. Therefore, women rearely attend the Sisters Inside premses to access services. Our premises is secure and additional safety arrangements are made for any woman who requires these.
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