On this page

  • Eligibility
  • Application process
  • Accommodation in prison
  • Alternative care arrangements and support
  • Withdrawal from the LWM Program
  • Further information or enquiries

Many women in prison may provide the primary care for their children. The LWM Program assists women in prison (where practicable) to maintain that role and to continue their bond and attachment with their children.

Eligible mothers can care for their young children (up to school age) in prison where it is in the best interests of the child and where the management, good order and security of the prison is maintained. Children are deemed “residents’ of the LWM Program and are the responsibility of their mother. Prison staff do not take on supervisory roles for the children.


Female prisoners who are the primary carers of infants and/or young children but who may not be the biological mother are eligible to participate in the LWM Program. All references to 'mother' in this document should be read as 'including female primary carers who may not be the biological mother'.

Eligible women are those who:

  • expect a custodial sentence or are in custody and can demonstrate that they were the primary carer of an infant or pre-school child prior to their imprisonment; or
  • are pregnant in custody.

Applications can be submitted while the woman is:

  • in the community, on bail or about to attend Court where it is likely a custodial sentence will be imposed
  • remanded or sentenced into custody.

Corrections Act 1986

Section 31(1) of the Corrections Act 1986 states that a prisoner's child may be permitted to live with the prisoner if:

  • it is in the best interests of the child; and
  • the management good order or security of the prison will not be threatened by the child living in prison.

Application process

The LWM Program Support Worker will guide applicants through the application process and keep them informed. Below is an overview of the application process:

  1. Mother completes LWM application form and submits it to the LWM Program Support Worker. Pre-sentence applications are submitted by the legal representative.
  2. Interviews between the mother/legal representative and LWM Program Support Worker. If eligible, LWM Program Support Worker completes LWM application report.
  3. LWM Program Support Worker reviews the application and collects information from internal and external sources such as a request for a background check of the mother/child from the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH), Child Protection, that helps inform the LWM Application Report.
  4. LWM Program Support Worker has a second interview with the mother and submits her LWM Application Form, Report and DFFH background check to the LWM Operational Steering Committee for consideration.
  5. The Operational Steering Committee reviews the application and makes a recommendation to the Deputy Commissioner, Custodial Operations, Corrections Victoria, who has the delegated powers from the Secretary to make the final decision.
  6. The Deputy Commissioner advises the mother and prison General Manager of their decision in writing.
  7. If approved, arrangements are made for the child to enter the LWM Program. If not approved, mother is provided with an explanation, counselling and support. She may appeal the decision or resubmit her application if new information/evidence is found to support her change in circumstance.

View a flow chart of the application process (External link)

Application assessments occur at the earliest opportunity. Priority is given to mothers in the late stages of pregnancy or who are breastfeeding their babies at the time of their reception into prison. Applications cannot proceed without all the appropriate information, which can cause delays depending on complexity.

How applications are considered

The LWM Operational Steering Committee considers each application on an individual basis. This includes a range of relevant information sourced from the mother, LWM staff and various external agencies. Consideration of each application is based on the best interests of the child.

The LWM Operational Steering Committee consists of the prison General Managers from the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre (DPFC) and Tarrengower Prison, the prison Offender Services Managers and representatives from Child Protection and a range of community-based agencies.

Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006

Under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006, families are entitled to be protected by society and the State, and any limitations to these rights must be justified. The most important consideration in protecting family rights is “what is in the best interests of the child?” In deciding what is in the child’s best interests, Corrections Victoria will then have regard to the factors listed above and any other matter relevant to the circumstances of the mother and child.

Child safety standards

The Department of Justice and Community Safety is committed to the safety and wellbeing of children and young people. We seek to prevent harm of any kind impacting children and young people and have zero tolerance for racism, child abuse and inequality. Children and young people's rights, relationships, identity, and culture must be recognised and respected, their voices heard, and their concerns acted upon. We aim to foster a culturally safe, child safe and child friendly environment for all children and young people who we work with.

Accommodation in prison


The LWM Program is located in DPFC for remand and sentenced women and Tarrengower for sentenced women only. We encourage and welcome external agencies to attend the locations for a tour of the LWM Program. To arrange a tour, contact the location directly.

Applicants who are accepted into the LWM Program reside in the dedicated units that meet community standards for the safe and secure housing of children. The units are cottage style with self-contained kitchen, living area, bedrooms and bathroom. Children have access to the prison grounds and facilities at the discretion of their mother and in accordance with prison rules. It is the responsibility of the mother to ensure the child's safety while in the prison.

Cell accommodation is not appropriate for the LWM Program and as such, mothers who reside in this type of accommodation may not be eligible.


The prison may loan the basic material needs for the child such as a cot, mattress, baby bath, pram, chest of drawers, breast pump, change table and high chair. The mother's costs include nappies, clothing, formula/food and programs and services in the community, such as playgroup.

The family can supply clothing and toys, however, there is a strict process to follow and all items that enter the locations will be security checked before being handed to the mother. More information on bringing items into prison can be found on the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre web page and in the Commissioner's Requirement 4.08 Prisoner Property.

In-prison support

Centrelink payments

Centrelink payments are deposited directly into an account opened specifically for the care of the child. This account is monitored by the LWM Program Support Worker.

Foreign nationals are not eligible for Centrelink payments, however, support will be arranged by the location to ensure the mother and child's needs are met.

Medical care

Children have access to community-based doctors' surgeries and hospitals. Where possible, mothers at DPFC and Tarrengower may accompany their children to appointments. All children's medication, including paracetamol, is kept with prison staff and administered by the mother in the presence of prison officers.

The LWM Program ensures that the nutritional, developmental and health needs of the child are adequately met within the prison. A Maternal Child Health Nurse and Midwife attend the locations as required. Pregnant women at DPFC are under the pre-natal care of Sunshine Hospital and women at Tarrengower are under the pre-natal care of Bendigo Hospital.

Security measures are in place for women who attend external medical appointments with their children.

Family and community services

Children in the LWM Program can leave the prison to spend time with their father, siblings and/or other extended family. They may also leave to attend childcare, kinder, and medical services.

Family members or volunteers can provide transport for the children, and each prison location has its own transport arrangements and Local Operating Procedures to follow. Please email (External link) for more information about the arrangements. 

Activities and services for mothers and children

DPFC and Tarrengower offer a range of programs and services that seek to reduce the impact of the mother's imprisonment on children in the LWM Program and increase access to family members and the community outside of prisons.

  • Childcare, Kinder and Playgroups (LWM Program) allow a child to leave the prison to attend a childcare centre, playgroup and kinder. While in attendance at the childcare, kinder or playgroup, children will be subject to the requirements of the venue's COVID-safe plans and requirements.
  • Visits in the community: Children residing at DPFC and Tarrengower can have visits in the community with an approved carer.

More information can be found in the Family Engagement and Parenting Programs and Services Guide.

Alternative care arrangements and support

Mothers will need to attend various appointments without their children, such as:

  • court
  • programs
  • medical
  • recreation
  • education.

Mothers are required to nominate at least one internal and one external alternative caregiver to provide parenting support.

The two types of caregivers are:

  • Internal caregivers are women in prison who are nominated by the mother, pending the completion of a suitability assessment. The internal caregiver is assessed by the LWM Program Support Worker, the Offender Service Manager, and the Prison Intelligence Unit.
  • External caregivers reside in the community and are nominated by the mother. External caregivers provide support when mothers are unable to care for their child, when the child is visiting friends or relatives, or for if the child must be removed from the prison for their health or safety. If the child is under its care, Child Protection assesses the external caregiver's suitability.

The mother must consent for the LWM Program Support Worker to contact the nominated caregivers to discuss the role and responsibilities and confirm acceptance of the position. If the mother is unable to nominate an external caregiver, the prison may contact foster care agencies and arrange care for the child.

Withdrawal from the LWM Program

The Deputy Commissioner can withdraw participation in the LWM Program if prison management believe the good order security or management of the prison is compromised, or it is no longer in the child's best interests. This is most likely to occur if the mother is involved in a serious prison offence, is moved to a hospital, or is transferred to a unit which is not considered suitable for accommodating a child.

Corrections Victoria will notify all relevant parties prior to the removal of any LWM participant.

Further information or enquiries

For all LWM Program enquiries or to request a copy of any of the information mentioned on this page please email: djcs-cv-dpfcfamilyengagement@justice.vic.gov.au (External link)

All emails will be forwarded to the relevant area and location for follow up. For urgent queries call the prison directly.

Dame Phyllis Frost Centre
(03) 9217 8400

Tarrengower Prison
Offender Services Manager: (03) 5479 8200