The Women Transforming Justice project: Creating connection and community for women leaving prison in Victoria

Victoria is experiencing a crisis of women’s mass-incarceration – the state’s women’s prisons are full and more women than ever are on remand. Moreover, the number of Aboriginal women in prison has risen by 400 per cent in the last 10 years, making them the fastest growing prison population in Victoria.

This presentation will examine the Women Transforming Justice project, which is a community-based and women-specific pilot project aimed at reducing the number of women on remand in Victoria. The project links in with women when they are first taken into custody and provides them with skilled and integrated legal representation and intensive outreach support, so they can obtain bail, live safely and stably in the community and address the drivers of their incarceration.

A crucial component of the project is the Leadership Group – a group of women with lived experience of incarceration and criminalisation who meet weekly with the project team to provide advice, develop and implement the project’s advocacy agenda, participate in the evaluation and build a network of criminalised women peer supporters and advocates.

Led by participants from the Leadership Group, the presentation will explore how participation in the group has shaped women’s post-incarceration identities and ensured a strong and sustainable project. It will also highlight how connection with peers is critical to supporting criminalised women. This is because women’s incarceration is driven by gendered inequality, family violence and trauma. Peer support and peer-led advocacy builds the connections, community and agency that criminalised women require to thrive.

Jill Prior

Law and Advocacy Centre for Women
Principal Legal Officer

Megan Pearce

Women Transforming Justice Project
Manager