The Women's Advisory Council

The CSNSW Women's Advisory Council (WAC) works on issues that relate to women in custody and those under supervision in the community. The underlying goal of the Council's work is to contribute to the reduction of the numbers of women in custody and to achieve better outcomes for women in the correctional system.

Issues raised by the Council include access to health services including specialist counselling, the impact of incarceration of women with dependent children, assistance for women in custody to understand legal information and staff training in understanding the effects of trauma.

The Principal Advisor Women Offenders is the Executive Officer for the Council.



Reports

Victims' Services Counselling Pilot

In recognition of the high number of women in custody who have experienced violence including childhood sexual assault and domestic violence, a pilot of counselling services has commenced in two correctional centres: Dillwynia in western Sydney and Wellington. Victims' Services Counselling is available to all NSW residents who have experienced violence within NSW.

The pilot commenced at Wellington in May 2012 at two days per week, to accommodate the larger population and includes male and female inmates. In September 2012, a third day of counselling has been provided to meet the increasing need for the service.

The aim of the counselling is to address previously unaddressed issues that may be contributing factors in pathways to offending. Participation may also assist engagement in offence-related programs.

Legal Literacy Program

Women in custody have indicated that they have difficulties understanding court proceedings and outcomes, legal letters and other communication. In order to address this need a partnership has been established with Women's Legal Services NSW, Wirringa-Baiya Aboriginal Women's Legal Centre and Hawkesbury Nepean Community Legal Centre. A Legal Literacy Program is being developed, integrated into the literacy provision of the CSNSW Adult Education and Vocational Training Institute. It will be co-facilitated by legal representatives.

Trauma-informed Practice  - Staff Training

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with the Ministry of Health's Education Centre Against Violence, the Mental Health Coordinating Council and DAGJ Victims' Services. The aim of the partnership is to develop staff training in trauma-informed practice. This will enable staff to identify and understand the short and long-term impact of trauma particularly in relation to mental health. The training will assist staff to develop skills in managing and working with offenders with trauma symptoms such as post-traumatic stress disorder and other social, psychological and biological issues. The training will include a component on vicarious trauma to assist staff in managing the impact of working with people with these symptoms

Submissions to the NSW Law Reform Commission Review Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999

The Council has also commissioned research and publications:

  • Australian Institute of Family Studies Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault to provide advice on available research and practice evidence about how the effects of sexual victimisation including childhood sexual assault, interface with offending and re-offending pathways. In addition, advice will be provided on broad directions that can be taken to address sexual victimisation in the correctional context.
  • UNSW study on availability of diversionary programs and access by Aboriginal women
  • University of Sydney study on impact of maternal incarceration and separation on children's attachment
  • CSNSW Corporate Research Evaluation and Statistics: A statistical profile of women offenders
  • Beyond Prison: Women, Incarceration and Justice? Critical Issues in Criminal Justice Journal of the Institute of Criminology University of Sydney Vol 22 Number 2 November 2010
  • Women, Crime, Custody and Beyond Conference Institute of Criminology November 2010  DVD available through Corrective Services Academy Library Tel (02) 9804 5444
  • Report 2008-2010

Other research projects

  • Monash University study on Impact of the incarceration of mothers on children's care arrangements
  • UNSW and Kirby Institute SCREAM Project - on Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Aboriginal Women in Custody in NSW and WA