Whether you want to know more about our goals for developing a new model of working with incarcerated mothers and their children, the first steps in this project, or our project partners, you will find more information here.

Our project

We are collaborating with mothers with lived experience of imprisonment and their families, community service providers, policy makers, Queensland Corrective Services, and the Paul Ramsay Foundation, to develop an evidence-informed, holistic system of practice.

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Through this co-creation process, we will develop a new model for working with incarcerated mothers and their children to break cycles of disadvantage, improve outcomes, and support wellbeing and social inclusion. Together we will:

  • Address system issues – identify structural issues, redesign systems and allocate responsibility and accountability for change, and improve access to, and availability of, programs and services
  • Pursue wraparound support – develop a continuity of care model for women and children focused on holistic support, system navigation, service engagement and skill building
  • Ensure programs and supports are fit for purpose – co-design new programs and refine existing programs based on evidence and needs identified by recipients of the programs. Create opportunities for mothers and children to exit out of services that are no longer needed and transition into other services that are proportionate to needs and facilitate ongoing pathways for success.
  • Develop evaluation methods – identify and develop meaningful, new ways to track progress and success in relation to program objectives and policy reform, measuring outcomes that matter most to women and children, as identified through the co-creation process.

Together, we can address both risks for re-offending and deep, intergenerational disadvantage that is exacerbated by becoming enmeshed in the correctional system.

For more information on this project, please download our brochure here.

Phase 1

Maternal imprisonment often arises from and results in a devastating lifecycle of intergenerational disadvantage. Although women in custody and their children are among the most vulnerable groups in society, they are also an often ‘invisible’ sector of the community. Many agencies and individuals are already working to provide vital support to mothers in prison and their children in the community. But the rising number of women in prison puts growing pressure on correctional and community service providers to meet the needs of this often highly disadvantaged and victimised group.

Recognising and addressing their needs requires the transformation of correctional approaches in Australia to reduce recidivism and to interrupt and prevent the intergenerational cycle of disadvantage.

Phase 1 of the Transforming Corrections to Transform Lives project focuses on the co-creation of a new continuity of care program for mothers and children, called growuna. This phase is due to be completed in December 2021 and will be the basis for future phases of model development, implementation and evaluation. 

Our program: growuna

Our program, growuna, will focus on improving wellbeing and social inclusion through an innovative method of service provision for imprisoned mothers and their children.

growuna comes from the latin words for grow + together (grow + una). It represents our approach to transformation, through the development of strong partnerships and a holistic approach to bring together mothers and families with lived experience of imprisonment, experts and cultural leaders in the community, the not-for-profit sector, key government departments, and researchers.

We intend to learn and move forward together

growuna also represents the way we intend to work with, and support, mothers and their children. The experiences of imprisonment and re-entry to the community can involve both physical and emotional isolation and a lack of vital assistance. Our program will help build ongoing networks of support for mothers and their children, helping to create the conditions necessary to thrive.

Together we can build strong, supportive networks

By developing a multimodal, continuity of care program we aim to:

  • foster mothers’ strong non-offending identities by integrating existing rehabilitation programs for imprisoned women with new approaches to build and repair connections to children, families, communities, and culture, and develop positive parental identities and behaviours;
  • include families or key support people in re-entry planning and providing extended support to released women and their families through continuity of care; and
  • provide proportionate, integrated, and holistic wrap-around services for women and their children that address existing trauma, disadvantages, maternal health and development needs, and other risks during sentences and post-release.

Throughout all Phase 1 and future phases we will engage in knowledge development, knowledge sharing, and communication through expert networks and public forums to drive a cultural shift in Australia’s correctional narrative.

Our partners

Paul Ramsay Foundation

The first stage of the Griffith-led project has been made possible through a partnership with the Paul Ramsay Foundation, whose mission is to break cycles of disadvantage in Australia. Beyond providing critical funding, the Foundation brings experience to help us change policy settings, connect with policy entrepreneurs, and identify policy levers. Their expertise will contribute to the co-creation of programs and policy reform and connecting experts and key stakeholders nationally.

The challenges facing children whose mothers are in custody are unique, tragic and lead to multiple elements of deep disadvantage,” Paul Ramsay Foundation CEO Professor Glyn Davis AC said. “With the right partners we know we can do better for these vulnerable children and give them a better chance in the lottery of life.”

Griffith University
Griffith Criminology Institute

Griffith Criminology Institute (GCI) is one of the largest, most vibrant and high-performing criminology communities in the world. Through collaboration and innovation our research is helping find answers and solutions to universal problems. One of the six key challenges the Institute seeks to address is to break cycles of crime and inequality. We recognize that crime clusters in demographic, family, economic, social and environmental patterns, which over time reinforce disadvantage and inequality. Our project is central to this work and builds on our internationally recognised expertise and leadership in research with incarcerated parents and their children, with disadvantaged communities and young people, with bringing together the research-practice nexus through work with the community sector, and with translation of research into policy development. Our project aligns with the Institutes mission to better understand these cycles of disadvantage and prevent their recurrence, to improve life outcomes for individuals and communities.

School of Nursing and Midwifery
Transforming Maternity Care Collaborative

The Transforming Maternity Care Collaborative is an international, multidisciplinary research community generating and translating evidence about the benefits of universal access to quality maternal and newborn care. We recognize that whole of system re-design is needed, including a shake-up of roles, responsibilities, structures and desired health outcomes. Using a human rights-based approach and a social model of health, we are focused on partnering with community-level agencies and services to authentically co-create strategies and resources for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged women and children.

This project is consistent with our work in partnering with pregnant women and mothers, researchers, community leaders and health and community care providers to design and implement innovative service delivery models to positively impact on life trajectory. Outcomes that matter most to women are central to the evaluative frameworks we develop to showcase successful and sustainable exemplars of maternity services.

Queensland Corrective Services

This project aligns with Queensland Corrective Services commitment to reform service delivery for women. Their newly established Women’s Estate seeks to advance a gender-responsive and trauma-informed approach to managing women in order to support them to rehabilitate, reconnect with their community, and make positive change. We will work in partnership with the Department to achieve these common goals.

Queensland Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Martin said that women in prison overwhelmingly identify as being victims of domestic and family violence. “We are aware that women have a vastly different trajectory leading to incarceration than men, with common features of poverty, childhood abuse and abusive relationships,” he said. “We also know that having a parent in prison makes a child many more times likely than their peers to end up incarcerated themselves”.

“This is why Queensland Corrective Services is taking a trauma-based approach to women in prison as a part of the Women’s Estate project. We are excited to be partnering with Professor Dennison and her research team to identify ways to better support women prisoners and their children to try to break that cycle of incarceration.”