Aboriginal mothers in prison: what they have to say

Thursday, 23 March 2017
Prof Juanita Sherwood

Aboriginal women are the fastest growing group of people being incarcerated across the country; they are also one of the most vulnerable groups in Australia. While the increase in incarcerations is well known, the reasons for incarceration are not obvious to the untrained eye. 

The historical, political and social intervention of a colonial tenure has left marks upon the minds and physical bodies of these women, girls and mothers. Experiencing trauma, being separated from their families and communities while young, they act out the pain, anger and deep sorrow of these experiences and are sent to prison as there is nowhere else for them to go. They must suffer again the violence of the lucky country's own criminality. 

The prison system and mental health providers are unskilled and ill equipped to work with the anguish and pain of Aboriginal mothers and to provide them with the level of support they require. An integrated, decolonising and healing approach is required to meet their needs and assist them to stay in community and break the separation/incarceration cycle that began when they were young.