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Becoming a grandmother motivated Emmie to take control of her future & join Belonging to Family

A long, rocky road led Emmie*, a Biripi Woman from Taree, to our Belonging to Family program at the Mid-North Coast Correctional Centre.

A mother in custody, soon-to-be grandmother, a motivated program participant and advocate for women, a friend, and a victim of violence herself, a woman who has grappled with homelessness and addiction for much of her life, Emmie’s story, like many women in custody, is a complex one.

Try and try again

Emmie had signed up to participate in the Belonging to Family program many times, but frequent transfers had prevented her from completing it, so it was her sheer perseverance that first impressed our facilitators.

She quickly became core to group discussions and set the tone with her enthusiasm.

Program facilitator Alison said, “Emmie was friendly from the beginning and a very good participant.

“She wanted to listen, learn, and talk about her life experiences and share them with the others.”

Belonging to Family, held over several weeks, supports participants to reflect on their lives, reconnect with family and loved ones, and establish a support network in the community to help them after they are released.

Family and developing the skills needed to form strong and healthy family relationships is central to the program, and it was family that motivated Emmie to keep trying to participate.

A baby on the way

Emmie had learnt that she would soon be a grandmother with her adult daughter Mina* being pregnant, and was determined to “make it right” with Mina and form a relationship with her so that when her grandchild was born, she could be there.

“Emmie told me she wasn’t around for Mina growing up because of her addiction and relationships, so she felt it was time to make positive changes in her life to be a good role model for her grandchild and help her daughter,” said facilitator Alison.

“She wants to be a positive part of her daughter’s life, a mother and grandmother, instead of causing her family heartache.”

Throughout the program, difficult parts of the participant’s life are discussed, and it was while reflecting on the paths that had led her into custody time and time again that Emmie began to think about strategies she could use to stay out this time.

She identified easily that a lack of secure housing was leading her to unsafe situations and that while she didn’t want to be away from her daughter, at least when she was in custody she had “a bed to sleep in, meals, showers, and clean clothes and a close bond with a lot of the other people in custody who have become like family”.

This shows just how vital it is to set up community supports and strategies before release and why Belonging to Family focuses on building a network outside of the correctional centre.

Moving forward

Finally, after so many attempts in the past, the happy day came when Emmie graduated from the program, received her certificate and shared with Alison that she wanted to take part in a rehabilitation program when she was released.

Pleased to hear that she was taking control of her future, our facilitator Alison helped Emmie submit her application and was overjoyed when she was accepted into a rehab centre in Lismore!

Since then, Emmie hasn’t looked back.

She’s now settled into the rehabilitation program, is taking positive steps to connect with her daughter and is excited about becoming a present and loving grandmother.

She told Allison that she was so grateful to have the SHINE for Kids team with her on this journey and that, had she not been able to do the program, she “would never know what else exists outside of the cycle of incarceration and that environment,” said Alison.

*Participant names and images are changed to protect their and their family’s identities.

*Thank you to the National Indigenous Australians Agency, which supports this program. 


Becoming a grandmother motivated Emmie to take control of her future & join Belonging to Family

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