Victoria’s female prisoner population has nearly doubled over the last decade, with the number of Aboriginal women in prison growing at an even faster rate. Two-thirds of female prisoners report being a victim of family violence.
The $14.5 million investment includes more than $5.8 million to provide employment opportunities and reconnect women with their families. As part of this funding, Women’s Employment Specialists will be introduced in women’s prisons to strengthen employment opportunities for women leaving custody. This initiative is modelled on the successful Employment Pathways Brokers Program, which has provided employment and training support for more than 1,000 offenders on supervised orders in the community.
More than $2.7 million will go towards improving access to housing, including additional housing workers who will provide comprehensive planning and support so that women can access sustainable housing when they return to the community.
Reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal women and improving their connections to community is a key focus. More than $2.3 million will be invested to expand legal and housing support, as well as a feasibility study for a culturally responsive residential diversion program for Aboriginal women similar to the Wulgunggo Ngalu Learning Place for Aboriginal men.
Other initiatives include the continuation of successful family violence programs for women prisoners, and new Practice Advisers to enhance the management of women in prison with complex needs.