15 March 2011
The SHINE for Kids Child and Family Centre Junee was officially opened today by Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC, CVO, Governor of New South Wales.
Wiradjuri Elder Aunty Kathleen Withers gave a Welcome to Country and students from Mount Austin High School entertained the audience with song and traditional Aboriginal dance.
SHINE for Kids Chair Helen Wiseman spoke passionately at the launch about the reasons for the charity's work not just in Junee, but across New South Wales and Victoria.
"Research estimates that approximately 5% of Australian children have experienced having a parent in prison some time during their childhood," said Ms Wiseman. She pointed out that although many children with parents in the justice system develop the resilience required to get through the experience of parental offending, it can nevertheless impact on their emotional, social and physical well-being. "They may be stigmatised within their peer groups, families and local communities. Keeping their secret often results in extreme isolation and loneliness."
"For Aboriginal children, with all the health and welfare challenges they may already face, the effects of parental incarceration can cause considerable hardship," she continued.
"All these children are the unseen victims of crime," Ms Wiseman concluded. "They have unique needs that must be recognised with specially targeted programs that fully support their individual experience as a basic right."
Andy Walker, General Manager of The GEO Group Australia, agreed. "It is this group of people in society that are the forgotten victims of prison. Through our partnership with SHINE for Kids, we are committed to assisting and supporting those families and children effected by prison, to minimise and heal some of the damage done.
"The Child and Family Centre opening today will ensure a legacy of helping families and children remains as long as the prison."
About the Child and Family Centre Junee
The Child and Family Centre was completed at the end of 2010 and was first made available to children and families in January 2011. Up to the official launch in March 2011, 62 had children utilised the centre on 166 occasions.
The Child and Family Centre offers a supportive environment for all visitors. For the parents and carers of children, it's a place to relax before and after prison visits, where information and referrals to other support services are available when needed. During the visits, carers can leave their children in a secure, protective environment with play facilities, activities and computer games for children and young people of all ages. Its two dedicated staff, Karen Westbrook and Kelly Reynolds, have worked tirelessly to give the Centre its welcoming character, with a bright, fresh colour scheme and plenty of engaging activities and toys.
The Child and Family Centre is also one of the venues for the 'Colourful Dreaming' program in which arts and craft is used to facilitate the bonding of Indigenous children with their imprisoned parent. Craftworks are initiated by both inmates and children separately and then completed jointly, providing a way to create together and reconnect.
Additional programs and support provided by SHINE for Kids include an Aboriginal art & culture program funded by the Federal Government called 'Connecting Kids and Dads'. This program assists Aboriginal children and their imprisoned fathers to reconnect through art and the opportunity it brings to learn more about their culture. This dynamic program is facilitated by SHINE for Kids' Child and Family Worker Karen Westbrook, with the support of Aunty Kathleen as a Wiradjuri Elder.
The GEO Group Australia
During the proceedings Ms Wiseman thanked Mr Peiter Bezuidenhout of The GEO Group Australia for building the Child and Family Centre Junee and for providing ongoing financial support to allow SHINE for Kids to staff the Centre with a trained Early Childhood Teacher. She also thanked Andy Walker, General Manager of the Junee Correctional Centre, Col Caskie, Manager of Programs, Tim McLean, Business Development Manager, Frank Thorne, Executive Manager Finance & Administration, Sidd Mehta, Finance & Admnistration Manager at the Junee Correctional Centre. Ms Wiseman also acknowledged Stuart Finch, Maintanenance Manager and Build Project Manager, and Peter Knell, Contract Builder.
About SHINE for Kids
Based on the known rate of prisoner incarceration and offenders on community corrections orders, it has been estimated that in 2001 approximately 14,500 children faced the stigma and marginalisation of having parents who have committed a crime. A decade later, by the same criteria this figure is estimated as closer to 20,000. These children suffer the term of the incarceration along with their imprisoned parent.
SHINE for Kids is the only not-for-profit organisation in Australia dedicated to helping children and families with a parent in the criminal justice system. The mainstays of SHINE for Kids are its trained staff and hundreds of volunteers, who are crucial not only to the operation of their Centres but in the delivery of all their programs and services.