Adjournment Speech on Women in Prison Advocacy Network

Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK ( 21:48 ): I pay tribute to Ms Jan Barham. All members have been moved by her speech. We all recognise the challenges that she has faced. She has had a number of things accumulate in a short amount of time. She has the admiration and love of all members of this House at this time.

I have spoken before about the Women in Prison Advocacy Network [WIPAN]. It is an organisation about which I feel passionately. On its website WIPAN's motto is shown as, "Every woman deserves the opportunity to build herself a brighter future." It is something I strongly believe in. The women who are trying to make a difference in this space are the best people in our community, women who have the best aspirations for our community and who we ought to be backing, because they are the way forward for us on so many complex and difficult issues.

I pay tribute to Kat Armstrong who co-founded WIPAN in 2007. She stepped down as the chair in January this year. If one looks at her curriculum vitae one will see that she has a law degree, a diploma in accounting and other qualifications but the critical one is that she has lived experience. Kat did 10 years. She was a mother. Forty-seven per cent of the women in prison are mothers with children and arrangements need to be made for those children. Kat went through a revolving cycle and I have been privileged to hear her story. She climbed out of her situation with the motivation of winning back the love and respect of her daughter. The journey Kat undertook is a moving and extraordinary story. Kat should be made Australian of the Year. She is a most remarkable woman and an inspiration to me and to every woman who encounters her. She is moved to compensate for her own losses by reaching out to help other women so that they will not suffer similar loss. It is a display of extraordinary humanity from somebody who had nothing. I am constantly amazed by how often I encounter the generosity and extraordinary humanity of people who have nothing compared to people who have a lot. Kat is a case in point and I thank her.

I refer also to Lana Sandas, the Chief Executive Officer [CEO] of WIPAN. She has been mentored by Kat, as have many women—and I count myself as someone Kat mentors. Lana has a Bachelor of Social Science and a Certificate IV in Alcohol and Drugs. She is a gorgeous, extraordinary young woman with so much to contribute but on her curriculum vitae—as on Kat's—Lana has "lived experience". She has accomplished so much. Having had an encounter with the drug ice in prison, she turned her own life around. Lana is an amazing inspiration to all women but she was unable to obtain employment until she encountered WIPAN.

Women in prison who have been assisted by WIPAN have a recidivism rate of 7 per cent compared to a recidivism rate of 38.6 for women who are not able to come into WIPAN's program. Between 2004 and 2014 female incarceration rates increased by 54.87 per cent. Women now make up more than 7 per cent of our prison population, including 37.8 per cent who are Indigenous. The cost of a prisoner per day is $237.34, amounting to $86,630 per year. Government support of the WIPAN program is a no-brainer, financially, socially, morally and ethically. The people at WIPAN afford a gem of an opportunity in terms of turning lives around for women and their children who are in need of their assistance. I call on my Government to give WIPAN every support it can. I call on every employer in New South Wales to assist the wonderful work of WIPAN.