WCHM is aiming to improve the wellbeing of women in the Alexander Machonochie Centre (AMC) and their transitioning back into the ACT community by working with the women to seek their input and get a better understanding of their needs. We want to assist the women with lived experience in the AMC to contribute their views on issues affecting them in prison, their need for services and supports and about their transition from prison into the community.
We are doing this because we know from our experience with the Women And Prison group that women with lived experience are better able to identify the issues that affect women inside prison and identify barriers in connecting with these women. Their experiences are unique and their contribution is unique because:
- Women who are or have been incarcerated represent one of the most marginalised groups in our community.
- Women’s offending and imprisonment is often closely related to women’s poverty, and they are disproportionately affected by homelessness, domestic violence, sexual assault, mental illness, substance abuse, and poverty.
- When women are released from prison they face the same barriers to re-entry as men—social stigmatisation; and few or no employment opportunities.
- Because of their gender, while in gaol women prisoners have different health needs and they require care that addresses their reproductive health, histories of abuse and status as primary providers and carers of children.
- Research also shows that women prisoners are more likely to self-harm, and experience a higher level of psychological distress in prison than men.
From the feedback so far, we have been organising health promotion sessions for the women on key topics that they have identified they need, and that might inform a better understanding for the women of how to maintain good health and wellbeing. This has been supported so far by other services who work with women – like the Women’s Health Service, Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service, and BPD Awareness ACT.
The women have contributed their views on the options that would improve/address their health and wellbeing issues.
We are hopeful that some of the women leaving the AMC may continue to work with us to be a voice for the needs of women in the AMC.