I work for the Women's Justice Network, a not-for-profit organisation which provides support to women who are either at risk of engagement or currently engaged with the criminal justice system. I have been in my current role as the Youth Program Worker, overseeing the youth mentoring program, for just over 7 months and have been a mentor in the adult program for over 12 months. I came to this position with lived experience of the criminal justice system, belonging to one of the smallest minorities in society who are historically over-policed, discriminated against, ostracized and over-represented in the criminal justice system.
I absolutely believe in the work of the Women's Justice Network to enact positive change in the lives of women who come into contact with the criminal justice system. The Women's Justice Network has achieved a 93% reduction in recidivism for those women engaged with our services. Mentoring works!
I am being stood down at the end of May due to a lack of ongoing funding for my position. In fact, 50% of our staff will be stood down by the end of May for the same reason. This is a travesty for an organisation that is already understaffed and under-resourced.
While I am concerned for my own financial well-being I am more concerned for the young women who have come to rely on me over the past 7 months for matching with mentors, advocacy, referrals to other support services, support in court and regular contact. This support is invaluable to the amazing young women I work with on a daily basis.
More needs to be done to support people such as myself, and my colleagues who are in the same position, to continue delivering the necessary and valuable services we provide not only to our clients but to society.
The government has said 'no' to supporting us through this time but you don't have to. Your donation may just mean we are able to continue our youth and Central Coast programs which support the women who need our help.
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars
This is one of the hardest letters I have written since taking up the role of CEO at the Women’s Justice Network. As the Covid-19 virus has evolved over the last few months and as we all practise social distancing ourselves and ensure that our families and loved ones are safe, please spare a thought for the impact on the women and girls we walk alongside every day.
I am hearing first hand how women and girls are suffering from anxiety, depression and are feeling as though they are still in prison even though they have completed serving their sentence. It breaks my heart that we have over 30 women and girls who have been referred to WJN to be supported as they have no-one to turn to and we cannot take them on at this time.
Our June 2020 fundraiser and other planned fundraising events did not go ahead due to the Covid-19 virus and the current governments forced social distancing and closure of venue rules.
What this means
This means that less women and girls will be supported, no new women and girls will be able to receive support and women and girls entangled in the criminal justice system will fall through the cracks and will end up back in custody.
Without additional funding being received by the 30 September 2020 our Programs will be severely affected with 50% of our staffing being stood down.
How you can help
I am urging you to donate what you can, as little as $10 can help, circulate this to others, share our story. We need $250,000 to enable us to keep offering support to women and girls through this crisis.
Further support will be needed to support and finalise our On-Line Healing from Within Creatively, Culture and Connection Program for girls in custody and community, we need to continue to provide opportunities for girls and women to feel hopeful about their future.
I know that all over the world people are being impacted by the spread of the Covid-19 Virus and our lives are being changed through the government interventions put in place to keep us all safe, I am pleading with you to show your compassion and give what you can to help WJN to keep its services open and allow us to remove the isolation that women and girls in the criminal justice system are currently experiencing more than ever before. Together we can make a real difference and support women and girls to not go back to prison and to be able to stay safe and healthy during the Covid-19 period and beyond.
Thank you and please share our appeal to others.
Yours in solidarity
Women’s Justice Network