INSIDE OUTSIDE “I was strugglIng to buy food for my chIldren and

December 2012
“I was struggling to buy
food for my children and
needed money”.
I arrived at the airport in Melbourne and Immigration
stopped me in Customs. They asked if I was carrying
anything illegal on my body and I said “no”. Then they
asked if I was carrying any illegal substances inside
my body and I said “yes”, because I was so afraid.
They immediately took me to the hospital to have
my body x-rayed. I told them I was three months
pregnant. The x-ray revealed that I had many pellets
of heroin inside my body.
After being admitted to the hospital they gave me
medicine to make my body pass the pellets. Once they
had all the pellets I was taken to the custody centre
where I stayed for four nights. It was very bad. I felt very
depressed and cried all day.
I was transferred to DPFC. I thought that place at Deer
Park would be much worse than the custody centre,
but am happy to be here. I met Lyndel from PNM who
supported and cared about me. When I went to the
Yarra Unit (Remand), I met another prisoner from my
country and she helped me by giving me food, soap and
shampoo. Then I moved to the Mother and Baby Unit
where I quickly settled and felt happy. My baby grew and
grew. I worked hard in the prison kitchen for 5 months
to earn some money so I could call my family overseas.
I worked more hours than I needed to.
In July, just before birthing my baby, I went to the County
Court. I was sentenced to 14 months. I had already
served many months which gave me 9 month to go. I
was so relieved when the judge understood the reason
for my crime. I was struggling to buy food for my children
and needed money. My ex husband was sick and I was
alone and the cost of living in my country is very high.
Lyndel supported me at court because I had nobody
to care about me in Australia. I could have had a big
sentence, but the judge understood me. Again I asked
Lyndel to help me and be with me in the hospital when
I birthed my baby. After four days in hospital I finally
birthed my baby girl. Lyndel was beside me holding my
hand. I feel she is like my mother who used to care for
me when I struggled and had pain. My mother already
passed away 3 years ago because of cancer. I was so
happy Lyndel cut the cord when the midwife asked her.
I was so happy at that moment – a sweet memory for me.
Now I’m busy with my baby which makes time go fast.
Recently, the government of Australia gave me a chance
to stay here. They offered me to apply for a permanent
protection visa because they are scared for my life and
my baby if I go home. I’m so happy and hope I can live
here and make myself have a good life. I so appreciate
how kind the government of Australia is to me.
In my country I have four children with my first husband,
three boys and one girl. He takes all my children, but I’m
scared because he is sick with Schizophrenia. I don’t
think he can care for them. He took them from my father
last month and I’m so sad to hear that. If I have a chance
I will bring them here to live with me. Immigration says I
can apply to bring them after several years. I must need
to be patient.
Here in Australia there are many opportunities, even in
prison. I can mix with other prisoners and cook my own
food and keep my baby with me. The other women are
so kind to me. Sometime we are like a family who live
together in one unit.
In my room in jail I have a bed, a TV, a cot for my baby and
a pram. I have nappies and a change table. They give me
baby clothes because I have no friends or family and have
no finances. The Mother and Baby worker helps me. I
want to thank them all so much. They are all lovely to me.
A note from the CEO
Welcome to the final edition of ‘Inside Outside’ for 2012.
Having just celebrated my
grandson’s 2nd Birthday, it
reminded me of the joy of
sharing special times with family.
As we approach Christmas, it’s
important to be mindful of the
fact that there are many people
who won’t have the opportunity
to be with loved ones at such a significant time.
By supporting PNM with a donation to our Christmas
Appeal, you’ll be helping to provide services which make
a real difference to people’s lives: presents for children,
transport of children to visit their mums, sending kids to
camp, basics like food and clothing, practical support
for struggling families and emotional support for those
who have no-one to turn to. When you’re thinking about
the gifts you plan to give this Christmas, please think
about a gift to the PNM Christmas Appeal.
Sadly, this Christmas Australians will spend over $750
million on unwanted presents. That’s an amazing
statistic. It means we’re spending millions every year
buying things for people who don’t actually want or
need those things.
Christmas is most truly Christmas when we
celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who
need it most – Ruth Carter.
During December, PNM will spend time helping a
number of women and their families and you can help.
We wish you every happiness for the Christmas season.
Deb Redford
“I yearned to have a stable normal life like other kids. But life was far from normal…”
When I was 11 years old, on 3 occasions within a few
months, mum and dad were arrested and taken away
for questioning. On two of those occasions the police
had run through our house, which terrified me and my
little 4 year old brother. Mum and Dad usually returned
within a few hours but were sometimes kept overnight.
‘Tough’ is a word you would think we would use a
lot in our work in prisons. It’s true we do, but not so
much about people but rather the difficult situations
they face. Some of the toughest of burdens are
carried by the innocent children of those who end
up in prison. Whenever I think of all that young
Natalie’s been through, I inevitably cringe and shake
my head. Unfortunately, although I’ve known her
for many years, our connection wasn’t made until it
was almost time for her mum to be released. This is
Natalie’s story.
Eventually their case was heard in the County Court.
The lawyers told my parents that they were pretty sure
they wouldn’t get any jail time, but would probably get a
Community Based Order. On the day of the court case I
stayed home to look after my little brother and waited for
a phone call. The whole day passed without any news.
I was SO worried and couldn’t understand what was
happening. Eventually at 7.30 at night I got a call from
my Aunty to say that my dad had got 4 years jail and my
mum 2 years. I couldn’t believe it! I was so shocked and
scared and didn’t know what to do. My aunty said she’d
pick us up sometime tomorrow so we were left on our
own. I felt so overwhelmed. Where were they? Would I
see them? Where were we going to live? It was horrible.
The next night our Aunty came and we stayed with her
for a few days. Then we went to stay with some friends
of the family, but after a few weeks they said it was too
much for them. Mum was scared we’d end up in foster
care so we went to stay with another friend of hers who
had a lot of problems of her own. She was addicted
to heroin and other drugs. I remember over hearing a
conversation she had with the school where she said
we’d been “dumped on her.” We felt so lost and alone.
I went to 3 different schools that year and missed mum
and dad so much. I yearned to have a normal, stable life
like other kids, but life was far from normal where we lived
and I often had to play the parent to my little brother.
We visited mum and dad about every 4-6 weeks and
although we loved to see them, we were very scared of
the prison officers who looked like police to us, and our
experience with police hadn’t been at all good. Visits
were short and it was all very traumatic.
Some of the most difficult memories were during
celebration times such as Christmas and birthdays.
Seeing all my friends with their families when I couldn’t
be home with mine was so hard. These times made me
feel more out of place than what I already did. No matter
how hard I pretended that everything was okay it was
a cruel reminder that they were away. Being so young
I didn’t understand why things had to be the way they
were. It is so important for kids to be with their parents
Due to no-one taking me to see my mum and dad
regularly I became really sad, angry and depressed. All
that was going through my mind was that I needed to
see them. So one day I found a way. I went from North
Carlton train station to the station near the prison at Deer
Park and then walked 7kms to the jail to see my mum.
My dad was moved to Fulham Prison in Sale so it was
too far to go and see him. When I arrived it was about
7:00-7:30pm and all the prisoners were locked down for
the night. The Prison Officers didn’t believe me when I
said I’d walked all the way from the highway by myself,
so they searched outside the prison to see if someone
was with me. After numerous questions and expressing
their frustration that I’d just turned up, they eventually
believed that I just wanted to see my mum.
They brought my mum out of lock down so I could see
her and we both started crying when we saw each other.
It took a couple of hours to find someone to pick me up
and when they did, they yelled at me all the way home.
Understanding the needs of kids with parents in prison
is so important. I always felt no-one understood what
I was going through and I was teased at school and
looked at differently. Being able to see my parents was
so important and to be able to say, “I had a great time
with my mum at Christmas” regardless of her being in
prison, meant so much to me.
We have supported Natalie and her family for several years now and she often says that we saved her life. Well
I’m not sure about that, but after many tough times she’s turned out to be a beautiful young woman and her
mum and dad are both doing well. Natalie’s situation highlighted the need for us to facilitate even more visits for
children to the prisons to see their mums. The prison Family Support staff contact us about ALL children who are
unable to visit their mothers. For the children’s Christmas party at the prison this year, as with every year, we will
collect children from all over Melbourne. We will also send a number off to summer camps.
The next few months are times of high need. PNM is depending on the generosity of others through our
Christmas Appeal to bring a little cheer to those who are doing it tough. Can you help?
Fun with Mum
Prison Network Ministries (PNM) are awesome. I’m
struggling to find the right words to sum up all that
they do for us women and our children.
Fun with Mum is a program that runs fortnightly during child
access visits. This program is one of the many programs
facilitated by PNM. The activities are usually art and craft
based and are activities enjoyed by all. The program
eliminates the stress often experienced by mothers who
struggle to provide activities that stimulate and entertain
our children in a facility that offers next to nothing.
Some of the activities my children and I have participated
in include jewellery making, dress up’s, Christmas in July,
mother’s day activities and of course the petting zoo,
which by far has been the most
enjoyable for both my children
and I. The petting zoo is a day
we all look forward to each year.
PNM also provides art & craft
sessions, gym, circuit and the
much loved Game on Day.
health, fitness and activity which
take us women away from the stagnant and mundane.
I thank Prison Network for all they have done for me
personally and all they do for us women. Thanks PNM!
Fun with Mum (cont.)
Finding myself an inmate at the Dame Phyllis Frost
Centre at the age of 46, was something I could never
have conceived as part of my life’s journey.
I started to attend the Christian Discussion Group sessions
as a way of showing my thanks to the PNM ladies. They
quickly became my weekly time for peace and healing.
As a mum to a 7 year old
daughter, the separation
from her is by far the
most difficult thing to
live with. Whilst a family
member is usually able
to bring my daughter
in to visit me once a
month, it is the Fun with
Mum sessions that my
daughter has filled in on
her calendar and looks
forward to... her very own
special time with mum.
My initial apprehension
at allowing a ‘stranger’ to collect my child and bring her in
to see me was short-lived upon meeting the PNM ladies,
and hearing only great feedback from other inmates.
The PNM ladies will forever hold a special place in
my heart for always having a welcoming smile, being
exceptional listeners and for their unconditional support.
Both my daughter and I enjoy every minute of our Fun
with Mum days and together we count down the number
of sleeps to our next one.
I have recently started volunteering with PNM at Fun with
Mum once a month on a Sunday. When we are in the prison
it feels very relaxed and busy at the same time with lots of
children running around having fun! It’s a blessing and a
joy to witness some of the beautiful interactions between
the mums and their children whilst they are engaged in the
activities that my colleagues have organised. It is also very
moving to see the way many of the children who come
to visit their mums support and encourage each other,
and humbling when the mums share their appreciation of
PNM’s work. I feel very privileged to have been given the
opportunity to be involved in this ministry and I praise and
thank God for the relationships that are being built between
the mothers and their children, despite their circumstances.
Yes! I will help women and their families rebuild their lives.
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Please return this form to:
Prison Network Ministries
PO Box 46
Kerrimuir Vic 3129
Phone: (03) 9873 4190 | Email: [email protected]