The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (14:42:32): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing questions to the Minister for the Status of Women and, indeed, Employment, Higher Education and Skills, about the Adelaide Women's Prison at Northfield.
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: The South Australian branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom has contacted me to express their concerns over the poor state of the Adelaide Women's Prison at Northfield. They claim that the facility is overcrowded, with approximately 150 to 160 women in that prison, and it has inadequate educational and exercise facilities that are inferior to those provided in the male prisons.
This has the potential to detrimentally impact the mental and physical wellbeing of these women, but of course we know that rehabilitation is essential, coupled with education and training through life skills and VET. These courses are vital to optimise female prisoners' employment prospects upon release and minimise recidivism. My questions to the minister are:
1.What level of awareness does the minister have of the conditions and the offerings for vocational education and training at the Northfield Women's Prison?
2.What steps has the minister taken to ensure that there is adequate education, training and rehabilitation, including life skill and VET courses, there to improve the outcomes for those female prisoners?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) (14:43:58): I thank the honourable member for her most important question. Indeed, I have certainly had the experience of visiting the Adelaide Women's Prison, and talking at length with—I think she is the executive director—Vanessa Swan. I think the Hon. Tammy Franks would probably know Vanessa from her days in terms of running the Office for Women. She is an incredibly committed and hardworking public servant.
She invited me there to take me around the prison and show me some of the challenges they face there. Obviously the management of the prison, funding and conditions, etc. come under the purview of the Minister for Correctional Services. However, I have started some work with Ms Vanessa Swan on looking at ways to enhance the experience for women detainees, because in the past they have been treated in the same way as men, and the same models of incarceration and rehabilitation and those sorts of things have been applied to women as to men. Of course, that is not necessarily the most appropriate model to use. I know Ms Swan has been working very hard to develop a gender-sensitive model to improve the outcomes for women who are incarcerated in prison.
We discussed at length some training options for women who are incarcerated and also better links. There is a transition arrangement that they have for those who are potentially soon to be released where they are engaged in employment outside of the prison and they go out to their job each day and come back. It is a way of helping them to adjust to the outside world before being released. I know we spoke at length about improving some of those pathways for women and making better employment connections so that women are better rehabilitated before they are released. I certainly continue to work with her in relation to those matters.