Making the transition from prison to the real world is a challenging period for many former inmates, but for Aboriginal people the stakes are incredibly high.
“Aboriginal people are usually on shorter sentences and not eligible for adequate release planning, so they can literally leave the prison gate without any support or even with an address that provides them with minimal housing,” says Dr Megan Williams, head of the Indigenous Health discipline in the UTS Faculty of Health.
“Similarly, there’s no guarantee that a person on medication, including psychiatric medication, will continue that use after leaving prison and beyond. It’s extremely damaging to the individual and provides extreme risk for incarceration and death.”
In response, Williams is co-leading an NHMRC-funded program, called ‘Bangamalhana: A collaborative throughcare program for young Aboriginal women transitioning from prison to community’, to deliver more responsive throughcare support for Aboriginal people.
Throughcare programs exist to help people prepare for their release from prison and successfully re-enter society; however, there are few available programs designed to meet the physical, emotional and cultural needs of Aboriginal people.
In partnership with Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal people in prison or recently in prison, their families, and with formal service providers, Williams and broader research team are seeking to build capacity within the throughcare workforce. Specifically, the work will be focused on assisting young Aboriginal women.
“Our research and its translation is about building capacity, generally of the mainstream workforce, to understand more about Aboriginal culture, Aboriginal evidence, and critical success factors in services delivery from an Aboriginal perspective,” Williams says.
“We’re hoping to work at a service provider level, and therefore at the systems level, to better inform and upskill key stakeholders to deliver better services for Aboriginal people.
“If you look at the data on incarceration rates of Aboriginal women, they’re growing at an unacceptably high rate. This is an opportunity to intervene in a particularly targeted way.”
Bangamalhana investigators are Prof Elizabeth Sullivan, Dr Megan Williams, Assoc Prof Melissa Kang, Prof Juanita Sherwood, Prof Eileen Baldry, Dr Julia Bowman, Prof James Brown, Dr Sungwong Chan, Ms Faye Worner and Dr Sarah Wayland.