Harry

I'll never forget that feeling of being on my own

Life was pretty good before mum went to jail – I was just going to school and playing with my friends. Life was ordinary. I was 10.

Mum told me the night before that she was going to go to jail. But I'd heard her and Raymond, her boyfriend, talking about it – so I knew it was going to happen. I went to court with mum, but I wasn't allowed to sit with her. She was in the dock. Before she got sentenced they told her life story – all stuff that had happened to her – I didn't know some of this before; I felt a bit angry.

I only had to move next door, to stay with Raymond, but it felt like a big move. Everything changed. The rules were different. Instead of being first in the shower, I'd have to wait for Kylie, that's Raymond's daughter, and she'd be in there for ages, and sometimes I'd be late for school. Kylie was mean to me sometimes too. One time she was cooking cheese on toast and I went to make some too. I opened a new packet of bread because the old one only had a crust left. Kylie said "Dad said we have to use all the bread before we open a new packet!" I told her I didn't like the crust; but she says, "You should be grateful." It was just a piece of toast.

I visited mum every week, and she rang me every night. Sometimes I heard arguments between mum and Raymond on the phone. Raymond sometimes didn't want to spend money on petrol to drive up the country to the prison. (Mum was at Tarrengower.) That made me pretty angry – I wanted to see mum and this was the only way I had.

When I visited we'd sit and talk outside at the back. You could sit inside or outside, for as many hours as you wanted to, but I couldn't talk to her in the middle of the jail with people around. It wasn't as easy to talk. And I couldn't tell her stuff in front of Raymond. I wanted to stay for overnight visits, but mum didn't want this. She thought if I spent too much time there, I'd get used to it.

I felt sad when mum was in prison, because everything had changed, but mostly I kept everything in – feeling sad and stuff. I'm always gonna remember what happened – that feeling of being on my own.

You don't have to go through everything by yourself

Harry sometimes felt really on his own, even though he saw his mum regularly and hadn't moved too far from home. Harry also kept his feelings to himself. Lots of kids whose parents go to prison do this – they don't tell anyone how they feel or if they are having problems.

Sometimes you need to be brave and ask for help.

  • School can be a really good place to start – if you have a school counsellor or you have a teacher you get on OK with.
  • KidsHelplineIf you don't feel comfortable talking to anyone you know, you can get in contact with KidsHelpline: they have a telephone service for kids to talk about any things that are bothering them. They are open 24 hours a day and you can call them on 1800 55 1800, or get in touch by their website: kidshelp.com.au
  • Or you're in Victoria and you want to talk to someone who knows about prisons, you can call the SKY program at VACRO on (03) 9605 1900 or freecall 1800 049 871. They have a counselling service.
  • If you live in another state, and want to find someone closer to home, you can check out information at the Australian Prison Foundation website.