By Keira Jenkins

FOR more than three decades children and young people affected by a family member’s offending have been supported by SHINE for Kids. The organisation, originally created as the Children of Prisoners Support Group (COPSG), operates in justice centres in NSW, Victoria, ACT and Queensland.

Chief executive Gloria Larman said the organisation was shocked at the recent allegations of child abuse in juvenile detention centres in the Northern Territory and Queensland.

But she says they are what makes SHINE for Kids so important.

SHINE runs ‘Stand As One’, a program specifically for young people in the justice system. ‘Stand As One’ assigns the young person a volunteer mentor who assists with finding accommodation and employment, as well as being an understanding and supportive presence as the young person leaves detention.

This program is run at Frank Baxter Juvenile Justice Centre, in Kariong, NSW, and Bimberi Youth Justice Centre, in the Canberra suburb of Mitchell.

“There are programs like ours that help young people while they’re in detention then help them back into the community, which is so important,” Ms Larman told the Koori Mail.

“I think it’s important to highlight the programs doing good things for these young people because they could be developed to run in local areas.

“What we’ve found is that if you can support young people before they leave the centre they transition really well back into the community.

“To have a mentor stand with the young person makes it easier to integrate back into the community.”

SHINE for Kids also runs programs for adult inmates and their families. These include the ‘Belonging to Family’ program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents with between six and 12 months’ jail left to serve.

The eight-week program aims to reduce reoffending by helping inmates connect with their families and build stronger bonds during their time in prison and after their release.

It uses group work to invite inmates to consider their importance and responsibility to their children and partner.

“All our programs for Aboriginal inmates are run by Aboriginal people, which I think is the key to their success,” Ms Larman said. “We work holistically with Aboriginal people in prisons and their family on the outside as part of ‘Belonging to Family’.

“We work with people 12 months after they’re released as well. And we work in eight-week group programs while they’re in custody.

“It’s all about the transition. It’s one thing providing a service to a captive audience, but putting it into practice when they enter the community – that part of the process requires more support.”

For children of inmates at Junee Correctional Centre, at art therapy program called ‘Colourful Dreaming’ encourages fathers to connect with their children through art.

The program is aimed at children aged between 10 and 15, encouraging them to use artwork to express their challenges and explore their culture. It culminates in a travelling exhibition of artworks created by the children.

“Unfortunately, children of people in prison are five times more likely to end up in prison,” Ms Larman said. “This is because often they’ve lost a positive role model. The percentage of young people in custody who’ve had a family member in prison is very high.

“It’s important for kids and families to break the cycle. It’s also important for the economy. A lot of money is being wasted on detention, which is not working as a deterrent.

“We need to work with the offenders because there are more factors to them being in custody than just their crime.”