Fitted for Work haas just completed the final year of a 3 year funded program to support 120 female ex-offenders in Victoria to transition into sustainable employment.
This program was funded through grants by the RE Ross Trust and Clayton Utz Foundation.
These women are among the most disadvantaged, vulnerable and marginalised individuals in our society.
Typically, they lack the “soft” and “hard” skills that would otherwise lead them to successful employment.
This is a multi-faceted employment program, its primary focus being to help each woman gain the skills and confidence that they need to secure employment, stay out of prison and establish productive, crime-free lives in the community to which they have rightfully returned.
Overview of program delivery from July 2014 – June 2017
- Ringwood Community Corrections x 2 groups for 12 women
- Carlton Community Corrections x 1 groups for 6 women
- Tarrengower Prison x 5 groups for 72 women
- Dame Phyllis Frost Centre x 2 groups for 20 women
The life skills and wellbeing sessions of the program were very well received.
Women were highly engaged and motivated in the mental and physical health components of the program.
Many of the women had poor self-care habits through lack of knowledge and disclosed living a healthy lifestyle had not been a priority due to drug and/or alcohol use.
Participants expressed gratitude for the opportunity to increase their knowledge around nutrition, to be able to have a positive impact on their health and the health and wellbeing of their families.
A common theme emerging from participants was their desire to become a positive role model for their family and to provide a different set of choices for their children than they had growing up.
Challenges for women with a criminal history
Women who have a criminal record feel they are constantly judged negatively by the general community and participants report feeling discriminated against due to their criminal record when it comes to getting work.
Lack of confidence is a big issue for women exiting prison. To get a job you need to be able to talk about your skills and strengths in a positive way.
The majority of the women we meet in the corrections system find this very challenging.
The truth is that if women are unable to talk about their experience and skills positively, their chances of finding employment diminish significantly.
In response we have increased the time spent learning about personal strengths and transferable skills.
Trainers and volunteers talk extensively to the participants about how to approach the conversation with a potential employer and utilise interview role play to practice projecting a positive attitude and confident body language.
We are currently developing the program to provide participants with the option of a mentor when they exit, to help keep them focused and feeling positive in their job search.
We see many women drop off the radar after exiting prison and we lose contact until they choose to reengage with our services.
We have already included a module in our volunteer mentor training to help future mentors understand the challenges and barriers facing women exiting prison.
We plan to introduce the mentor/mentee relationship during delivery of the program in the prison, and encourage the continuation of that supportive and positive influence after they leave.
The aim of the mentor relationship is to:
- Increase their chances of successfully reintegrating back into the community,
- Maintain the motivation to implement good choices and
- Ultimately get work and not end up back in prison
Your support helps us provide this program, so on behalf of our Clients, thank you!