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Social Justice Report 2004 : Chapter 2 : Walking with the Women - Addressing the needs of Indigenous women exiting prison

Social Justice Report 2004

Chapter 2 : Walking with the Women - Addressing the needs of Indigenous women exiting prison

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  • Introduction

    The Social Justice Report 2002 provided an overview of the experiences of Indigenous women in corrections. It highlighted the 'landscape of risk'(1) that Indigenous women are exposed to which leads to their high level of involvement with the criminal justice system. The report expressed concern at the rapid growth of the Indigenous female prison population, as well as high rates of recidivism.(2) The report identified a lack of post-release support programs for Indigenous women when they exit prison. It called for further research to address the lack of information on the existence and accessibility of such programs.

    Addressing this, the Social Justice Commissioner's Unit conducted research and consultations during 2003 and 2004 to identify what support programs are available to Indigenous women upon their release from prison. This included accommodation options, counselling and other programs which may assist in reconnecting Indigenous women with their families and communities.

    Consultations were held with Indigenous women (including prisoners and ex-prisoners), Indigenous and other community organisations, government departments and academics across Australia. These consultations took the form of focus groups, public forums as well as individual meetings with some organisations and government departments. Consultations were held in cities and towns located near women's prisons or where a high proportion of Indigenous women reside after exiting prison (either permanently or when transiting between prison and their community of residence). (3) Specific information regarding government policies and programs addressing post-release support for Indigenous women was also formally requested in writing from each of the relevant federal, state and territory Ministers and departments. In addition a mapping exercise of existing government and community-based post-release support services was conducted based on the information collected.

    This chapter then details the main findings of the research and provides an overview of government and community sector post-release support programs. The main findings of the consultations and research were the importance of housing and emergency accommodation options for Indigenous women when released from prison; the importance of being able to access a broad range of programs upon release, including healing; and the lack of coordination of existing government and community services, which has the result of limiting the accessibility of services to Indigenous women. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Indigenous women have difficulty in accessing support programs upon their release and are left to fend for themselves, sometimes leading them to homelessness, returning to abusive relationships or re-offending.

    The chapter begins by providing an overview of factors relating to the involvement of Indigenous women in criminal justice processes in order to contextualise the discussion of post-release programs. This includes a statistical overview of the involvement of Indigenous women in corrections, as well as discussion of the need to address the specific circumstances faced by Indigenous women in order to avoid intersectional discrimination. The chapter then provides an overview of the existing level of programmatic support available to Indigenous women upon exiting prison, with a particular emphasis on housing and healing programs. Overall, it considers options for better service provision and policy development in relation to post-release support programs for Indigenous women.

    Pre and post-release programs for Indigenous women exiting prison

    The focus of this chapter is on the availability of post-release programs to Indigenous women exiting prison. Post-release support can include everything from assisting a releasee with arranging Centrelink/welfare payments, gaining employment, finding suitable accommodation or accessing health services, through to counselling or reconnecting with their communities in a more general sense.

    The availability of post-release support programs is especially important given the level of disruption incarceration causes to any person's life. Generally, the experience of people returning from prison to the wider community 'involves dealing with the negative experiences of imprisonment, in a context all too often characterised by isolation, accommodation difficulties, financial and material constraints and a lack of significant emotional support'.(4) As highlighted in the Social Justice Report 2002, incarceration can contribute to an Indigenous woman becoming dislocated from her family, community, cultural responsibilities, services she may have been accessing prior to incarceration and housing.(5)

    It is acknowledged that focussing solely on the post-release phase could be seen as arbitrary or creating an artificial distinction, partitioning off post-release experiences from pre-incarceration and incarceration experiences. This is because you cannot compartmentalise an Indigenous woman's life neatly into separate spheres of experiences. The issues affecting Indigenous women post-release are often the very same issues confronted prior to, and in some cases during, imprisonment. Accordingly, the inter-connections between the experiences of Indigenous women prior to and during imprisonment must be borne in mind when considering program support provided to them upon release from prison.

    A woman's knowledge of, and ability to, negotiate programs and services once she is released from prison is similarly influenced by the level and quality of pre-release support she has access to while in prison.(6) Pre-release support programs can include visits by Centrelink staff to discuss how to arrange crisis payments upon their release and arranging identification; visits by Department of Housing and community housing representatives to assist in lodging housing applications; and visits by other community agencies so as to receive information about the types of support programs available on the outside and who to contact once released.

    Not all women in prison have the same access to pre and post-release programs. Programs a woman can access varies according to whether she is in prison on remand or whether she has been sentenced; if she is released on parole or on a community-based order; or if she has served a finite sentence. The 'status' of a female prisoner affects the types of programs that can be accessed in the following ways.

    • Women on remand ('remandees') - The general policy in prisons across all states and territories is that prisoners on remand are not eligible to participate in any prison programs, including any pre-release support programs that may be available.(7) This is primarily because the length of time a person is remanded is not fixed, can be as short as one night to as long as two years and theoretically a remandee can be released once a court feels they are able to meet the requirements of bail.

    • Women on parole and/or community-based orders - Women who are released from prison on parole or community-based orders remain clients of community corrections until the parole or community order is complete. This usually means that these women will receive some degree of support from their community corrections officer. Additionally, if a woman has served a term of imprisonment she would have been eligible to participate in prison programs, including pre-release programs where they exist.
    • Women who have served 'finite' sentences - Women serving finite sentences have been sentenced to a fixed period of imprisonment without parole, therefore, once they are released from prison having served their 'time' they have no other order requirements to fulfil. This also means they are usually released without being provided any further formal support as they are no longer clients of community corrections. However women serving finite sentences are able to access programs while in prison, including pre-release programs where they exist.

    Women who have served finite sentences or have been remandees have less access to formal or statutory post-release programs when in the community, compared to parolees and women with community-based order obligations. While many of the issues discussed throughout this chapter are relevant to women in each of the above categories, they are exacerbated for women who have served finite sentences or who were remandees due to the lack of access to the programs provided by departments of community corrections.

    An overview of Indigenous women in corrections

    The Social Justice Report 2002 provided a detailed overview of the involvement of Indigenous women in the criminal justice system.(8) Despite Indigenous women having been described as the 'most legally disadvantaged group in Australia'(9), very little research has been conducted on the needs of Indigenous women in the criminal justice system, and more specifically, their needs when they are released from prison.

    This section provides a statistical snapshot of Indigenous women in custody and the broader factors that impact on Indigenous women who come into contact with the criminal justice system. While many Indigenous women exiting prison share common experiences there is still considerable diversity among these women. There is no 'one size fits all' solution to the over-representation of Indigenous women in the criminal justice system.(10)

    While most States and Territories collect crime and prison data, this is limited to basic statistical information such as prison population, gender, types of offences committed and duration of sentence. There is paucity of more detailed information about Indigenous women in the criminal justice system.

    The lack of detailed up to date statistical data poses a problem for policy makers and service providers as it renders it difficult to obtain an accurate picture of the needs of Indigenous women. As far back as 1985 the Taskforce on Women in Prison was unable to locate research data or 'any clear policy' specifically on Aboriginal women and the criminal justice. (11) Recommendations were made to rectify the scarcity of information but the lack of information about Indigenous women in the Australian criminal justice system remains today.

    Generally too, there is little empirical information available on people's post-release experiences and what is available has been garnered from anecdotal evidence or assumptions made from the available data on recidivism. Again, there is little available data relating specifically to Indigenous women's post-release experiences. Therefore much of the information developed in this report is contingent on available data, from information gathered from community consultations and available research.

    a) Rates of incarceration of Indigenous women

    Indigenous women are currently the fastest growing prison population. This is despite there being relatively few Indigenous female prisoners at any one time, when expressed in raw numbers.

    Since the reports of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report were released there has been increase in the overall national prison population. Since 1993 the prison population in Australia has increased by nearly 50 %.(12) In this same time period, Indigenous people (male and female) have gone from comprising 15 % of the national prison population to 20 %.(13) The rate of imprisonment for Indigenous people on a national basis is 16 times higher than that of the non-Indigenous population.(14)

    Incarceration rates for women have increased more rapidly than for men. The increase in imprisonment of Indigenous women has also been much greater over the period compared with non-Indigenous women.(15) Between 1993 and 2003 the general female prison population increased by 110 %, as compared with a 45 % increase in the general male prison population.(16) However, over the same time period the Indigenous female prison population increased from 111 women in 1993(17) to 381 women in 2003.(18) This represents an increase of 343 % over the decade.

    As at March 2004, Indigenous women were imprisoned nationally at a rate 20.8 times that of non-Indigenous women.(19) The rate of over-representation by state and territory is contained in Table 1 below.

    Table 1: Indigenous women - rates of incarceration, March Quarter 2004(20)

    State / Territory Number of Indigenous females in corrections Rate per 100,000 for Indigenous females Rate per 100,000 for all females Ratio: Indigenous to non-Indigenous females in corrections
    NSW 178 489.4 22.1 31.9
    Victoria 14 186.1 12.0 16.4
    Queensland 76 202.7 22.0 12.0
    South Australia 16 297.0 14.1 16.0
    Western Australia 98 518.5 31.0 28.7
    Tasmania 7 Np 16.7 Np
    Northern Territory 12 68.1 29.5 4.7
    ACT - np(21) 10.5 np
    Total 401 303.7 19.5 20.8

    There are many possible reasons for the increases in female Indigenous prison populations, with variations occurring in each State and Territory and again between regional and urban centres.

    In New South Wales, the Select Committee into the Increase in Prison Population found in 2001 that the most significant contributing factor was the increase in the remand population. There was no evidence to suggest that an in increase in actual crime accounted for the prison increase, although increases in police activity and changes in judicial attitudes to sentencing were also important.(22)

    Other statistical reports also tell us the following about Indigenous women in corrections:

    • In New South Wales, Indigenous women represented approximately 30 percent of the total female population in custody as at March 1 2004 despite constituting only 2 percent of the female population of the state. (23)
    • At 1 March 2004 Indigenous women represented 23.4 per cent of the total female population in Queensland open and secure centres.(24)
    • In Western Australia, Indigenous women constituted approximately 42 percent(25) of the female prison population although only constituting 3.2 percent of the female population of Western Australia. (26)

    b) Types of offences

    It is difficult to provide an overview on the types of offences that Indigenous women are being sentenced for. While states and territories collect data on the number of Aboriginal women convicted, they do not at the same time publish data on the types of offences for which they are being convicted. While the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) publishes a range of data relating to prison populations, including a breakdown of offences committed by Indigenous and non-Indigenous inmates, there is no gender specific data available in this particular category.

    The Social Justice Report 2002 identified the limitations of the available statistical data on crimes committed by Indigenous women. It pointed to the prison census data as being unreliable in the sense that it only provides information about prisoners present on the date of the census. Prisoners who serve short sentences and are not in prison the census day are not recorded. Secondly, prison census data records only the most serious crime for which the person is convicted leaving other offences which might contextualise the crime generally not recorded.(27)

    The NSW Law Reform Commission in its report on Sentencing Aboriginal Offenders (2000) (28) noted that,

    in the 1990 National Prison Census, the offences recorded as being most frequently committed by Aboriginal women involved non-payment of fines, drunkenness and social security fraud ... which are 'the result of extreme poverty'. (29)

    A profile of Queensland female offenders revealed that 45.3 percent of Indigenous female inmates were sentenced for a violent crime, 28.3 percent for property crime, 24.5 percent for 'Other' crime (which includes social security fraud, procedures offences, unlawful possession of weapons and driving related offences) and 1.9 percent for drug offences.(30) The statistics on violent offences indicate that Indigenous women are more likely than non-Indigenous (38.6%) to commit a violent offence. However, Indigenous women are less likely to be incarcerated for drug offences as compared with non-Indigenous women (15.2%).

    As a corollary Indigenous women are also more likely, than non-Indigenous women, to be the victims of a violent crime.

    Figures released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in 2003 revealed that Indigenous women were 28.3 times more likely to be victims of assault than non-Indigenous women.(31)

    Similar statistics are replicated in a number of significant studies and reports concerned with Indigenous family violence. Reports such as the Gordon Report, Cape York Justice Study, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women's Taskforce on Violence Report and Violence in Indigenous Communities all contain a litany of statistics revealing the extent of violence in Indigenous communities including the scope of violence perpetrated against Indigenous women.(32)

    Reflecting the concern these kinds of reports and statistics generate the Social Justice Report 2003 examining the issue of family violence in Indigenous communities concluded that:

    The criminal justice system is extremely poor at dealing with the underlying causes of criminal behaviour and makes a negligible contribution to addressing the consequences of crime in the community. One of the consequences of this, and a vital factor that is often overlooked, is that Indigenous victims of crime and communities are poorly served by the current system.

    Accordingly, the current system disadvantages Indigenous people from both ends - it has a deleterious effect on Indigenous communities through over-representation of Indigenous people in custody combined with the lack of attention it gives to the high rate of Indigenous victimisation, particularly through violence and abuse in communities. Reform to criminal justice processes, including through community justice initiatives, must be responsive to these factors.(33)

    c) Recidivism rates among Indigenous women

    A significant factor among the Indigenous female prisoner population is the high rate of recidivism (or repeat offenders). National statistical data reports that 77 % Indigenous prisoners had been previously imprisoned.(34)

    In New South Wales almost 85 % of Aboriginal women in prison have previously been in custody compared with 71 % of non-Aboriginal women.(35) In 2003 the NSW Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee reported that 98 % of Indigenous women participating in interviews for the 'Speak Out Speak Strong' report had a prior conviction as an adult.(36)

    As reported in the Social Justice Report 2002, preliminary findings of a Victorian study on the prison population in that state found a rate of re-offending of 71 % among Indigenous women compared to a rate of 61 % average in 2000 among the female population. The report noted:

    The emerging pattern amongst this group of offenders is that they have had a history of contact with the criminal justice system throughout all of their adult lives. Such a pattern appears to be directly linked to the fact that the majority of women suffered from some sort of long term drug addiction that required constant funding.(37)

    These figures are higher than recidivism rates for the general prison population. In 2003, approximately 58% of all male prisoners and 49% of all female prisoners are known to have prior imprisonment. This is compared with 77% of all Indigenous prisoners.(38) The Productivity Commission's Report on government services noted in 2003 that 37.4 % of prisoners released in 1999-2000 had returned to prison by 2001-02.(39)

    The high recidivism rate of Indigenous women contributes to the increasing over-representation of Indigenous women in Australian prisons. The Queensland Criminal Justice Commission suggested that the rise in imprisonment rates 'may reflect greater law enforcement activity by police, rather than an increase in offending.'(40) An investigation on the determinants of recidivism among Queensland prisoners suggested that sentencing alternatives, like suspended sentences and home detention, are under-utilised leading to an increase in prison population.(41)

    Intersectional discrimination - Addressing the distinct experiences of Indigenous women

    Previous Social Justice Reports have noted the apparent invisibility of Indigenous women to policy makers and program designers in a criminal justice context, with very little attention devoted to their specific needs and circumstances.(42)

    There are two main reasons for this. First, there is the practical issue that at any given time the number of Indigenous women in prison in a state or territory is relatively few (in raw numbers). This poses practical problems in establishing programs specifically for Indigenous women that are sustainable. It also means that Indigenous women do not have a strong voice to be able to advocate for their needs through the criminal justice system. It is clear that Indigenous women tend to be overlooked as a group of prisoners with distinct needs as a result of these factors.

    Second, and connected to these issues, is that the needs of Indigenous women are generally treated as being met through services which are designed for Indigenous men or through the operation of mainstream services for women (which are not culturally specific). Throughout the consultations undertaken for this chapter we were informed by government and mainstream community agencies that there are a range of general programs available to all women, including Indigenous women. However other participants in the consultations indicated that only a small fraction of Indigenous women requiring support are in fact accessing these services.

    One of the main findings of this research is confirmation that an approach that assumes that the needs of Indigenous women will be met through services designed for Indigenous men, or those for women generally, will not work. The lack of attention to the distinct needs of Indigenous women marginalises them and entrenches inequalities in service delivery. It can lead to intersectional discrimination.

    Intersectional discrimination, or intersectionality, refers to the connection between aspects of identity, such as race, gender, sexuality, religion, culture, disability and age. An intersectional approach asserts that aspects of identity are inter-connected and discussing them in isolation from each other results in concrete disadvantage. 'Intersectional discrimination' refers to the types of discrimination or disadvantage that compound on each other and are inseparable. As the Social Justice Report 2002 noted:

    Intersectional discrimination is not understood by merely adding together the consequences of race, class and gender discrimination. That is, an indigenous woman's life is not simply the sum of the sexism she experiences because she is a women plus the racism she experiences because she is indigenous plus the disadvantage she experiences because of poverty and exclusion from services. A person may be discriminated against in qualitatively different ways as a consequence of the combination of the aspects of their identity...(43)

    The discrimination faced by Indigenous women is more than a combination of race, gender and class. It includes dispossession, cultural oppression, disrespect of spiritual beliefs, economic disempowerment, but from traditional economies, not just post-colonisation economies and more...(44)

    Indigenous women are particularly vulnerable to intersectional discrimination within criminal justice processes. This is due to a number of factors.

    First, it is due to the combination of socio-economic conditions faced by many Indigenous women. Many Indigenous women in Australia today live well below the poverty line. Indigenous women's life expectancy (like Indigenous men) is considerably less than non-Indigenous Australians. They are more likely than non-Indigenous women to be unemployed, to have carer responsibilities for children other than their own, to receive welfare payments and to have finished school at an earlier age. Indigenous women are also more likely to be a victim of violence and also more likely to live in communities where violence is prevalent. These factors combine to make Indigenous women particularly vulnerable and their needs more complex than others.

    Second, the consequences of family violence in Indigenous communities, and its impact on Indigenous women, have not been grappled with appropriately by the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system is extremely poor at dealing with the underlying causes of criminal behaviour and makes a negligible contribution to addressing the consequences of crime in the community. Policies and programs provide relatively little attention to the high rate of Indigenous victimisation, particularly through violence and abuse in communities. Indigenous women disproportionately bear the consequences of this.

    It is now well understood that Indigenous women experience extremely high rates of family violence(45) and that past experiences of violence or abuse are extremely common among Indigenous female prisoners.(46) As the Social Justice Report 2002 noted:

    It is beginning to be accepted that while much offending behaviour is linked to social marginalisation and economic disadvantage, the impact of non-economic deprivation, such as damage to identity and culture, as well as trauma and grief, have a significant relationship to offending behaviour.(47)

    The Social Justice Report 2003 identified a range of significant initiatives currently underway at all levels of government to address family violence in Indigenous communities. It expressed concern, however, that often responses to such violence have not recognised the distinct situation of Indigenous women. It argued that Indigenous women:

    do not have a purely gendered experience of violence... They, along with their men, experienced and continue to experience, the racist violence of the State. Aboriginal women do not share a common experience of sexism and patriarchal oppression, which binds them with non-Aboriginal women...(48)

    Indigenous women's experience of discrimination and violence is bound up in the colour of their skin as well as their gender... The unique dimensions of violence against Aboriginal women are a result of complex factors and socio-historical and contemporary experiences and must be considered when attempting to provide solutions that are relevant to the specific situations and needs of Aboriginal women. Solutions to problems, no matter how well-intentioned, can create further problems for subordinated groups within a society, particularly when the 'solutions' are based in a systemic structure that has functioned abusively on the subordinated group.(49)

    The prevalence of experiences of violence among Indigenous women, and the unique dimensions of this, make Indigenous women particularly vulnerable to intersectional discrimination through a failure to specifically respond to their distinct needs.

    Third, responses to Indigenous over-representation in criminal justice processes over the past decade have been focused on responding (though not in a sustained manner or very fully) to the findings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. These almost exclusively focused on the circumstances of Aboriginal men, with none of the Royal Commission's recommendations specifically addressing the circumstances of Indigenous women.(50) This also has the potential to render Indigenous women invisible to policy makers.

    Overall, the consultations with Indigenous women for this chapter revealed that the development of strategies for reducing Indigenous women's over-representation in the criminal justice system must be approached in a different way. Strategies should not be viewed purely as addressing post-release needs, but rather they need to respond to the circumstances of Indigenous women holistically. Discussions on post-release support programs available to Indigenous communities identified the need to move away from reliance on mainstream western-style programs to a more holistic approach, which seeks to not only address offending behaviours but also focus on healing the distress and grief experienced by many Indigenous women and their communities.

    Post-release programs for Indigenous women exiting prison - common themes from consultations

    Through the public consultations held for this chapter, there were a number of overarching points identified about the existing state of post-release programs for Indigenous women.

    First, the consultations revealed variations in the level and type of post-release support programs provided by each state and territory government depending on your prisoner status. As noted earlier, there are variations in the availability of post-release programs provided by government depending on the reasons why a person was imprisoned (eg, depending on whether they were on remand, community service orders or sentenced to a finite term of imprisonment). A common feature in most states and territories was that the prime responsibility for post-release services lay with the department responsible for corrections. The clients of these departments are those prisoners who continue to have obligations towards the criminal justice system, such as parolees and/or offenders who have community-based orders to complete upon their release. Those who have completed their sentences are no longer clients of this department and hence are unable to access the programs that are otherwise available through the department.

    For those who continue to have obligations to the corrections department, the nature of this relationship is involuntary on the part of the offender as the focus of the intervention is on meeting the conditions of their order or parole. The support that is provided is therefore directed towards a more limited purpose and is not aimed per se at addressing the basic support and survival needs of the person to re-enter the community. This does not promote a holistic approach to such re-entry.

    Second, a feature that also emerged regularly throughout the consultations was concern at the lack of communication and coordination between prisons, community corrections, housing providers, government agencies and other community services prior to and after the release of an Indigenous woman from prison.

    The consultations revealed differences in understanding about what programs and supports were available to Indigenous women. On several occasions, community-based service providers, Indigenous women and other non-government representatives either stated that services did not exist or were unaware of services and programs which government departments stated did exist.

    Additionally, where multiple service providers were involved in a woman's life, it appeared that there was often a lack of awareness between them about the role or involvement of other organisations. In one major urban centre, the community consultation for this chapter was the first time that people who worked in different organisations that provided related or complementary services had met. Soon after the consultation meeting we were informed that this meeting had led to these organisations working together more collaboratively to resolve problems by drawing on the capabilities of each organisation rather than by over-stretching their own capacity.

    The consultations suggested that generally there is room for improved information sharing and coordination of activities between community-based service providers, government departments and prisons.

    Such a lack of coordination can impact negatively on a woman's successful re-integration into the community. Of great benefit to a woman about to be released, it was frequently proposed throughout the consultations, would be the development of a relationship with a person from a community organisation prior to her release. This person could be then responsible for assisting the woman to prepare for her release and then continue that support post-release, including referral to appropriate services. This could be a way of reducing the duplication of services; the number of support people involved in a woman's life; and improve the delivery of support programs provided to a woman from the pre-release to the post-release phase. There are a number of new initiatives, described below, which provide hope that such an approach is beginning to be adopted in some states.

    Third, a further concern raised by a number of participants in consultations related to the limited availability of pre-release supports to prepare Indigenous women for their release from prison. This was combined with a lack of continuity between the support provided prior to a woman's release (where it exists) and the support provided after her release. This issue is addressed further below in relation to specific programs and services.

    Fourth, it was also noted that there is limited attention to post-release needs of Indigenous prisoners (male or female) within the main policy documents for addressing Indigenous over-representation in the criminal justice system. This includes within Aboriginal Justice Agreements and justice frameworks.

    All state and territory governments committed to the development of strategic plans to address the over-representation of Indigenous peoples in criminal justice processes and to improve the coordination of Commonwealth/State funding and service delivery for Indigenous programs and services at the Ministerial Summit on Indigenous Deaths in Custody in 1997.(51) Justice agreements have emerged as the process for this (although they generally lack a key feature agreed at the 1997 Summit - namely, a focus on inter-governmental coordination). An overview of these frameworks was provided in the appendix to the Social Justice Report 2001.

    Four states currently have fully operational justice agreements. The Northern Territory, South Australia and the ACT are either in the process of developing their justice agreements or have draft agreements. Tasmania is the only state that does not have an Aboriginal Justice Agreement as its overarching framework.

    There is very little mention of the importance of post-release support programs in any justice agreements and a failure to identify the importance of adopting a holistic approach to the needs of Indigenous people exiting prison. Further, none of the agreements specifically acknowledge that Indigenous women have distinct needs and contain strategies for addressing these.

    However, as a recent report noted on the Victoria agreement process, the justice agreement framework and the consultative and representative processes which are created by this, provide a forum through which such issues may be brought to the negotiating table on a regular basis and with the presence of relevant government agencies. The Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee structure established under the Victorian agreement, for example, provides 'a possible forum in which the issues can potentially be better addressed'(52).

    Finally, although Indigenous women face a wide range of issues upon their release from prison, two issues were continually highlighted as of greatest importance during the consultations. Housing and healing were continually identified as the critical issues to be addressed if a woman exiting prison is to attend to other areas of her life. Participants in the consultations stressed that having access to adequate and affordable housing is a key determinate for a woman's successful reconnection with her community after release from prison. Additionally, consultation participants also felt that healing is critical in addressing Indigenous women's involvement in the criminal justice system.

    The next section identifies the main government policies as well as community programs and services which support women exiting prison and the accessibility of these to Indigenous women. Programs and services for housing and healing are then discussed in further detail.

    Policy and programs relating to Indigenous women exiting prison

    This section provides an overview of policies of governments as well as services available to Indigenous women upon release from prison. It includes those programs which prisoners can access prior to release in order to facilitate their transition back into society. Programs specifically relating to housing and accommodation issues and healing are discussed separately in the following section.

    a) Australian government - Centrelink's Pre-Release Support Programs for Prisoners

    Since 2002, Centrelink has developed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and Program Protocol Agreement with each state or territory government department responsible for adult correctional and juvenile justice centres. There are currently agreements covering 80 correctional centres across all states and territories, with the exception of South Australia. The terms of the Program Protocol Agreement with South Australia had been agreed to, although it had not been finalised at the time of writing.

    These arrangements allow Centrelink to work with prisoners to ensure that their Centrelink payments are arranged prior to their release. This can involve facilitating cash payments (known as 'Crisis Payment') to be provided to people released from prison outside business hours, assistance with issues relating to proof of identity and study expenses while in custody, prevention of debts upon entry to prison and better access to Centrelink services prior to release.(53)

    The specific roles expected to be fulfilled by both Centrelink and the Correctional institutions are outlined in the MOU. In ensuring Centrelink is able to provide a service to prisoners, the Correctional facility is required to provide Centrelink staff with:

    • streamlined access to the facility;
    • all the relevant paperwork regarding the prisoners entry to and release from prison; and
    • details regarding any rehabilitation or other programs the inmate is required to participate in after release that may effect their ability to look for work, or may better assist assessment for appropriate payment/services.(54)

    In return Centrelink is expected to promptly accept and process inmates claims for Crisis Payment, interview inmates and provide group information seminars on the pre-release support service to inmates.(55)

    The pre-release support provided by Centrelink through the MOU's is particularly important as inmates do not require standard identification to receive a crisis payment upon release from prison.(56) Alternative proof of identity procedures are available to verify the identity of prisoners. In many cases inmates are given a longer period of time to provide appropriate identification in order to continue their payments. This is of particular relevance to Indigenous inmates who are less likely to have the appropriate identification to commence payments.(57)

    The rationale behind these agreements is that the provision of pre-release support by way of arranging for a simpler transition to Centrelink payments upon release reduces the vulnerability of the ex-prisoner and accordingly reduces the chance that they will re-offend in the short term. It also ensures that support is provided to prisoners with mental illness, intellectual disabilities, low literacy, and/or drug and alcohol problems, and minimises the impact of Centrelink debts for people entering and exiting custody.(58)

    This innovation is encouraging given the services that Centrelink provides, such as crisis payments, family payments and general welfare benefits, form the starting point for successfully re-integrating a former prisoner back into the community.

    Information provided by community-based service providers and Indigenous women during our consultations for this chapter suggests that there may be a gap between the existing policies and what services are actually provided on the ground. While the policies and agreements are in place, there may be issues with the actual implementation of the initiative within particular prisons.

    For example, service providers expressed concern on many occasions during the consultation process for this chapter that women were not getting enough pre-release support from Centrelink to ensure that their payments upon release were received in a timely manner. In the case of Townsville Correctional Centre for example, community-based service providers were concerned that Centrelink staff were not visiting the women in the facility. There was also concern around the nation that many Indigenous women do not have appropriate identification, therefore, were unable to apply for Centrelink support. In most cases women and service providers stated that they did not have the appropriate identification in which case they were required to pay for it when they could not afford the cost.

    Centrelink, however, has been responsive to these concerns: the Townsville Correctional Centre has since taken measures to ensure inmates can arrange their Centrelink payments including accessing Personal Advisers(59) prior to their release meaning that inmates are no longer required to go to a Customer Service Centre on the day of their release to arrange their payments.(60)

    b) Western Australia - Community Re-entry Program

    In 2004, Western Australia became the first state in Australia to provide voluntary post-release support services to offenders exiting prison with the introduction of the Community re-entry program by the Department of Justice. Offenders who require supervision as a condition of their release are eligible to access this support. The primary focus of the program, however, is on those who are released without requiring further supervision.(61)

    Key components of community re-entry include:

    • A Community Re-entry Coordination Service;
    • Transitional Accommodation and Support Service;
    • Justice mediation service; and
    • Focus on drug management, building stronger family relationships and managing people with mental health issues.(62)

    Community re-entry is designed to reduce offending and create safer communities by enhancing the services provided to offenders on release from prison.(63) The Department of Justice contracts community organisations to provide a 'community re-entry coordination service'. This can include assisting an offender in accessing accommodation, arranging Centrelink payments and storage of their personal possessions, providing counselling and going shopping for personal effects.(64) A key part of this service is the continuity of support provided to offenders from the pre-release stage to post-release. That is, through the service providers, 'offenders will be able to access basic transitional support services while in custody and continue with the same service (and service provider) after release'(65).

    Eight community-based service providers in Western Australia have been contracted to provide the 'community re-entry coordination service'. There are two service providers in Perth; Outcare which is contracted to work with male offenders from the Perth metropolitan prisons and Ruah which provides services to female offenders from Bandyup and Boronia - the two women's prisons in Perth. Outcare has worked with Indigenous offenders for over 25 years and Ruah has worked with a range of marginalised groups including female offenders for over six years.

    This program is the first government-funded justice program to specifically target prisoners who have served finite sentences and those who were in custody on remand, and to provide continuity of support from imprisonment through to when a prisoner is released. It also utilises established and recognised community organisations to provide pre and post-release support programs.

    To date, community re-entry provides the most comprehensive response in addressing the lack of post-release support programs for people exiting prison. The scheme is in its infancy and no solid conclusions can be drawn from it.

    Missing from community re-entry is the particular focus on the needs of Indigenous women exiting prison. To date, the services provided through community re-entry are available to all exiting prisoners. In Perth the mainstream community-based organisation, Ruah, provides re-entry services to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous women. While Ruah is a mainstream service, it does have a long history of working with Indigenous women.

    To overcome the gap in re-entry supports specifically for Indigenous women in remote areas in particular, the Department of Justice and its Broome based re-entry service provider, the Men's Outreach Service, agreed that the service would ensure that Indigenous women returning to the Kimberly region would have access to an Indigenous women's specific support service. To this end, the Men's Outreach Service entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Marnja Jarndu Women's Refuge to provide services to women in the Kimberley region.(66) This MOU forms part of the Men's Outreach Service's agreement with the Department of Justice.

    The effectiveness of the scheme in addressing the specific needs of Indigenous women remains to be seen. During the consultations in Perth, concerns were raised that re-entry did not adequately recognise and take into account the unique needs of Indigenous people exiting prison. For example, returning to a community after being imprisoned a distance away from their home communities. With regard to travel back to regional communities all regional re-entry service providers must coordinate the transport for prisoners released from custody, back into their communities. However, under re-entry service providers have little if any funding to cover the travel costs for Indigenous women and men who need to return to their communities after being imprisoned. This has particular impacts for women who have children or who have other carer responsibilities. The inability to return home due to the cost of travel only serves to continue their dislocation from their families and communities.

    c) New South Wales - Throughcare Strategic Framework

    The Department of Corrective Services in New South Wales launched its Throughcare Strategic Framework in January 2003.(67) It is based on the throughcare model which has been introduced in other countries in recent years, notably in the United Kingdom.

    Throughcare is defined as providing a 'continuity of care - from the community, through prison, and back out into the community - aimed at giving ex-prisoners a chance to integrate socially and desist from further offending'(68). The essential characteristic of throughcare is that offenders are supported to re-integrate back into their communities after being imprisoned. This support can include coordinating assistance in accessing accommodation, getting employment and receiving welfare payments.

    Research shows that the throughcare approach - with longer term, coordinated post-release support - increases the chance that treatment (or rehabilitation) received while in prison will be more successful.(69) The key to the success of throughcare is that all agencies involved in an offenders life pre and post-release must deliver their services in a coordinated and integrated manner.(70)

    In New South Wales, the aim of the program is to create linkages between the Department of Corrective Services, other relevant government agencies and non-government organisations. According to the department:

    Throughcare is the co-ordinated and integrated approach to reducing re-offending by people who are the responsibility of Corrective Services, from their first point of contact with the Department to the completion of their legal orders and their transition to law-abiding community living.(71) Continuity of care is the definitive characteristic of throughcare.(72)

    This recognises the benefits of ongoing, client-centred case work to both ex-prisoners and the community in general. The program endeavours to establish links with a person being released with services like housing, TAFE, health professionals and employment opportunities. As part of an overall case-plan for an adult's community-based order, the Community Corrections Officer, upon the advice of their client, may assist the person in making contact with employment agencies, educational institutions and other services. Once the person has completed the requirements of their community-based order, the throughcare services and support provided by their Community Corrections Officer usually cease.

    At this stage the program's reach is to only those individuals completing 'their legal orders'. This leaves a person exiting prison, having served their full sentence, without access to this program.

    As part of the Throughcare Strategic Framework, the Department of Corrective Services has finalised a Centrelink Program Protocol Agreement(73) which establishes a specific Offenders Unit in the Centrelink office to deal specifically with the needs of prisoners prior to, and upon, their release from prison.(74)

    d) New South Wales - Yulawirri Nurai

    Yulawirri Nurai, located in Morisset on the central coast of New South Wales, is an Indigenous Corporation established in 1996 in response to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC).(75) The sole purpose of Yulawirri Nurai is to provide support and assistance to Aboriginal people in New South Wales with their accommodation, employment, educational, legal and training needs before, during and after their release from prison.

    The women's post-release program is funded by NSW Department of Corrective Services Community Grants program.(76) This funding includes provision for the salary of the Aboriginal Women's Post-release and Case Management Officer as well as some additional running costs such as rent and administration. The service relies on the support of volunteer staff for the ongoing functioning of the program. The post-release Officer is responsible for supporting Aboriginal women exiting NSW prisons with their needs, including accommodation, health, custody issues, employment and education. It is the only such position funded by the Department of Corrective Services in New South Wales. In fact there are no comparable positions funded in other States or Territories.

    The post-release worker at Yulawirri Nurai aims to develop a supportive relationship with women during their incarceration and prior to their release, in order to establish an understanding of the woman's individual needs. Unlike the Throughcare Strategy, Yulawirri Nurai continues to provide support to women well after they have completed their orders.

    The post-release worker currently sees women at Emu Plains Correctional Centre, on the outskirts of Sydney, Mulawa Correctional Centre, situated in the Sydney metropolitan area, as well Grafton (northern NSW), Berrima (south west of Sydney) and Broken Hill (far western NSW). As at June 2003 the worker was supporting approximately 100 women, including 40 releasees (of whom one third were estimated to be homeless).(77)

    e) Queensland

    At present, there is no co-ordinated government policy to address the needs of people exiting prison in Queensland. As a result, community organisations around the state are heavily relied on to provide a range of support services. The Catholic Prisons Ministry in Brisbane, for example, receives limited funding to provide pre and post-release support programs although at this stage it is only able to provide services for men.

    Sisters Inside Inc, a Brisbane-based community organisation, is funded to provide pre and post-release support programs to women prisoners and releasees (including Indigenous women). It receives funding from a variety of sources including Queensland Department of Communities, Queensland Health, Department of Corrective Services, Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services and through the National Drug Strategy (Commonwealth) to run a range of counselling and support programs. Sisters Inside employs 3 Indigenous workers and has Indigenous women on their management board. Programs which specifically relate to women exiting prison include:(78)

    • Women's Transition Program: This program works with women about to be released back into the community and supports the women, their children and families through this process. This pilot project aims to reduce deaths and recidivism. It provides support programs for the women, their children and families through this transition period. Family and Community Services (Federal) and Department of Corrective Services fund this program.

    • Release Kit - Indigenous and Non Indigenous Kit: A resource kit for women leaving prison which provides information about services, including accommodation, transport, finances, custody issues and health. The Release Kits are distributed to all women regularly to ensure each woman has a copy.
    • Personal Support Program (PSP): PSP assists women released from prison to achieve their economic and social goals. The program will achieve this through counselling, personal support, guidance, referral and advocacy services.
    • Building On Women's Strength's Program (BOWS): This is a program for women who are being released from prison who are primary care givers and their children. BOWS workers provide intensive support for women and their children in rebuilding their lives after the trauma of prison.

    This year, Sisters Inside successfully lobbied the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission to conduct an inquiry into systemic discrimination experienced by women in prisons. This inquiry is currently underway. A concern was raised by Sisters Inside during the course of the consultations for this report that since the commencement of the inquiry the Brisbane women's prison has restricted Sisters Inside's access to women in the prison.

    f) Victoria

    The Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement aims to 'minimise Indigenous overrepresentation in the criminal justice systems [sic] by improving accessibility, utilisation and effectiveness of justice-related programs and services in partnership with the Aboriginal community'(79). This agreement has an evaluation process where the Aboriginal Justice Forum, with the assistance of the Aboriginal Justice Working Group, is responsible for monitoring and evaluating the agreement and related initiatives.(80) Overarching this process, the Indigenous Issues Unit of the Department of Justice will co-ordinate and monitor the overall effectiveness of the agreement. Unfortunately, the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement does not have a specific strategy (or strategies) to address the needs of Indigenous women.

    The Victorian Association of the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (or VACRO) is a community organisation that provides support, advice and referral and telephone counselling to prisoner and their families. VACRO has also developed a booklet 'Getting Out and How to Survive' which provides information to assist prisoners being released from prison.

    Also in Victoria a media tool (in CD form) developed by the Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative in partnership with the Grampians Regional Area Justice Advisory Council (RAJAC) aims to provide Indigenous prisoners in that State with information about programs and services they can access pre and post release, as well as information about their rights as prisoners. The information having been developed by an Indigenous organisation will address the current paucity of culturally appropriate information being provided to Indigenous prisoners in Victoria.(81)

    g) South Australia

    The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) SA, Aboriginal Services Unit and the Community Corrections Division in partnership with Aboriginal Hostels Unit have developed a Prison Release and Diversion Hostel specifically for Indigenous women (see later in the chapter for discussion of Karinga Hostel). This is the only Indigenous female specific program available in SA.

    According to the DCS 2002/03 Annual Report, the Department was planning to implement a Throughcare program, similar to the Throughcare programs implemented in Western Australia and New South Wales.

    h) Northern Territory

    The Northern Territory does not provide any specific post-release programs to Indigenous women exiting prison.

    The Department has recently developed the Reintegration after Prison Program (RAPP). The service aims to provide practical assistance to ex-prisoners by helping them plan for their release as well as assisting with immediate post-release needs, such as organising Centrelink payments, banking, getting identification an so on. The program also works closely with organisations such as Salvation Army, NT Legal Aid Commission, Aboriginal Legal Services, and Anglicare.(82)

    i) Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania

    There is little information available regarding post-release programs for Indigenous women in the ACT or Tasmania. Neither have an Indigenous Justice Agreement as the framework for addressing Indigenous issues relating to the criminal justice system.

    Post-release housing programs for Indigenous women exiting prison

    Clearly, any successful return to the community from prison should involve the return to suitable housing.(83)

    This section examines what Federal, State and Territory government policies and practices, as well as community initiatives, are currently in place to respond to Indigenous women's housing needs upon release from prison. It also considers the barriers to Indigenous women accessing various forms of housing and identifies housing options that would improve accessibility of housing for Indigenous women upon release from prison.

    Accommodation and housing can include everything from staying with relatives, private rental, public housing and emergency shelter-like accommodation. For the purposes of this research we focussed on Indigenous women's access to public housing and emergency accommodation upon release, the types of support programs that may or may not be provided with housing, and how the accessibility of housing impacts on a woman being able to exercise her human right to housing.

    a) The link between housing and post-release experiences

    There is limited data available on what kinds of accommodation options people access upon release from prison. Despite this, existing research demonstrates a clear relationship between poor post- release housing experiences and recidivism. As Eileen Baldry et al states:

    Studies into the relationship between social issues and difficulties amongst prisoners, such as homelessness, mental illness/disturbance, intellectual disability and drug abuse, and post-release experience have indicated consistently a high level of difficulty in securing suitable accommodation upon release.(84)

    Similarly, Lisa Ward has stated:

    the link between reduced re-offending and stable post-release housing, employment and social connections is so well established that these three areas of practical assistance should be a primary focus of transitional support services that seek to impact on recidivism... [Such] rates are still the most common form of outcome measure applied to transitional support services. (85)

    Overseas studies too have drawn similar conclusions about the connection between accessing adequate and appropriate transitional support programs and the decrease in re-offending behaviours.(86) These studies consistently show a relationship between recidivism and difficulty in securing suitable accommodation post-release.(87)

    Studies in Australia have identified a number of barriers that people face upon exiting prison. These include growing waiting lists for public and community housing; a decrease in the availability of boarding housing accommodation; discrimination faced in the private rental market as well as the difficulties of ex-prisoners obtaining employment. People leaving prison not only face the aforementioned barriers but also face the additional barriers of disjointed, poor or no rental references, low social skills/low self esteem, prejudice and discrimination, having been taken off the public housing list, or coming out with a public housing debt or other debts.(88)

    The barriers confronting women post-release are often issues that they faced prior to their incarceration. Jail exacerbates the difficulties that they face. In her research of mortality among women prisoners after being released from jail in Victoria, Martyres identifies the importance of contextualising a women's life circumstances prior to, during and immediately following imprisonment:

    Most women who enter prison do so from a background of extreme social and economic disadvantage. Factors such as high unemployment rates, substance abuse, complex mental health needs and poor education impact on the lives of many women prisoners. It is estimated that up to eighty percent of women who enter the prison system in Victoria have a history of drug dependence. Most women prisoners have also experienced some form of sexual assault or family violence prior to imprisonment.(89)

    For Indigenous women, this picture is even starker. As noted earlier, Indigenous women face a number of entrenched problems (such as the impact of Indigenous family violence and its associated social issues) which can render them more vulnerable to intersectional discrimination.

    Indigenous women participating in consultations for this report relayed how finding appropriate and affordable housing is difficult even without the added burdens of post-release stress. An Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) paper investigating the issues surrounding sustainable tenancies for Indigenous families identify the structural and formal barriers Indigenous people face when attempting to access appropriate housing. They include:

    Racial discrimination; higher than average rates of incarceration; lower rates of employment; low education levels; problems meeting social security requirements; mental illness; the cost of providing suitable, safe housing in remote areas; temporary housing; lack of long term affordable housing; lack of appropriate crisis accommodation for women and their children; long waiting lists for public housing; and family violence, which is a particular problem for Indigenous women, who rarely report it to police. The issue of disempowerment, with its roots in colonisation, is identifies as a major factor in family violence, which is one of the main reasons for the cycle of homelessness among Indigenous women and their children.(90)

    As previously indicated many Indigenous women are reluctant to use mainstream support services as they feel they do not meet their needs or understand their particular problems. Considering the need for the provision of culturally relevant services the AHURI paper points out:

    It is futile and perhaps dangerous to impose non-Indigenous norms onto Indigenous people. If Indigenous homelessness is to be addressed effectively, it must be understood in an historical and cultural context that takes account of past injustices ... Without taking this historical perspective into account, and the sustained marginalised treatment of Indigenous people by the State, it is not possible to fully identify and address the barriers to Indigenous people, and women in particular, accessing appropriate services.(91)

    Throughout the consultations for this report it was frequently said that Indigenous women, who do not have the support of family and community, generally find it difficult to access any kind of housing. They encounter long public housing waiting lists (as does the rest of the community), discrimination by the private rental market and due to low income, are not able to consider home ownership or private rental. The difficulties of finding suitable and affordable accommodation are compounded where Aboriginal women have children in their care.

    In a study examining the experiences of people when they leave prison, Baldry notes that many of the 45 Indigenous people (22 of whom were women) participating in the study had returned to prison within nine months of release. The study goes on to consider the role of housing as a contributing factor to recidivism. It claims that not only is the standard of housing a factor, but where the housing is located is also a key element. The study notes that many of the participants returned to 'disadvantaged suburbs'. These are suburbs that:

    Have poor infrastructure and are extremely economically and socially disadvantaged. There is little alternative for Aboriginal people leaving prison other than to return to these communities that are already drained of social capacity to meet their multiple needs.(92)

    Throughout the consultations, Indigenous women also expressed concerns about the location of public housing in relation to infrastructure and amenities. For example, in Western Australia many HomesWest homes were located in the suburbs of Mirrabooka and Balga on the outskirts of Perth. These are located a significant distance from public transport, shopping centres, health services, the community corrections and Centrelink offices and often require a woman to catch a taxi in order to access these amenities. Another common theme arising from the consultations was that often housing was not safe enough to protect women from family violence. That is, many women stated that public housing needed to have doors that could not be 'bashed in'.

    The workers at Elizabeth Hoffman House, a crisis accommodation service for Indigenous women located in Melbourne said that Aboriginal women being released from prison have very few options. If they do not have family and community to return to, they rely on whatever crisis accommodation is available (often inappropriate and very short term) or return to violent partners. The workers said that many of the women they work with are reluctant to use mainstream crisis accommodation services because of the lack of 'black faces' there. They said that some Aboriginal women are reluctant to go to a service that does not have Indigenous workers, because they feared being misunderstood and judged.(93)

    The workers from Elizabeth Hoffman House also stressed it was vital that Indigenous women's organisations be adequately funded to be able to provide a quality service to Indigenous women. This claim was echoed in all the consultations held. Participants, from both government and community, believed that services where Aboriginal women support each other in culturally appropriate and sensitive ways is critical to healing and reintegration. It was frequently stated in the consultations that if a woman cannot return home, for whatever reason, and there is no appropriate services for the woman to go once they have been released from prison, they will be forced to live in an unsafe living situation, return to a violent partner for example, or live on the streets.

    A report on homelessness among Indigenous women in Queensland noted that:

    Indigenous women who are discharged from correctional facilities without support, appropriate transitional accommodation or money also often find their way to inner city parks and public spaces. Many would return home but do not have enough money, and so go to the parks looking for a loan or for company ... These women are vulnerable to a range of factors including re-arrest for street/public offence orders.(94)

    Consistent with the comments made by the workers at Elizabeth Hoffman House, other Indigenous community workers stated during the consultations that Aboriginal women have experienced discrimination in a range of ways from mainstream support services. Generalist accommodation support agencies, it was claimed, were sometimes reluctant to accommodate Aboriginal women. One Indigenous woman from the Townsville consultations said that while many of these claims could not be substantiated 'an Aboriginal woman knows prejudice when it happens, she can see it in the person's eyes.'(95)

    The participants attending the Alice Springs consultation explained the predicament facing Aboriginal women in that region. There is only one women's refuge in Alice Springs, everyone knows where it is, so there is no such thing as a safe house. Some houses have had rooms modified so they are impenetrable, with the women being able to lock herself and her kids in the room, if she is in fear of violence. Private rental is not an option for many Aboriginal women living in Alice Springs, and the public and Aboriginal Housing waiting lists are long.

    Many Indigenous women released from prison also have drug related and/or mental health issues which can exacerbate problems in obtaining suitable housing. Ogilvy comments that:

    the special need of prisoners frequently make accessing programs of one sort or another difficult. For example, many domestic violence shelters exclude people with drug problems and many hostels exclude women with children. Given that for women prisoners, coping with drug related issues and motherhood are often critical to their re-integration back into the community, these sorts of exclusions can seriously impede successful re-integration into the general community.(96)

    Not only do these concerns hinder a woman's chances of obtaining secure accommodation but it also contribute to the likelihood of re-offending.

    Whether or not the woman has a drug and/or mental health problem, post-release homelessness is difficult to separate from pre-incarceration accommodation related problems. Homelessness and housing related stress has also been identified as a concern for many women prior to them offending, only to be exacerbated on their release from prison. A submission received from a peak homelessness agency to the NSW Select Committee on the Increase in Prisoner Population stated:

    There has been an increase in the number of clients with a history of incarceration...[O]ur clients are particularly vulnerable to incarceration. Because they are homeless their activities are more visible to law enforcement and they are more likely to get a custodial sentence. The sorts of offences that they commit tend to be reasonably minor offences but they do tend to be repeat offenders and because of their homeless status, they are less likely to be offered alternatives... Their poverty and homelessness have a direct impact on whether or not they choose to commit crime.(97)

    A study of Indigenous women in NSW prisons revealed that prior to their incarceration approximately 55% (of the research participants) had lived in public housing, 18% private rental, 15% said they were homeless or had no fixed address, 7% lived in housing provided by Aboriginal housing services and 5% said they lived in caravan parks. The report continues:

    The need for suitable and permanent housing is a serious concern for Aboriginal women, in particular those who are the usual sole carers of children. This matter will certainly impact on sentencing options, for example, community service orders and home detention heavily depend on a permanent residence of the offender. The need for priority housing and access to residence will also impact on Aboriginal women who are leaving prison. In many situations, Aboriginal women either have lost their homes whilst in custody or did not have a place to live prior to serving a sentence.(98)

    Baldry identifies the dilemmas facing some ex-prisoners. She says:

    In a very perverse way, prison is a form of secure, affordable housing for many prisoners who have had insecure, unsuitable or unaffordable housing prior to their incarceration. If prison provides this, what of the housing needs and experiences of such prisoners upon release? In Australia, as in many countries, most prisoners are housed one day and released the next. They have to try and find accommodation, employment and rebuild a social life. For some, family friends, the parole service, or other agencies may have already helped organise this transition. But the experience of prison (an institutionalising one) and earlier life experiences, often of poverty and disadvantage, drug and alcohol abuse, physical or sexual abuse and social alienation do not prepare many ex-prisoners to negotiate these social necessities successfully.(99)

    The post-release worker from Yulawirri Nurai, an Aboriginal organisation in NSW providing post-release support to Indigenous women exiting NSW prisons says that the women she works with come from a range of family situations and experiences. However one thing that they do have in common is the feeling of being disempowered. She says that many of the women she works with have come from situations of extreme poverty and that for many of them committing crime was a means to feeding her kids, or just to get through another day. Other Aboriginal women finding themselves in prison have been caught up in the extreme cycle of violence that affects too many Aboriginal people.(100)

    Many other Aboriginal workers we spoke with agreed and believed that that difficulties associated with not being able to access appropriate housing and other forms of accommodation is not only a problem for Indigenous ex-prisoners, but a continuation (often aggravated post-release) of poor accommodation options available to Aboriginal people generally.

    b) Federal and inter-governmental housing programs

    There are three main housing programs of relevance to prisoners seeking accommodation upon release which are funded at the inter-governmental level or through the federal government. These are the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, Supported Accommodation Assistance Program and Aboriginal Hostels.

    Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement

    The main framework for the provision of housing assistance is the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement (CSHA). The CSHA is an agreement negotiated between the Federal government and State and Territory governments to provide funding for the delivery of housing assistance. The 2003 CSHA provided an estimated $4.75 billion to the states and territories for the provision of mainly public, community, Indigenous and crisis housing. The bulk of the funding is provided in untied capital grants to the States and Territories. The Aboriginal Rental Housing Program, a supplementary housing program, also falls under the funding scope of the CSHA.

    The major guiding principles of the CSHA are to:

    • maintain a core Social Housing sector to assist people unable to access alternative suitable housing options;
    • develop and deliver affordable, appropriate, flexible and diverse housing assistance responses that provide people with choice and are tailored to their needs, local conditions and opportunities;
    • provide assistance in a manner that is non-discriminatory and has regard to consumer rights and responsibilities, including consumer participation;
    • commit to improving housing outcomes for Indigenous people in urban, rural and remote areas, through specific initiatives that strengthen the Indigenous housing sector and the responsiveness and appropriateness of the full range of mainstream housing options;
    • promote innovative approaches to leverage additional resources into Social Housing, through community, private sector and other partnerships; and
    • ensure that housing assistance supports access to employment and promotes social and economic participation.(101)

    As partners to the CSHA, each State and Territory is responsible for the delivery of public housing programs and other accommodation services. These programs have extensive waiting lists. Depending where the applicant elects to be housed, the waiting period can be as long as several years. The Australian Council of Social Services have noted that:

    Waiting lists for public housing are an imprecise measure of total demand for public housing. They show the people who are currently waiting to be housed, but do not count those who are in great housing need and do not fit ever-tightening eligibility criteria or have given up in frustration.(102)

    The greatest need for housing remains with general public housing. Dwindling mainstream housing stock ensures that the need is an ever increasing one. This is particularly so for Indigenous housing. As the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) have commented:

    The particular housing issues for Indigenous communities remain an ongoing challenge. Community development in these communities is systematically blocked by inadequate housing and infrastructure.(103)

    This has been acknowledged by the Housing Ministers' Conference. In May 2001, the Commonwealth, State and Territory ministers agreed on a national commitment to improve Indigenous housing over the next ten years. The agreement identifies a range of key strategies to achieve 'substantial and enduring improvement in Indigenous housing outcomes over the next decade.'(104)

    The guiding principles of the agreement are:

    • Governments and the Indigenous community will work collaboratively in the policy development, planning, service delivery and evaluation;
    • The Indigenous community housing sector is recognised as a vital partner in Indigenous housing provision and will be involved in all aspects of service planning and delivery;
    • Best practice will be encouraged in service coordination, housing provision and asset management;
    • Adequate resources will be provided to support the vision;
    • Policy will promote an environment that builds and strengthens community capacity and involvement and is responsive to local needs and initiatives;
    • Responsibility for achieving sustainable housing will be shared by those who provide housing and those who use housing; and
    • All stakeholders will be accountable for outcomes and for the proper use of public funds.

    The agreement aims to meet the following four objectives:

    • Identify and address unmet housing needs of Indigenous people;
    • Improve the capacity of Indigenous community housing organisations and involve Indigenous people in planning and service delivery;
    • Achieve safe, healthy and sustainable housing; and
    • Coordinate program administration.

    With the exception of Victoria, no state or territory has a specific housing program aimed at alleviating housing stress experience by prisoners upon release. Victoria, as will be discussed shortly, has recently commenced trialling a pilot project with the community sector.

    Prisoners can apply for public housing and be placed on waiting lists, just like any other eligible person in the community. Many of the pre-release programs available to prisoners offer housing advice and assistance in filling out housing application forms. However, once a woman has been released it is up to her to check regularly on the status of her application.

    During consultations we heard from both housing workers and various Departments of Housing representatives that many people who rely on a series of short-term/emergency accommodation services for shelter post-release, or those who live in parks and squats, find it difficult to keep housing authorities abreast of their current residential address. This often leads to the person being taken off the waiting list. The AIC notes that around one-fifth of all women leaving prison have no address to go to.(105)

    Housing authorities have attempted to avoid people being removed from the waiting list by allowing the person to provide as a contact address one of their regularly used accommodation agencies. Despite this, homeless people being removed from waiting lists still occur frequently. Reinstatement can be granted if a reconnection is made with the housing authority. However, this situation illustrates the difficulties that some prisoners face upon release due to their itinerant status.

    For some, having a debt owing to a housing provider presents another hurdle in attempting to access public housing. During the consultations we heard that many Indigenous women end up owing money to housing authorities. This can occur as a result of falling behind in rental payment prior to incarceration, other people staying in the house not paying rent or damage to property needing to be paid for. While having a debt to the housing authority does not absolutely exclude someone from applying for housing, an outstanding debt will exclude a person from being offered accommodation. In most cases the person has to pay the debt off before housing can be offered. A CRC Justice Support research project on female prisoner debt revealed that 30 % of the research participants reported having a housing related debt.(106)

    The combination of debt, waiting lists, being taken off waiting lists, inappropriate housing, as well as parental and cultural responsibilities and the inflexibility of housing authorities can all contribute to the creation of barriers to Indigenous women accessing affordable and appropriate housing for her and her children.

    Other housing options such as boarding houses, private rental, caravan parks and hostels are also increasingly difficult to access. Boarding house accommodation, a traditional source of accommodation for many ex-prisoners, is a dwindling resource. Due to increasing value of property markets and a more favoured approach to backpacker style accommodation, boarding house rooms are no longer as cheap or as abundant as they once were.

    Private rental is also an unrealistic option for many exiting the prison system. People exiting prison usually do not have the money for bond, and they don't have any recent rental references to provide to the landlord. Indigenous women also find it difficult to access the private rental market at the best of times, and time spent in prison only exacerbates the difficulties.

    As noted in a study conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology:

    The issue of accommodation is central to any genuine attempt to re-integrating newly released prisoners. The cost of four weeks bond, one month's rent up front, plus connecting the electricity and a phone, is more often than not beyond the financial capacity of people immediately leaving prison.(107)

    As discussed earlier, Centrelink has a memorandum of understanding regarding financial support, called a 'Crisis Payment' for prisoners post-release with most prisons in Australia.(108) When a prisoner is released, they have the option of receiving:

    • one week Centrelink payment, then a fortnight later receive two weeks payment; or
    • approximately two weeks payment, then a fortnight later receive approximately 1 weeks payment.(109)

    The payment amount depends on the type of Centrelink benefit the prisoner will be receiving after their release. It should also be noted that the latter option is a combination of a Crisis Payment and an advance of allowance or pension.(110)

    Comments raised during the consultations for this chapter suggested that the Centrelink crisis payment is not sufficient to fully assist people upon release. The two week gap in payments during the first month of release makes it very difficult for ex-prisoners to re-establish themselves in the community. The current crisis payment of $190 a week is also not enough to cover the initial costs of setting up house and re-establishing themselves in the community.

    Many women and organisations consistently expressed concerns during our consultations about restrictions within various state and territory housing policies relating to an Indigenous woman's application for priority housing once she is incarcerated. The trend of prisoners generally not being able to apply for public housing, and effectively being taken off waiting lists, while in prison has also been identified by the research. The AIC notes that:

    Additional difficulties are also involved in prisoners being cut off waiting lists for public housing, through being incarcerated and hence under 'state care' already and the fact that prisoners currently inside incarceration are often not aware of the exact time they may be released (pending parole etc) and so are unable to apply for public housing while within prison. These service difficulties are compounded for women as a range of additional factors come into play, most particularly in relation to the needs of their children.(111)

    An AHURI report for the Commonwealth Office for the Status of Women on women and homelessness found that:

    Successful transitions out of homelessness seem to be associated with services that are appropriately targeted to the real needs of identified segments of the population of homeless women and utilise an effective mix of government, private sector and family/community resources. Lack of success seems to be associated with inappropriate targeting and poor mix of resources.(112)

    Supported Accommodation Assistance Scheme

    A second major program related to the provision of accommodation services is the Supported Accommodation Assistance Scheme (SAAP). This program allocates funding to the States and Territories for the provision of supported accommodation services to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming so. States and Territories also contribute to the scheme via Crisis Accommodation Program (CAP) funding. SAAP/CAP is distributed by State government agencies to community based organisations which provide supported accommodation services. In the year 2002-03 the total recurrent funding allocated by the States/Territories and the Federal Government was $310.4m with $296.6 allocated to 1,282 agencies nationally.(113)

    Although there are no SAAP funded agencies which specifically aim to alleviate accommodation crisis among Indigenous female ex-offenders, many individuals use SAAP services as a post -release accommodation service. Emergency and short term accommodation services funded by SAAP/CAP provide the majority of beds available to those in housing crisis. Many services are directly targeted to particular groups, such as women escaping domestic violence, youth or homeless men.

    According to figures derived from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in 2001/2002, those agencies targeting young people (37 % of all agencies) received 35 % of the total SAAP funding. Agencies providing accommodation support for women (and children) escaping domestic violence (23 % of all agencies) received 29 % of the total SAAP funding.(114)

    Fifty five % of all SAAP funded services are to be found in capital cities, with a further 7 % located in metropolitan areas. The remainder of SAAP services are located in regional areas (31%) and remote areas (7%).

    The AIHW report also observes that the Northern Territory has a disproportionate use of SAAP services. The national average for SAAP use is 56 clients for every 10,000 population, however Northern Territory records indicate 191 people per 10,000 accessing SAAP services.(115)

    Also according to SAAP data collection for 2002-03, Indigenous people were overrepresented in the data. Although constituting 2 % of the Australian population, Indigenous people formed 17.7 % of total SAAP clients.

    In 2004 the NSW Ombudsman release a report examining access issues associated with SAAP agencies in NSW. The report found that there were serious concerns regarding the exclusionary practices occurring in some agencies. The report identified that significant groups in the community were affected by exclusions including:

    • people who use, are affected by, or dependent on drugs and/or alcohol;
    • people who exhibit or who have previously exhibited violence or other challenging behaviour;
    • people with mental illness; and
    • people with disabilities, including people with physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities and acquired brain injury.(116)

    The report acknowledges that gaps in other services areas (such as mental health and drug and alcohol services) exist and that this exacerbates the expectations placed on SAAP agencies. The report emphasised that:

    it is not sufficient for SAAP to consider every person within these groups to be outside its responsibility. It is the role of SAAP, in conjunction with other service systems, to cater to a diversity of individuals who are homeless, including people with mental illness, disabilities and/or substance abuse issues.(117)

    Considering that many Indigenous women exiting prison systems around Australia are affected by a mental illness and/or a substance abuse problem, this may go someway to explaining why many people throughout the consultations claimed that Indigenous women newly released from prison were unable to access emergency accommodation. The Ombudsman's report also noted that some agencies have 'poor staff awareness training in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Non-english speaking background people, leading to reluctance of some agencies to work with these groups.'(118)

    In the 2001/02 period, 21.6 % of those seeking emergency accommodation were women fleeing domestic violence. A further 21 % of SAAP clients in this period said their previous accommodation was either no longer available or they had been evicted. As previously noted however, the SAAP data is not a reliable source for obtaining information about where people go after they leave prison. Only 1.7 % of SAAP clients in 2001/02 reported as recently leaving an 'institution' as their main reason for seeking accommodation.

    This under-reporting is due probably to a number of reasons, including the person not wanting to disclose their previous prisoner status. It may also reflect that immediately after release people do attempt to return 'home' or seek independent accommodation only to have it fall through. This brief interim period is probably what is declared in the SAAP data collection. Whatever the reasons, and as the consultations revealed, it is generally accepted that SAAP accommodation is accessed by some leaving prison, either immediately or shortly after release. However, there may be another significant group, also facing imminent homelessness, those who face difficulties in accessing SAAP services - namely those with a mental illness or substance abuse issue.

    Aboriginal Hostels Limited

    A third major source of accommodation for Indigenous people is Aboriginal Hostels. Aboriginal Hostels Limited (AHL) is wholly funded by the Commonwealth government. It provides 3300 beds for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country. AHL provide accommodation for a range of people including those who are transient, those requiring short and medium term accommodation while they receive medical care or while they attend educational courses. AHL also provide aged care facilities and substance abuse rehabilitation facilities.

    In 2004, AHL formed a partnership with the South Australian Department of Correctional Services to run Karinga Hostel in Adelaide as a post-release and diversion hostel for Aboriginal women. This is discussed further in the next section. To date this is the only AHL facility available specifically for Indigenous women who are exiting prison.

    While Karinga Hostel is the only post-release specific accommodation facility for Indigenous women, most AHL properties are intended to be accessible to all Indigenous people, including Indigenous women exiting prison.

    c) State and Territory government and community housing programs

    This section provides an overview of programs at the state and territory level, as well as through the community sector, which provide housing services which are accessible to Indigenous women exiting prison. Some provide general housing services to Indigenous people specifically, while others provide services to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Some provide accommodation, while others provide support programs and referral services only. Others provide support services to ex-offenders, both men and women, while others provide more mainstream forms of support to the general community.

    While on the face of it there appears to be a variety of support services available that provide general assistance, there remains a paucity of services aimed at specifically supporting those people exiting Australian prisons. There is a critical lack of services aimed at supporting the needs of Indigenous people, and more specifically Indigenous women, re-entering the community after a period of incarceration. Nationally, there are only two services that specifically focus on supporting Indigenous women post-release. These services are found in New South Wales (Yulawirri Nurai) and South Australia (Karinga Hostel). Both are discussed further below. Elizabeth Hoffman House, in Melbourne, also provides, among other services, pre and post-release support programs to Indigenous women.

    In relation to the community housing sector, there is no one community housing provider that caters specifically to post- release housing (for either women or men, Indigenous or non-Indigenous). Despite this, many community housing organisations are amenable to providing post-release accommodation and support to individuals newly released from prison. An example of this is the cooperation of several community housing providers currently participating in the Corrections Housing Pathways Initiative in Victoria (discussed below). This partnership between community housing providers and relevant government departments provides an innovative approach to providing supported housing to people being released from prions who are risk of becoming homeless.

    Relevant community sector schemes are discussed below alongside housing programs run by state and territory governments.


    Queensland has no government programs that specifically aim to address the needs of Indigenous women post-release. Advice received from the Queensland Department of Housing suggested a number of its programs may be available to Indigenous women generally. For example, the Community Rent Scheme funds not-for-profit community-based housing groups to provide short to medium term accommodation to public housing applicants in severe and immediate housing need. Ti Tree Housing is an Indigenous community rent scheme in Brisbane that receives such funding.

    Bahloo Women's Youth Shelter Association Inc and Murri Sisters Association also receive funding through the Crisis Accommodation Program (CAP) and may also assist Murri women exiting prisons. These services provide emergency accommodation to Indigenous women, including women exiting prison.

    The Department of Housing and Department of Corrective Services are currently trialling a new program in men's prisons. The program is designed to ensure that people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless when released are identified when they enter prison. They are then offered, as part of a larger transitions program, a range of 'learning modules' that may assistance in resolving the barriers to housing. However no assistance is provided post-release. The program is intended to be implemented in women's prisons but at the time of writing had not yet commenced.(119)

    Sisters Inside is a community based organisation that provides support programs and advocacy for women affected by the criminal justice system in Queensland. While they do not provide accommodation directly, Sisters Inside are active in attempting to find suitable accommodation for their clients. Sisters Inside receives funding from a variety of sources including the Queensland Department of Communities, Queensland Health, Commonwealth Department of Families and Community Services, and the National Drug Strategy. The Queensland Department of Corrective Services also funds Sisters Inside to provide a Transitions Program to women being released from prison.

    Women being released from Townsville prison face particular difficulties in obtaining accommodation. The accommodation resources are scarce in far north Queensland and there are no specific post-release support services available. The consultations held in Cairns and Townsville revealed that while most Indigenous women will return home, those that do not have few accommodation choices. There are one or two refuges, extremely long public and community housing waiting lists and private rental is usually not considered an option due to an inability to afford it and/or racial discrimination.

    New South Wales

    The Department of Corrective Service (DCS) in NSW funds a number of community organisations to provide post-release support programs including accommodation. By providing case management to some clients these agencies are also considered a key part of the Throughcare program (discussed earlier in the chapter).

    While there are no specific post-release accommodation services targeting Indigenous women, the Department does fund Yulawirri Nurai Aboriginal Corporation, to provide post-release support services to Aboriginal women exiting NSW prisons. The funding provides for one post-release worker whose responsibility is to assist Indigenous women with their post-release needs including obtaining suitable housing. Yulawirri Nurai also provides a post-release support service for Aboriginal men which is funded through the federal Attorney General's department, administered by the Indigenous Coordination Centre in Coff's Harbour.

    The DCS provides funding to a number of agencies to provide post-release accommodation. Guthrie House an independent community organisation providing accommodation for up to three-months for women post-release as well as providing assistance with accessing longer term accommodation. In the year to June 2004, Guthrie House accommodated 54 women with an average length of stay being 6.5 weeks. Of the 54 women housed, 15 were Indigenous. It is the only specific post-release accommodation services for women in NSW. (120) The only Indigenous specific accommodation service, funded by DCS is Bundjalung Tribal Society Limited (NSW North Coast) which operates a residential rehabilitation centre for Indigenous men.There are also a number of SAAP funded refuges and Aboriginal Hostels operating in NSW but they are not specifically for women exiting prison.

    South Australia

    The Department of Correctional Services and Aboriginal Hostels are trialling an Aboriginal women's post-release hostel in Adelaide, Karinga Hostel, to address the limited accommodation options available to Indigenous women post-release in South Australia. The partners in this initiative must be commended for developing such an innovative approach to providing post-release accommodation for Indigenous women. Depending on the outcomes of the initiative, it is hoped that this kind of project could also be developed in regional areas of South Australia, as well as other States and Territories.

    Case study: Aboriginal Hostels Limited and the Department of Correctional Services (South Australia) - an innovative approach(121)

    In 2004, AHL formed a partnership with the South Australian Department of Correctional Services to run Karinga Hostel as a post-release and diversion hostel for Aboriginal women. The hostel is located in suburban Adelaide and was previously run as an accommodation service for transient people. Referrals to Karinga come from courts, prisons, community corrections and community support organisations such as Aboriginal Prisoner Offender Support Service (APOSS) or Women's Accommodation Support Service (WASS/OARS). The aim of the hostel is to provide stable, transitional accommodation that will support Indigenous women while they are seeking longer term or permanent accommodation.

    Residents of Karinga can either be completing a custodial sentence, serving a home-detention or community order or have a case pending before the courts. Women can also be referred to Karinga if they have completed their sentence in full and are in need of post-release accommodation and support.

    Karinga can accommodate up to 11 women, including 3 women on home detention. Children may also be accommodated, although it is preferred that children older than toddler age are accommodated in alternative care except in emergency situations. While it is recognised that reunion with children is vital to the woman's reintegration process, it is felt that a woman's stay at Karinga is an opportunity to concentrate on obtaining appropriate housing for her and her kids, as well as focus on other issues which are critical to her reintegration. Karinga is managed just like every other AHL hostel with residents paying a tariff of $20 per night, which includes accommodation and 3 meals a day.

    The Department of Correctional Services as the initiatives founding partners, provides funding to the program as well as employing a full-time Aboriginal Hostel Liaison Officer to work exclusively with the women prior to and post-release. The Hostel Liaison Officer coordinates culturally appropriate programs and services for women residents, focussing on their counselling needs and basic life skills. The funding stems from the Social Inclusion initiative and the Reducing Homelessness strategy developed by the South Australian government.(122)

    The operation of the hostel is overseen by an Advisory Group comprising of representatives from Department of Correctional Services, Aboriginal Hostels Limited, Centrelink, police, community agencies and Aboriginal Housing, which meets monthly to discuss and address matters arising.

    This model is the only one of its kind currently operating in Australia and the evaluation of this pilot project will be eagerly awaited.

    In 2002, the Department of Human Services released Supporting Women Exiting Prison and Their Children on the Outside, a report detailing the issues involved in developing a co-ordinated care approach to women and their children upon release from prison. The report identified accommodation and related support programs as a key concern for women post-release. It states:

    Housing represents the resuming of life in the community and for many women it is inextricably linked with their return to the role of full time carer for their children, while for some it also means an opportunity to complete their sentence on Home Detention.(123)

    The report called for an 'integrated accommodation and support system, which has the capacity to respond to individuals women's needs, as they vary over time.'(124) The report also suggests that representatives from the SA Housing Trust (the public housing provider) visit the women's prison regularly to provide inmates with information on housing. Information provided by the Trust revealed that while visiting does not occur on a formal basis, representatives do, from time to time, visit prisoners as required. The Housing Trust works with community sector agencies, such as the Aboriginal Prisoners and Offenders Support Services and Offenders Aid and Rehabilitation Services, who in turn provide information and support to inmates and those newly released from prison.

    The Aboriginal Prisoners and Offenders Support Services Inc (APOSS) is an organisation operating in South Australia providing support services to Aboriginal women upon their release from prison. They do not however provide direct accommodation, but will assist in finding accommodation for their clients. The service is also available to Indigenous men. APOSS provides post-release support services by also offering re-socialisation training, advocacy and ongoing case management. This is the only service of its kind in South Australia.

    Another prisoner support organisation, Offenders Aid and Rehabilitation Services of SA Inc (OARS SA) is a non-government agency providing counselling, accommodation and support services to prisoners and their families. The Women's Accommodation Support Service (WASS) is one of the services offered by OARS. The WASS, a SAAP funded service, provides information, referral, case management and advocacy for women exiting prison who find themselves at risk of becoming homeless. Approximately 20-30 % of WASS clients are Indigenous.(125)

    Both APOSS and OARS/WASS work closely with Karinga Hostel and are also represented on Karinga's advisory board.

    Centacare (Catholic Family Services) in Adelaide provides a range of programs focusing on people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. One of the programs it provides is a post-release accommodation service for women exiting the prison system. The Women's Supported Housing Program is funded by SAAP and can house up to 10 women in properties leased from the South Australian Housing Trust. Women are referred from workers at the Adelaide Women's Prison as well as other community based agencies. Since the program commenced in January 2002, 23 women, or approximately 20 % of the clients have been Indigenous.(126)

    Western Australia

    The Department of Justice has recently implemented a Transitional Accommodation Service which aims to assist people post-release with finding rental accommodation. The planning and services delivery principles for the service acknowledge the specific needs of Aboriginal women, but remain generalist in nature. The Department has also implemented the Community Re-entry Program for Prisoners (discussed earlier in the chapter) which includes a range of initiatives to 'divert minor offenders from prison, improve the management of prisoners within the system and improve rehabilitation of offenders.'(127) Again there is no specific initiative addressing the needs of Aboriginal women but they are 'included in the core business of the services.'(128)

    The 2003/04 - 2006/07 Strategic Plan of the Western Australian Aboriginal Housing and Infrastructure Council highlights people exiting prisons as one of the main groups needing to receive improved attention.(129) Their strategic plan states that it will 'initiate discussions with the Department of Justice, Aboriginal Urban Community Housing Organisations and non-Indigenous Community Housing Associations regarding supported housing models and options for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people exiting prisons.' The strategic plan recognises:

    Currently there are no Indigenous specific housing programs in place to address this issue. A small number of non-Indigenous community housing organisations have established options, but demand inevitably outstrips supply.(130)


    Elizabeth Hoffman House is an Aboriginal Women's Accommodation Services in Melbourne providing a range of options to Aboriginal women in need of accommodation. The organisation provides a high security refuge for women escaping family violence (the only Aboriginal women's refuge in Melbourne) as well as 6 transitional properties available to women exiting prison as well as to women needing medium term housing while awaiting public housing allocation. Elizabeth Hoffman House also provides a counselling service for Aboriginal women in prison.

    Elizabeth Hoffman House also provides assistance to women applying for public and community housing, as well as providing on-going emotional support, legal assistance, counselling, including children's counselling as well as providing a safe space for women to meet.

    Flat Out Inc is state-wide post-release accommodation support service available to women in Victoria. Although not specific to Indigenous women, the service does provide accommodation to Indigenous women (and their children). Funded by SAAP, Flat Out provides case-managed support program to women who are housed in a range of accommodation facilities.

    While there are other services available to women in Victoria, that will assist them in locating accommodation such as Melbourne City Mission's Supporting Women Exiting Prisons program, none of them are Indigenous female specific, provide direct accommodation or specifically focus on women post-release.

    Case study: Corrections Housing Pathways Initiative (Victoria)

    In 2001 the Office for Housing Policy (OHP) and the Department of Justice established as a pilot project the Transitional Housing Manager (THM) - Corrections Housing Pathways Initiative (CHPI). It aims to reduce homelessness among ex-prisoners, both male and female. The project initially targeted prisoners with a history of homelessness by offering them post-release housing with community housing providers. Sixty-one properties were identified by the Office of Housing and allocated to the initiative with community housing providers receiving funding to deliver support services.

    Three Victorian prisons are involved in CHPI. Housing Placement Workers which are funded by the Office of Housing (OOH) are based at all three prisons including the women's prison, the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre.(131) These workers assist women who require housing upon release in applying for accommodation through CHPI. Once a woman is released and is placed in CHPI accommodation, she is referred to a community-based agency called an Initiative Support Provider to assist in her re-settlement into the community.(132) Upon being released, the Housing Placement Worker provides the Initiative Support Provider with the relevant information to ensure that the necessary support is provided to the woman.

    The Initiative Support Provider is funded through CHPI to support ex-prisoners in negotiating a range of community services related to employment, housing, health, welfare and income security.(133) The Office of the Correctional Commissioner has made funding available for an average of six-months per person post-release to receive post-release support.

    13 of the 61 houses within CHPI have been allocated for women in 'recognition of the higher levels of homelessness recorded amongst female ex-prisoners and that women leaving prison are more likely to have responsibility for children.'(134) While none of the properties are specifically allocated to Indigenous women, it was anticipated that Indigenous women would participate in the initiative.

    The preliminary findings from an evaluation conducted in 2004 reveals that Indigenous women participated in this initiative at a higher rate than that of Indigenous men (11.5% and 4.9% respectively).(135) The evaluation suggests that this could be because of the efforts of housing placement workers efforts to house Indigenous women.

    The evaluation also indicates the initiative's positive impact on reducing re-offending. Participants on average had four previous prison terms. Nine months post-release, only 15% of those housed under the scheme had re-offended, compared with a 50% re-offence rate of a control group who had not received housing. The evaluation states that the initiative has 'significantly reduced their (ex-offenders) rates of re-offending.'(136)

    Northern Territory

    The Northern Territory has no specific post-release housing programs. Territory Housing does, however, have a Special Housing Program which funds organisations to provide crisis accommodation and community housing services to Indigenous women in crisis and at risk of homelessness.

    Territory Housing has also funded the construction of eight safe houses for Indigenous women throughout the Northern Territory. The consultations revealed that authorities often remark on the relatively low proportion of Indigenous women in NT prisons as a reason for not providing dedicated post-release accommodation facilities for Indigenous women.

    Women prisoners are incarcerated in Darwin. This is often a vast distance from their homes (for example, in Central Australia). This contributes to an acute need for post-release accommodation in Darwin upon their release. We were told that many women do not want to go back to their communities after release, at least not immediately. However, because of the lack of services that may support them to settle in the Darwin area, they are often forced to return home. Participants said that accommodation concerns arise from the fact that the Aboriginal women's refuge and other emergency accommodation facilities are often full, as well as some Aboriginal women being reluctant to use the whitefella accommodation facilities.(137)


    In August 2004, a report was published detailing the housing and support needs of ex-prisoners in Tasmania. The report was funded by SAAP and carried out by the Salvation Army. It provided an outline of the post-release services available in Tasmania to people newly released from prison.(138) This report found that, 'Tasmania lags behind a number of States in the priority given to the housing and support needs of ex-prisoners across both government and non-government agencies'(139).

    Services for prisoners which currently exist that provide a range of support services as well as housing advice and referral include the Salvation Army Prison Support Service (through its XCELL program), InsideOut, Colony 47 and Anglicare. InsideOut has a particular focus on suicide prevention as well as providing housing advice.

    While these services are not specifically aimed at the needs of Indigenous people exiting the prison system, they do nevertheless provide services that can assist Indigenous people post-release. Figures from the XCELL program 12 month report show that in the 12 months to September 2004, 12 women sought accommodation assistance from the program.(140)

    d) Conclusion - The housing needs of Indigenous women on release from prison and human rights standards

    This section has provided an overview of post-release accommodation services available to Indigenous women upon their release from prison. It reveals that there are gaps in the extent and type of services provided in different states and territories, with very few services specifically tailored to the distinct needs of Indigenous women.

    The impact of there being a lack of available and appropriate housing for Indigenous women on release from prison is substantial. We have noted that it is likely to have a significant effect on re-offending behaviour. This impacts on the individual woman, her family and community, as well as the broader community as a whole.

    The impact of a lack of appropriate housing is, however, much broader than this. Housing assistance by its very nature differs from most community services as it provides shelter which is basic to general health and well-being.(141) The provision of housing is about personal security, privacy, health and safety.(142) We have noted that Indigenous women are also vulnerable to intersectional forms of discrimination which can compound the impact of a lack of housing. This is particularly concerning as a lack of appropriate housing (including any accompanying support) can expose a woman to violence, as well as making it difficult for her to address any mental health or substance abuse issues she may have. A lack of, or having to rely on inappropriate housing, also makes it difficult for a women to be reunited with her children.

    The failure to provide adequate and appropriate housing for Indigenous women post-release raises issue of human rights concern. International law recognises the right to adequate housing. This applies to everyone. Individuals, as well as families, are entitled to adequate housing regardless of age, economic status, group or other affiliation or status and other such factors(143) (such as prison record).

    Generally speaking, the right to adequate housing equates to the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity(144) as opposed to the narrow definition of the mere provision of shelter. The key convention which deals with the right to adequate housing is the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Article 11(1) states:

    The States Parties to the present Covenant recognise the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realisation of this right...

    Australia is a party to the Covenant. Accordingly, the federal government has upheld to all Australian citizens that all governments will act in conformity with this obligation.

    In 1995 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Housing Rights established a number of guidelines for interpreting the right to adequate housing. In providing this guidance, the Special Rapporteur outlines that the right to housing should not be taken to imply that Governments are require to:

    • build housing for the entire population;
    • provide housing free of charge to all who request it;
    • fulfil everyone's right to housing immediately; or
    • exclusively entrust either itself or the unregulated market to ensuring this right to all.(145)

    It should also not be expected that the right to housing will be met in precisely the same manner in all circumstances and all locations.

    On the other hand, the Special Rapporteur noted the right to housing must be interpreted as requiring that:

    • Once States Parties have formally accepted their obligations, they will endeavour by all appropriate means possible to ensure everyone has access to housing resources adequate for health, well-being and security, consistent with other human rights; and
    • A claim or demand can be made upon society for the provision of, or access to, housing resources should a person be homeless, inadequately housed or generally incapable of acquiring the bundle of entitlements implicitly linked with housing rights.(146)

    The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights also notes that for housing to be 'adequate' it must be affordable; culturally adequate; habitable; accessible, especially to marginalised and disadvantaged groups; and located in an area which allows access to employment, health-care, schools, childcare centres and other social facilities.(147)

    We have noted in this chapter the substantial backlog of housing infrastructure in Indigenous communities and long waiting lists for public housing. Addressing these issues is a substantial challenge that all governments face in ensuring compliance with the right to housing. Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the government has to demonstrate that it is progressively realising improvements in the right to housing and that it is tackling this issue with the maximum of available resources and within the shortest possible timeframe.

    This raises an issue in terms of the priority which governments should attach to the situation of Indigenous women upon release from prison. In light of the severe implications of the lack of appropriate housing options, should governments provide greater priority to addressing this issue? In my view, yes they should. This is primarily due to the context in which this issue arises - namely, the significant over-representation of Indigenous women (and men) in criminal justice systems and the rising rate of this over-representation over the past decade. Government programs should certainly strive to alleviate the worst levels of inequality and disparity as a matter of priority.

    Throughout the consultations for this chapter, Indigenous women, ex-prisoners and service providers emphasised the need for there to be a diversity of housing options available, ranging across a continuum from shorter term, supported, transitional accommodation through to longer term, less supported, stable accommodation. Examples of projects such as Karinga Hostel in Adelaide and the Corrections Housing Pathways Initiative in Victoria demonstrate that creative, cost effective approaches can be adopted which are consistent with the right to housing and which overcome the practical difficulty of the relatively small numbers (in absolute terms) of Indigenous women exiting prison at any one time. Such approaches build partnerships between government and the community housing sector.

    Healing programs for Indigenous women exiting prison

    Throughout the consultations for this chapter, the issue of healing and wellness was raised as an important issue for Indigenous women exiting prison. Processes for healing were seen as having the potential to increase the health and well-being of Indigenous women, with a possible outcome of this being reductions in rates of involvement of Indigenous women in criminal justice processes.

    This attention to healing was in part based on emerging evidence from overseas, primarily in Canada and New Zealand, that indicated that addressing the healing needs of individuals and communities has a positive impact on reducing the over-representation of Indigenous peoples in criminal justice processes. Healing has also emerged in these countries as a significant process for empowering Indigenous communities and creating improved partnerships to address the legacy of family violence and abuse (including the legacies of past government processes, such as the residential schools system in Canada).

    There are, however, relatively few programs and services for Indigenous women exiting prison that presently focus on healing processes in Australia. The conversion of concepts of healing into actual programs and services is very much in its infancy here. As the case study of the Yula Panaal Cultural and Spiritual Healing Program in New South Wales below demonstrates, they also face difficulty in attracting operational funding.

    Indigenous concepts of healing are based on addressing the relationship between the spiritual, emotional and physical in a holistic manner. An essential element of Indigenous healing is recognising the interconnections between, and effects of, violence, social and economic disadvantage, racism and dispossession from land and culture on Indigenous people, families and communities.(148)

    Philosophies of healing vary among communities and among individuals. Some common themes to different perspectives on healing include that:

    • the journey of healing towards wellness is a spiritual journey;
    • revival of culture and ceremony is critical to that journey;
    • it is through being responsible for your own healing and sharing your journey with others that a 'healing community' may be re-created for mutual support and after-care outside one's own family; and
    • helpers must themselves be well in order to be able to help those in need of healing.(149)

    Healing can be context-specific - such as, addressing issues of grief and loss - or more general by assisting individuals deal with any trauma they may have experienced. The varying nature of healing demonstrates that it cannot be easily defined, with healing manifesting itself differently in different communities. Examples of healing processes might include women-specific and men-specific groups; story-telling circles; cultural activities;(150) understanding the impacts of issues such as racism, colonisation and identity on Indigenous well-being; the use of mentors and/or elders to provide support to individuals; and retreats or residential-style components where participants spend a period of time going through the healing process, usually on a spiritually significant site, away from their families and communities.

    Bringing Them Home identified the importance of addressing Indigenous well-being and healing issues for those who were forcibly removed from their families. It made the following recommendations:

    Recommendation 33a: That all services and programs provided for survivors of forcible removal emphasise local Indigenous healing and well-being perspectives.

    Recommendation 33b: That government funding for Indigenous preventative and primary mental health (well-being) services be directed exclusively to Indigenous community-based services including Aboriginal and Islander health services, child care agencies and substance abuse services.

    Recommendation 33c: That all government-run mental health services works towards delivering specialist services in partnership with Indigenous community-based services and employ Indigenous mental health workers and community members respected for their healing skills.(151)

    Other reports and strategies have also identified the importance of addressing grief and trauma in Indigenous communities. For example, Ways Forward - The National Consultancy Report on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health - proposes that in order to reduce the effects of grief and loss in Aboriginal communities national mental health strategies should aim to:

    to provide specific mental health services to deal with the particular and extensive effects of trauma and grief on Aboriginal people, including preventative and health promoting approaches, education, assessment, counselling, healing programs and community interventions...(152)

    During the consultations for this chapter, a number of common themes emerged regarding healing and what issues an approach to healing should consider. These included that:

    • There is a general lack of programs both in and out of prison that are based on Indigenous perspectives on healing and spirituality;
    • Such programs are needed to address issues of grief and trauma and its inter-generational effects in Indigenous communities;
    • Healing processes must be developed and facilitated by Indigenous people and communities with the role of government being limited to resourcing and supporting healing processes;
    • Cultural practices such as arts and crafts, hunting, ceremony and story-telling are important elements of healing;
    • Healing is a process or journey that is ongoing, without an end-point, as opposed to a program with a clearly defined outcome; and
    • An important form of healing is through one-on-one support, such as mentoring provided by Indigenous Elders for Indigenous women in prison or who have recently been released from prison.

    The main issue raised during the consultations is that healing is not a program, rather it is a process.(153) Healing is not something that should only be available at the post-release stage, rather it should be available at any point when a woman is ready - this may be before a woman comes into contact with the criminal justice system, or after they have been in and out of prison over a number of years. Further, healing in the context of criminal justice, attempts to help the individual deal with the reasons why they have offended in the first place. This element of healing is strongly linked to the notion of restorative justice. For this reason, healing has the potential to fit within a restorative justice framework.

    Healing processes - some examples

    While the consultations for this chapter identified healing as a critical support mechanism for Indigenous women exiting prison, there are only limited programs that currently exist in Australia which are built on a healing model. Existing programs are discussed following an overview of healing processes in Canada and New Zealand.

    Canada - Healing lodges

    Healing has formed an important part of alternative approaches for Indigenous involvement in the criminal justice systems of Canada since approximately 1995. Healing has been acknowledged as an important process for addressing offending behaviour with the establishment of 'healing lodges' by the Correctional Service of Canada and various provincial governments. Healing lodges are a form of correctional facility, as opposed to forming a response following the release of an Aboriginal offender. They recognise, however, that a continuum of support is necessary from the point of incarceration through to the point of reintegration into the community.

    The Correctional Service of Canada has described the healing lodges as follows:

    'Healing lodges' offer services and programs that reflect Aboriginal culture in a space that incorporates Aboriginal peoples' tradition and beliefs. In the healing lodge, the needs of Aboriginal offenders serving federal sentences are addressed through Aboriginal teachings and ceremonies, contact with Elders and children, and interaction with nature. A holistic philosophy governs the approach, whereby individualized programming is delivered within a context of community interaction, with a focus on preparing for release. In the healing lodges, an emphasis is placed on spiritual leadership and on the value of the life experience of staff members, who act as role models.

    Two important considerations prompted the creation of healing lodges. There has been significant concern among members of the Aboriginal community that mainstream prison programs do not work for Aboriginal offenders. Furthermore, there is a dramatic over-representation of Aboriginal peoples in Canada's correctional system...

    A recent follow-up study... of Aboriginal offenders who have been admitted to the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge, the Pe Sakastew Centre, and the Stan Daniels Healing Centre, revealed a relatively low federal recidivism rate for some Aboriginal healing lodge participants. This is an early indication that this approach is having a positive effect. It also demonstrates that the Correctional Service of Canada is achieving some success in fulfilling its mandate to safely and successfully reintegrate offenders.(154)

    The healing lodge concept began with the establishment in 1995 of the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge for Aboriginal women. It is one of sixty- five Canadian correctional facilities owned and operated by the Canadian Federal government. It is a 30 bed minimum to maximum security facility situated on 160 acres of the Nakaneet First Nation territory, near Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. It was established as a result of the recommendation of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women and in response to proposals by the Native Women's Association and former Indigenous female prisoners.

    The centre is available to women inmates who wish to practice a traditional Aboriginal holistic way of life and have been sentenced to a low or medium security facility. Although managed by Correctional Service of Canada, the facility is staffed primarily by Indigenous women. It provides a safe place for Aboriginal women offenders with an emphasis on the unique needs of Aboriginal women including acknowledgment of the discrimination and hardship many aboriginal people experience.

    The Correctional Service of Canada describes the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge as follows:

    Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge is a 30-bed facility that contains both single and family residential units, as residents may arrange to have their children stay with them. Each unit contains a bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchenette with an eating area, a living room, and, in those units that are built to accommodate children, a playroom.

    A personal life plan has been outlined for each of the Iskewak at Okimaw Ohci, which delineates what she needs emotionally, physically, and spiritually to heal. The women also engage in aspects of independent living by cooking, doing laundry, cleaning house, and doing outdoor maintenance chores.

    The Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge programs help the women gain skills and begin the healing process. The aim is to help the Iskewak build the strength they need to make essential changes in their lives. Services include education and vocational training, family programs, on-site programs for mothers and children, on-site day care, outdoor programs, and Aboriginal-specific programs, such as language and teaching studies.

    ...The building's structure is... circular, complementing both the lodge's organizational character and the surrounding environment. The focal point is the Spiritual Lodge at the centre, where teachings, ceremonies, and workshops with Elders take place.(155)

    The role of the Elders is vital to the running of the centre. Local Elders from the Nakaneet community are involved in the day to day running of the programs. Visiting Elders from other communities reside at the centre for three weeks, rotating with other community's Elders. The visiting Elders have their own accommodation facilities at the centre. The Elders, local and visiting, provide cultural teachings, spiritual support, guidance and counselling to the residents.

    In 1996 a mother-child program was piloted. Children lived with their mothers at the centre for two weeks out of the month. The other two weeks children lived with foster family close by, usually a family from the Nakaneet. During their two week stay with their mother children attend an on-site day care centre, while the mother attends a range of programs.

    Studies conducted by the Correctional Service of Canada claim to have shown that:

    the recidivism rate of offenders who were admitted to Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge is low. This demonstrates the positive effect the lodge has had on the Iskewak and the success the CSC is encountering with the healing lodge initiative.(156)

    As a result of the success of Okimaw Ohci, other healing lodges have been established in partnerships between the federal government, provincial governments and local Indian nations. These include the Pe Sakastew Centre near Hobbema, Alberta; the Prince Albert Grand Council Spiritual Healing Lodge in the Wahpeton Dakota First Nation Community; Stan Daniels Healing Centre in Alberta; the Elbow Lake Healing Village in British Columbia; Ochichakkosipi Healing Lodge in Crane River; and the Willow Cree Healing Lodge in Saskatchewan. Each of these is focused on healing of Aboriginal men.

    The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has stated that the healing lodge approach has now 'found its way into the halfway houses that the CSC supports'(157) such as the Waseskun Healing Centre, an hour from Montreal. This Centre provides residential therapy for men and women referred from Aboriginal communities, and from prisons and federal penitentiaries. Programming is informed by a community-based holistic healing philosophy that incorporates both western and traditional therapeutic approaches. It is built on the 'strong belief in the responsibility of Aboriginal communities to participate in the healing journey and reintegration of their members'(158).

    A review conducted by the Correctional Service Canada of three of the Aboriginal healing centres (Okimaw Ohci, P> Sfkfst>w Centre and the Stan Daniels Healing Centre) revealed that they yielded low recidivism rates amongst residents who had completed their sentence and returned to their communities.

    The lesson learnt from Okimaw Ohci is that when a culturally sensitive approach to working with offenders is adopted, it has a beneficial impact, to both the prisoner and the community at large. When Indigenous women have the support of their communities they are able to heal and take their place within those communities. Being able to serve their sentence at Okimaw Ohci has meant that Canadian Indigenous women are less likely to re-offend after their release. They are:

    more prone to lead law abiding lives upon completing their residency requirements at the Lodge than was the case years earlier, when the federally sentenced women were far removed from their home territories and their communities were not part of their post-custodial release plans.(159)

    The concept of healing has also underpinned approaches in Canada to addressing family violence and abuse in Aboriginal communities.(160)

    New Zealand - Kia Piki Te Ora O Te Taitamariki, 'Strengthening Youth Wellbeing' and restorative justice approaches

    The New Zealand Ministry of Health in partnership with Te Puni Kokiri (the Ministry of Maori Development) and the Ministry of Youth Affairs have adopted a healing model to address Maori youth suicide.(161) A key consideration of the 'Strengthening Youth Wellbeing' strategy is the link between youth suicide and the effects of loss of Maori identity and culture. Consequently, a cornerstone to this strategy is the strengthening of Maori culture through the use of traditional healing practices, acknowledging the impacts of colonisation on Maori culture, the use of Elders and the Maori community in supporting its young people.

    This strategy provides a holistic response, incorporating the spiritual, social, mental and emotional and physical(162) to the suicide prevention needs of Maori young people. This style of intervention that incorporates the whole of community in its response is very closely linked to the framework of restorative justice.

    Another key component of the youth suicide prevention strategy is 'improving support for 'by Maori for Maori' service providers and programs'(163). This component recognises the importance of building on and harnessing the capacity of Indigenous people to address issues of suicide prevention.

    In a criminal justice specific context, New Zealand has also adopted restorative justice approaches, such as conferencing, diversionary programs and community-based orders to deal with some offences committed by juveniles and adults.(164) Conferencing in particular involves the victim, the offender and their supports. The conference allows the victim and offender to discuss the crime, the effect it had on the victim and the offender openly accepting responsibility for the crime in the presence of the victim. Such models of restorative justice have the potential for healing to take place as a result of the offender understanding their own behaviour and accepting responsibility.

    South Australia - Sacred Site Within Healing Centre

    In 1993, Rosemary Wanganeen established the Sacred Site Within Healing Centre in Adelaide. Sacred Site provides grief and loss counselling services to Indigenous people, as well as making presentations and conducting training with government departments and community organisations on the effects in Indigenous communities of unresolved grief and trauma.

    Sacred Site was established due to concerns that mainstream counselling services were not appropriate in addressing the grief and loss of Indigenous people. This was identified by Rosemary through her involvement in the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. An underpinning belief of the Sacred Site program is that Indigenous peoples' unresolved grief is a major contributing factor to the range of social and health issues which exist in Indigenous communities today.

    Healing strategies used at Sacred Site seek to:

    • Create an awareness about the impact of losses and the unresolved grief that results;
    • Create and develop grieving ceremonies;
    • Recreate women's business and ceremonies;
    • Recreate men's business and ceremonies; and
    • Recreate rites of passage for young people.(165)

    Overall, Sacred Site attempts to assist Indigenous people understand their grief and loss in a holistic sense which includes the effects of colonisation. The program also aims to assist people working with Indigenous people to understand issues of grief and loss. To this end, workshops have been run for prison staff working in Adelaide prisons. The program has not yet been provided to Indigenous prisoners.

    Victoria and New South Wales - Marumali Program

    The Marumali Program in Victoria, is an Indigenous counsellor training program specifically targeted at Aboriginal health workers.(166) Marumali is delivered by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people, and focuses on healing and self harm. The workshops are presented in a culturally appropriate forum enabling participants to discuss issues such as the effects of colonisation, and the grief and loss associated with the Stolen Generations.(167) One workshop was held in 2003 and another is planned for 2004.

    The founder of Marumali, Ms Lorraine Peeters, describes the program as follows:

    Survivors of removal policies... have existed in an environment of sustained assault on identity and culture, and enduring grief, loss and disempowerment. As survivors of removal policies struggle to heal from these past wrongs, we offer a pathway to recovery, which unites mind, body and spirit.(168)

    The strength of the Marumali Program is that is based on culturally appropriate ways of dealing with the grief and loss experienced by Indigenous Australians in order to help them to heal.

    New South Wales - Yula Panaal Cultural and Spiritual Healing Program

    The Yula Panaal Cultural and Spiritual Healing Program is run by Yulawirri Nurai (as discussed earlier in this chapter). In 2001 the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) purchased a 50 acre property, Yula Panaal, at Kywong for Yulawirri Nurai. The property was acquired for the purpose of it becoming an accommodation facility/healing centre for Aboriginal women exiting the NSW prison system. It is also anticipated, the centre, once operating, could be considered an alternative sentencing option for Aboriginal women instead of imprisonment.

    Yula Panaal is based on the Indigenous Canadian Okimaw Ohci Healing Centre in Saskatchewan, Canada. While using the Okimaw Ohci model as the basis for Yula-Panaal, it is intended that Australian Indigenous traditions and spirituality will be the focal point of the centre. However unlike Okimaw Ochi, Yula Panaal will provide a haven for women post-release instead of being a correctional facility,. As with the Canadian model, Elders will play a central role in the restorative process, teaching residents the importance of their cultural heritage, spirituality and traditions. They will focus on the importance of role of women in their communities.

    Since 2001 Yulawirri Nurai has been maintaining the property with a series of grants. However, it has yet to receive funding which will allow them to commence operating as a post-release accommodation option for Indigenous women. They have applied to various State and Commonwealth agencies for funding to be able to commence operations but have been rejected on a range of grounds.

    The reasons given by funding bodies for declining Yulawirri Nurai's funding submissions range from 'insufficient information provided by the submission', to not 'fitting the funding program's criteria'. Some rejections stated that there was not sufficient proof of need provided by the submission, with others claiming an overwhelming response to the call for submissions, meaning competition was fierce for funding and those not meeting the funding guidelines exactly were not considered.

    While Yulawirri Nurai does not intend for Yula Panaal to be a correctional facility like Okimaw Ohci, they do intend it to be a place of healing for women affected by the criminal justice system. They want to establish a place of healing for Aboriginal women after their release from prison, to restore their spiritual and physical well-being so that the women can take up their place within their families and communities. With the support of Elders, the women will learn the importance of tradition, history, language and ceremony. Yulawirri wants to draw on the positive experiences of the Canadian model, to establish a ground-breaking approach to post-release care in Australia.

    Attempts by Yulawirri Nurai to receive funding to trial this initiative continue, with no success at the time of writing. It has now been over three years since the initiative was first proposed and since the land for the centre was purchased. It remains a matter of great concern to my office that funding has not been forthcoming, either through the New South Wales government or co-funded with the federal government. This is particularly so given the potentially ground-breaking nature of this initiative.


    The traditional approach to distributing available funding for programs and services is dictated by an economy of scale. This impacts negatively on Indigenous women as it delivers minimum resources to a population within the community that has a high level of need. Given that Indigenous women are manifestly the smallest population in the Australian prison system, it is somewhat understandable that they are the group with the least amount of resources directed towards them. However it is precisely this lack of direct resources that goes someway to maintaining Indigenous women's distinct disadvantage in society.

    The research undertaken by the Social Justice Unit was in response to a number of concerns raised in the Social Justice Report 2002, namely that there was little being done by governments and the community sector to address the concerns confronting Indigenous women post-release. Encouragingly, we learnt of some ground-breaking approaches being undertaken by some state governments and the community sector. The examples of good practice and innovative initiatives being developed by government and community sector need to be encouraged and the experiences shared with other jurisdictions. On the downside however, that there were only a handful of initiatives only served to highlight how much more work there is to be done.

    In acknowledging the importance of the intra-State relationships between government departments and community organisations, it also follows that there must be a co-ordinated approach at the national level. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) is perhaps best placed to ensure that national standards and benchmarks for reducing the over-representation of Indigenous women in the criminal justice system specifically and Indigenous people generally are developed and implemented.

    Regarding Indigenous women with humanity, dignity and respect is crucial to well-being. One step towards this can be made by ensuring Indigenous women have the freedom of choice to access support services should they choose to, both during imprisonment and post-release; to access accommodation that is appropriate to their requirements; and to provide health and other community support services that meet their needs as Indigenous women.

    In order to address these issues, I make the following recommendations.

    Recommendation 1

    That each State and Territory designates a coordinating agency to develop a whole of government approach to addressing the needs of Indigenous women in corrections. The Department of Justice or Attorney-General's Department would appear to be the most appropriate department for this role. The objective should be to provide a continuity of support for Indigenous women from the pre-release through to the post-release phase.

    Recommendation 2

    That a National Roundtable be convened to identify best practice examples of coordinating pre and post release support for Indigenous women exiting prison. The roundtable should involve Indigenous women, service providers, relevant research institutes and government. Specific focus should also be given to healing models.


    1. For further details see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice Report 2002, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Sydney, 2003, pp135-177 (herein, Social Justice Report 2002).
    2. Although there are few Indigenous women in prison at any one time in absolute terms, the figure is significantly higher than for other population groups when considered as a ratio of the Indigenous female population.
    3. Community consultations were held in Alice Springs (6 May 2004), Darwin (4 May 2004), Brisbane (15 August 2003 and 22 September 2004), Townsville (8 June 2004), Cairns (9 June 2004), Sydney (22 August 2003), Melbourne (29 August 2003 and 28-29 April 2004), Adelaide (25 March 2004) and Perth (19-23 April 2004).
    4. Department of Justice (WA), Corrections is not an Island: Partnerships in corrections, Presentation, Working with Female Offenders Forum - Fourth National CSAC Female Offenders Conference, Perth, September 2003, p12.
    5. Social Justice Report 2002, pp157-165.
    6. Baldry, E, McDonnell, D, Maplestone, P, and Peeters, M, Ex-prisoners and accommodation: what bearing do different forms of housing have on social integration for ex-prisoners?, Positioning Paper, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Canberra, March 2002, p5.
    7. Information provided by consultation participants.
    8. See Social Justice Report 2002, Chapter 5.
    9. ATSIC, Submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee Inquiry into Legal Aid and Access to Justice, ATSIC Canberra, 13 November 2003, p4.
    10. Department of Justice (WA), Corrections is not an Island: Partnerships in corrections, op.cit, p7.
    11. New South Wales Law Reform Commission, Sentencing: Aboriginal Offenders, Report 96, NSWLRC, Sydney 2000, Chapter 6.
    12. Australia Bureau of Statistics, Prisoner numbers have increased by 50% over past 10 years, Media Release, Canberra, 22 January 2004.
    13. ibid
    14. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Corrective Services, Australia, September Quarter 2003, ABS, Canberra 2003, p5.
    15. Cameron, M., 'Women Prisoners and Correctional Programs', Trends and Issues, No.194, Australian Institute of Criminology, Feb 2001, p1.
    16. ibid
    17. ibid.
    18. ABS, Corrective Services, op cit, p20.
    19. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Corrective Services, Australia, March Quarter 2004, ABS Canberra 2004, p5. Note: When publishing the corrective services data for the June 2004 quarter, the Australian Bureau of Statistics noted that it had temporarily discontinued publication of Indigenous imprisonment rates pending the release of new experimental estimates and projections based on the 2001 Census data. See: ABS, Corrective Services, Australia, June Quarter 2004, ABS Canberra 2004, p33. The March 2004 data is the most recent data available.
    20. ibid, pp 13,20-22.
    21. Not available for publication but included in totals where applicable unless otherwise indicated
    22. Cunneen, C., NSW Aboriginal Justice Plan - Discussion Paper, 2002, p26.
    23. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Corrective Services, Australia, March Quarter 2004, op cit.pp13,20-22
    24. ibid.
    25. ibid.
    26. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Indigenous Profile - Western Australia 2001, Community Profile Series 2001 Census , Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra 2002, Table 1 02.
    27. Social Justice Report 2002, op cit.. pp141-142
    28. NSW Law Reform Commission, Sentencing: Aboriginal offenders, op.cit., Chapter 6, p5.
    29. Payne, S. cited in ibid.
    30. Department of Corrective Services (Women's Policy Unit), Profile of female offenders under community and custodial supervision in Queensland, Queensland Government, Brisbane 2003, Chapter 3, p13.
    31. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, AIHW, Canberra 2003, p117.
    32. Gordon, S, Putting the Picture Together: Inquiry into Response by Government Agencies to Complaints of Family Violence and Child Abuse in Aboriginal Communities, State Law Publisher, Perth 2002; Justice Fitzgerald, Cape York Justice Study, Queensland Government, Brisbane 2001; Robertson, B. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women's Task Force on Violence Report, Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy, Brisbane 1999; Memmot, P, Stacy, R, Chambers, c & Keys, C, Violence in Indigenous Communities-Full Report, Commonwealth Attorney General's Department, Canberra 2001.
    33. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner, Social Justice Report 2003, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Sydney, p186.
    34. ABS, Prisoners in Australia, 4517.0, Canberra, 2003
    35. Cunneen, C., NSW Aboriginal Justice Plan - Discussion Paper, op cit, 2002, p25.
    36. Lawrie, R., Speak Out Speak Strong: Researching the Needs of Aboriginal Women in Custody, New South Wales Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council, Sydney 2002, p25.
    37. Brenner, K., in Social Justice Report 2002, op.cit, p141 .
    38. ABS, Prisoners in Australia,. 4517.0, 2003, op cit, p6.
    39. Steering Committee for the Review of Commonwealth /State Service Provision 2003, Report on Government Services2003:Review of Government Service Provision, Productivity Commission, Melbourne (also cited in Borzycki & Baldry, AIC)
    40. Criminal Justice Commission, Criminal Justice System Monitor, Vol , April 1998, p4.
    41. Worthington, A, Higgs, H, and Edwards, G, 'Determinants of Recidivism in Paroled Queensland Prisoners: A Comparative Analysis of Custodial and Socioeconomic Characteristics', Australian Economic Papers, Blackwell Publishers, Adelaide, September 2000, p313.
    42. Social Justice Report 2002, op cit, p135; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice Report 2001, HREOC Sydney 2001, p15.
    43. Social Justice Report 2002, op cit, pp154-55.
    44. ibid, p155-156.
    45. For a discussion of available statistics and research see: Social Justice Report 2003, op cit, pp 161-168.
    46. See for example the findings of: Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council (NSW), Speak out speak strong: Researching the needs of Aboriginal Women in Custody, AJAC, NSW Attorney-General's Department, 2003, p6, p54. Surveys of Indigenous female prisoners in NSW found that 70% of respondents stated they had been sexually abused as children; 78% stated they had been victims of abuse as adults; and approximately 80% stated they had experienced domestic violence.
    47. Social Justice Report 2002, op cit, p136.
    48. Social Justice Report 2003, op cit, pp 158-159.
    49. ibid, p159.
    50. Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, National Report, AGPS, 1991 - The Royal Commission was an inquiry into the causes of death of 99 Indigenous people in custody - 11 of whom were women. The terms of reference were expanded during the Commission to consider broader implications from these inquests. The findings and recommendations of the reports were therefore drawn from the evaluation of these deaths, which largely explains the lack of focus specifically on issues faced by Indigenous women.
    51. With the exception of the Northern Territory, which subsequently committed to such an approach in 2001. For details of the outcomes statement of the Summit see: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice Report 1997, HREOC, Sydney, 1997, pp153-54.
    52. Blagg, H, Morgan, N, Cunneen, C and Ferrante, A, Systemic racism as a factor in the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the Victorian criminal justice system, Draft Final Report 2004, p150.
    53. Centrelink, Prison Servicing Innovations by Centrelink, Extract from an entry by Centrelink in the Prime Minister's awards for excellence in public sector management, 2004, pp3-4.
    54. Centrelink, Draft Memorandum of Understanding, Schedule 2.
    55. ibid.
    56. Information provided by Centrelink staff during consultation on 14 October 2004.
    57. If an inmate does not have a birth certificate and requires it as proof of identification, in exceptional circumstances Centrelink can waive the fee for obtaining a birth certificate.
    58. Centrelink, Prison Servicing Innovations by Centrelink - Extract from an entry by Centrelink in the Prime Minister's awards for excellence in public sector management, op cit, p2.
    59. Personal Advisers provide inmates who are to receive Centrelink benefits upon release with assistance and referrals regarding work or study, or to get involved in the community. See: Centrelink, JET Advisers and Personal Advisers Factsheet, p1.
    60. Information provided by Centrelink staff on 22 October 2004.
    61. Department of Justice (WA), Community Re-entry Program: Coordination Service Contracts Q & A, Department of Justice, Perth, 2004, p1.
    62. Department of Justice (WA), Community Re-entry for Prisoners Program,
    63. Department of Justice (WA), Community Re-entry Program: Coordination Service Contracts Q & A, Department of Justice, Perth, 2004, p1.
    64. Department of Justice (WA), Community Re-entry Coordination Services User Information, March 2004, p2.
    65. Department of Justice (WA), Community Re-entry Program: Coordination Service Contracts Q & A,, op cit, p1.
    66. Email correspondence from Ms Donna Herdsman of Department of Justice (WA) 7 January 2005.
    67. New South Wales Department of Corrective Services, Annual Report 2002/2003, NSW DCS, Sydney, 2003, p12.
    68. Tombs, J, The Chance for Change: A Study of the Throughcare Centre Edinburgh Prison, SPS Occasional Papers Series, Edinburgh, 2004.
    69. Criminal Justice Social Work Development Centre for Scotland (CJSW), Throughcare: A process of change, CJSW Briefing, Paper 7, February 2004, UK, p2.
    70. Ibid, p3.
    71. New South Wales Department of Corrective Services, Throughcare Strategic Framework 2002-2005, p3
    72. Criminal Justice Social Work Development Centre for Scotland (CJSW), Throughcare: A process of change, op cit, p1.
    73. See discussion regarding Centrelink's Pre-release support service earlier in this chapter.
    74. New South Wales Department of Corrective Services, Annual Report 2002/2003, NSW DCS, Sydney, 2003, p20.
    75. In particular recommendations 187 and 188 which relate to the greater involvement of communities and Aboriginal organisations in correctional processes and negotiation with appropriate Aboriginal organisations and communities to determine guidelines as to the procedures and processes which should be followed to ensure that the self-determination principle is applied in the design and implementation of any policy or program or the substantial modification of any policy or program which will particularly affect Aboriginal people.
    76. The men's post-release program operating at Yulawirri Nurai was funded by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (ATSIS, formerly ATSIC). Funding is now administered by the Commonwealth Attorney General's Department.
    77. In this sense homelessness is defined as the absence of or threat of loss of shelter, constant moving from place to place, physically inadequate accommodation, lack of social and familial support networks, restrictive access to alternative housing. Definition taken from Victorian Homelessness Association.
    78. Further information regarding Sisters Inside programs can be found on their website:
    79. Victorian Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee, Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement, Victorian Department of Justice,
      Melbourne,1999, p25.
    80. ibid, p28.
    81. CD is to be launched in February 2005. For further details contact Department of Justice Victoria.
    82. Northern Territory Minister for Justice and Attorney-General, correspondence received 2 September 2003.
    83. Meehan, A. Report on Pre and Post Release-release Housing Services for Prisoners in NSW, NSW Federation of Housing Associations, 2002, p3.
    84. Baldry, E, McDonnell, D, Maplestone, P, & Peeters, M, Ex-Prisoners and Accommodation: What Bearing do Different Forms of Housing Have on Social Reintegration of Ex-Prisoners?, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, August 2003, p5. (references removed from citation)
    85. Ward, L. Transition to Custody to Community, Corrections Victoria, June, 2001, p23.
    86. See in Ward, McCarthy, B. & Hagan J. 'Homelessness: a crimogenic situation?', British Journal of Criminology, 1991, 31 (3); Ramsay, M. 'Homelessness and Offending: A Review of the research', Home Office Research Bulletin No. 20, London, 1986
    87. Baldry, E. et al, Ex-Prisoners and Accommodation: What Bearing do Different Forms of Housing Have on Social Reintegration of Ex-Prisoners?, op cit,
    88. Davis, J. 'Post Release-release Issues and Accommodation', Parity, Post Release-release and Homelessness Issue, Vol 14, Issue 10, November 2001, pp13-15.
    89. Martyres, K. 'Getting Out and Surviving: Providing Support to Women Exiting Prison', Parity: On the Outside - Revisiting Post Release-release Issues, Council to Homeless Persons, Vol.16, Iss.5, June 2003, p. 7.
    90. Cooper, L. & Morris, M. Sustainable Tenancy for Indigenous Families: What Services and Policy Supports are Needed?, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, August 2003, p.ii
    91. ibid, p.7
    92. Baldry, E & Maplestone, P, 'Aboriginal Prison Releasees In New South Wales - Preliminary Comments Based on ex-Prisoner Research', Indigenous Law Bulletin, 2003, ILB 4 ; See also T. Vinson, Unequal in life: The distribution of social disadvantage in Victoria and New South Wales, Jesuit Social Services, August, 1999.
    93. Elizabeth Hoffman House, Consultation, Melbourne, 29 April 2004.
    94. Coleman. A, Sister, It Happens To Me Everyday: An exploration of the needs of and responses to Indigenous Women in Brisbane's Inner City Spaces, Brisbane City Council, Department of Families, Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy and the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Office for Women, 2000, p.13
    95. Participant, Townsville consultations, 9 June 2003
    96. Ogilvy, E. 'Prisoners Post Release'-release', Parity - Post Release-release and Homelessness Issue, Vol.14, Iss.10, November 2001, pp.16-17.
    97. Power evidence, 28 March 2000, NSW Select Committee on the Increase in Prison Population, Interim Report: Issues Relating to Women, NSW Legislative Council, 2000.p.73
    98. Lawrie, R. Speak Out Speak Strong - Researching the needs of Aboriginal women in custody, op cit, p. 30
    99. Baldry, E, et al, Ex-prisoners and accommodation: what bearing do different forms of housing have on social reintegration for ex-prisoners?, op cit, p.1
    100. See Social Justice Report 2003, op cit, Chapter 5
    101. 2003 Commonwealth State Hosing Agreement, Housing Assistance (Form of Agreement) Determination 2003, Commonwealth of Australia, Special Gazette No.S276, 17 July, 2003, p.4
    102. Australian Council of Social Services, Public and Community Housing: A rescue package needed, ACOSS, October 2002.
    103. Australian Council of Social Services, A framework Commonwealth/State Housing Agreement negotiations, and beyond, ACOSS Info 319, 9 August, 2002, p.3
    104. Building a Better Future: Indigenous Housing to 2010, Housing Ministers Conference, May 2001, Commonwealth of Australia, 2003
    105. Ogilvie, E, Post-Release : The current predicament and the potential strategies, Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra, 2001, p3.
    106. Stringer, A. Women Inside in Debt: The Prison and Debt Project, Women in Corrections Conference, Australian Institute of Criminology, 2000
    107. Ogilvie, E, Post-Release: The current predicament and the potential strategies, op cit.
    108. Centrelink, Annual Report 2002-03, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2003, Chapter 6.
    109. Homersham, J and Grasevski, S, Centrelink Income Support for Ex-Prisoners: Barriers and solutions, Paper presented at the 3rd National Homelessness Conference 'Beyond the Divide' convened by the Australian Federation of Homelessness Organisations, Brisbane, 6-8 April 2003, Attachment A.
    110. ibid.
    111. Ogilvie, E, Post-Release : The current predicament and the potential strategies, op cit, p3.
    112. Adkins, B, Barnett, K, Jerome, K, Heffernan, M, & Minnery, J, Women, Housing and Transitions out of Homelessness - Final Report, The Commonwealth Office of the Status of Women, Canberra, February 2003, piii.
    113. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2003, Homeless People in SAAP: SAAP National Data Collection Annual Report 2002-03 Australia, Canberra, AIHW cat no HOU91, December 03, (SAAP NDCA report series 8)
    114. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2003, Australia's Welfare 2003, AIHW, Canberra, December 03, Cat No. AUS 41, p404
    115. Ibid, p406.
    116. NSW Ombudsman, Assisting homeless people - the need to improve their access to accommodation and support services, Final report arising from an Inquiry into access to, and exiting from, the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program, NSW Ombudsman, Sydney, 2004, p8.
    117. ibid, p12.
    118. ibid, p33.
    119. Director-General, Department of Housing, Queensland Government, Correspondence, 10 August 2003.
    120. Guthrie House Annual Report 2003-2004, Guthrie House, Sydney
    121. Project officer, Aboriginal Services Unit, Department of Correctional Services SA, Karinga Prison Release and Diversion Hostel, email correspondence received 12 March 04.
    122. For more information on the Social Inclusion initiative see
    123. Department of Human Services, Supporting women exiting prison and their children on the outside: Coordinated care and early intervention approaches, Government of South Australia, Adelaide, 2002, p49.
    124. Ibid, p52.
    125. Email communication, Offenders Aid and Rehabilitation Services of SA, 19 October, 2004.
    126. Email communication, Senior Social Worker, Housing Programs, Centacare, Adelaide, 14 October 2004.
    127. Minister for Justice, Government of Western Australia, letter dated 4 November, 2003
    128. ibid
    129. Western Australian Aboriginal Housing and Infrastructure Council 2000, Strategic Plan 2003/04 - 2006/07, Department of Housing and Works, Government of Western Australia, p.47
    130. ibid
    131. Aktepe, B, & Lake, P, THM - Corrections Housing Pathways Initiative, paper presented at the 3rd National Homelessness Conference, Australian Federation of Homelessness, Brisbane, April, 2003, p4
    132. ibid, p5
    133. ibid.
    134. ibid, p4
    135. The evaluation of the THM/CHP Initiative was not published at the time of writing this report. Information provided by the Department of Justice, email communication 27 July 2004.
    136. ibid.
    137. Participant comment, Darwin consultations, 4 May 2004
    138. Hinton, T. The Housing and Support Needs of Ex-Prisoners - The role of the Supported Accommodation Assistance program, Department of Family and Community Services, Australian Commonwealth Government, August 2004, Executive Summary.
    139. ibid, Executive Summary
    140. Salvation Army, XCELL The Salvation Army prison Support Service 12 Month Report September 2003 to September 2004, Salvation Army, Hobart, September 2004, pp.15&16.
    141. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2003, Australia's Welfare 2003, AIHW, Canberra, p. 162
    142. Dias, C and Leckie, S, Occasional Paper 21 - Human Development and Shelter: A human rights perspective, Human Development Report Office, 1996,
    143. United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General comment No.4: The right to adequate housing (art.11(1) of the Covenant), as contained in HRI/GEN/1/Rev.7, p19, para 6.
    144. ibid, para 7.
    145. Sachar, R, Special Rapporteur, The Realisation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: The right to adequate housing - Final Report, United Nations, 12 July 1995, E/CN.4/Sub/2/1995/12,pp.4-5.
    146. ibid, para 12.
    147. United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General comment No.4, op.cit, pp20-22, para 8.
    148. Social Justice Report 2003, HREOC, op cit. p158.
    149. Middleton-Moz, J, 'Will to survive: Affirming the Positive Power of the Human Spirit', Deerfield Beach: Health Communications, Inc and Wilson, J and Raphael, B (eds), International Handbook of Traumatic Stress Syndromes, Plenum Press, New York, 1993 as cited in Phillips, G, Addictions and Healing in Aboriginal Country, Aboriginal Studies Press, 2003, p142.
    150. Phillips, G, Addictions and Healing in Aboriginal Country, Aboriginal Studies Press, 2003, pp167-168.
    151. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Bringing them home - National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, Commonwealth of Australia, April 1997, pp658-659.
    152. Swan, P and Raphael, B, Ways Forward - National Consultancy Report on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health. Part 1, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 1995, p41.
    153. Consultation with Dr Gregory Phillips, Melbourne, 28 April 2004.
    154. Correctional Service of Canada (Aboriginal Initiatives Branch), Healing lodges for Aboriginal federal offenders, CSC, Ottawa
      Canada 2004, Online at:, p1.

    155. ibid.
    156. ibid.
    157. ibid.
    158. ibid.
    159. LeClair, D & Francis, S, , Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge Alternative Dispute Resolution Creating New Approaches through Institutional Dynamics, Corrections Canada
    160. See for example the Ontario Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy: online at and the programs
      supported by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation to address the legacy of physical and sexual abuse in the residential school
      system: information online at:
    161. New Zealand Ministry's of Youth Affairs, Health and Maori Development, Kia Piki Te Ora O Te Taitamariki - Strengthening Youth Wellbeing, New Zealand Government, Wellington, 1999.
    162. ibid p11.
    163. ibid, p12.
    164. Miers, D, 'An International Review of Restorative Justice', Crime Reduction Research Series Paper 10, Home
      Office, UK, 2001, p68.
    165. Wanganeen, R, Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Program: Using loss and unresolved grief, Sacred Site Within Healing Centre,
    166. Cornwall, A, Restoring Identity - Final Report, Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Sydney, 2002, p30.
    167. Correspondence received from Minister for Corrections (Victoria), 31 October 2003.
    168. Cornwall, A, Restoring Identity - Final Report, op cit.