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The trauma to prison pipeline

"A move towards pre-release planning and post-release support."

Trauma informed practice is gaining momentum in Australia. Aboriginal women’s stories of violence are usually more complex than those of non-Indigenous women. 

They are multi-layered, impacted by intergenerational experiences of violence and the resulting trauma that resonates throughout generations.

The need for culturally appropriate, Indigenous owned and delivered rehabilitation and re-entry programs for women prisoners has been identified by the Kungas Healing Violence Project in Alice Springs. 

In addition to the prison program, Kungas offers women pre-release planning and post-release support and assistance with the same team of people. 

Aboriginal women who have been in prison, are employed as mentors to the women during their time in the Kungas program inside, and help with the transition back to life in the community.   

Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson said at the graduation of the women that programs such as this were required to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma, intergenerational violence and intergenerational imprisonment of Aboriginal people.

This unique educational program was run with a group of ten women at the Alice Springs Correctional Centre over four weeks in September. It was led by Professor Atkinson and her colleague Terrianne Goodreid from We Al-Li.

The program ran for six hours per day, five days a week, utilising a trauma informed Educaring approach. It covered three modules dealing with anger, grief, loss and trauma and recreating the circle of wellbeing. 

It also provided the women with information and education, time for processing of personal history and an opportunity for one-on-one counselling around anything that arose. The women all received certificates for each unit that detailed their successful journey through the We Al-Li course.

Rose Carnes who works at Deakin’s Centre for Rural Regional Law and Justice recently spent three days in the prison with the We Al-Li team, meeting the Kungas team and conducting final stages of an evaluation of the effectiveness of the programme.  This was at the invitation of Professor Atkinson.  A report is being prepared and will be available sometime next month. 

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