An intiative focused on preventing the incarceration of Indigenous women in Canberra has been hailed a success.
Introduced as part of the ACT government's justice reinvestment strategy, the trial has been extended after strong results in the first 12 months.
The program provides wrap-around support for select Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when they leave prison in the ACT. It has a particular focus on women, whose incarceration often has flow-on effects through the whole family.
The trial started in April 2017 as one of the first initiatives of the justice reinvestment strategy, which aims to direct resources into preventing incarciration by reducing crime.
Called Yarrabi Bamirr meaning "walk tall" in Ngunnawal, the tangible support was led by Winnunga Nimmityjah. Additional Indigenous support groups came on board earlier this year, including the Aboriginal Legal Service and Womens Legal Centre, allowing more people to take part.
Of the 18 places in total in the Yarrabi Bamirr program, 13 are taken by Aboriginal women.
Justice and Community Safety Directorate manager strategic policy and planning Nova Inkpen said Indigenous women were identified as a critical aspect of focus for justice reinvestment initiatives.
She said the programs small numbers were deceptive, because while the initial trial included 10 primary clients, it also included their families.
When youre dealing with families, you can often find you would have upwards of 10 members within a family, Dr Inkpen said.
Very quickly across the whole trial we know we have over 50 children in the trial and about 40 adults.
Dr Inkpen said a high percentage of the child the program works with are in out of home care or have been, but there was hope of reuniting these families.
"We're seeing some very, very strong benefits to families," Dr Inkpen said.
"Winnunga reports the trial has been succesful, one of the key things they have shared with us is that they value being able to work with families beyond the crisis."
Dr Inkpen said the goal of the trial is to prevent or delay contact with the justice system, and that "has absolutely happened".
Affectionately known as the white Nova, Dr Inkpen said the work shes doing couldnt be done without support from Aboriginal people in the government and the community.
We learn so much from them about what it truly means to support somebody, Dr Inkpen said.
Its a way of working that we havent always done.
Were keen to hear more about what weve achieved so far and how we can keep this model of support going.
A team at the Australian National University is evaluating the trial.
At the Womens Legal Centre, an Indigenous access to justice program called Mulleun Mura was launched, coinciding with the centre's inclusion in the Yarrabi Bamirr trial.
Mulleun Mura program manager Serena Williams said it was crucial to empower women to make their own decisions, and provide them with the support they need to follow through.
Women are the matriarchs, they are the giver of family, they are the giver of life, they are the backbone. They hold the family together, Ms Williams said.
When we can empower them, then there will be changes to their statistics around domestic and family violence, care and protection. Its those women who need to be empowered, who are going through this trauma and intergenerational trauma."
I really believe that, Ms Williams said.
At July 10, 2018 there were 15 Aboriginal women in Canberras prison, making up 38 per cent of the female prison population and 3 per cent of the total prison population of 501.
Indigenous people make up less than 2 per cent of the total ACT population.
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