From a Murri (Queensland Aboriginal) perspective Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners are not divorced from their families when they are incarcerated. On the contrary, we see ourselves (family) as the prisoner’s main support unit. Incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are at crisis point in Australia; over representation is increasing, burdening both prisons and families. Families of prisoners are often an unseen (hidden) group in our communities. Current correctional service practice generally falls short of involving family members in prisoner throughcare processes. Often family lived experiences are neglected when a family member is incarcerated, and families are left feeling isolated from the criminal justice system processes. Moreover, family members are often left in ignorance of the potential formal contribution they can make in supporting their loved one to stay out of prison and leading meaningful lives in community. Where prisoner and family members live in a rural or remote Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community the burden of incarceration is intensified. The tyranny of geographical distances and separation from ‘country’ between families and their loved one hinders the family support process, thus constricting any meaningful engagement in throughcare programs and individual prisoner support. This paper addresses the lived experience of the impact of incarceration on a Murri family in the context of the national agenda of incarceration, deaths in custody and the personal conviction that family can, and must be a significant component for a whole of community approach for reintegration processes and reducing over incarceration.
College of Health Care Sciences, James Cook University
Academic Lead Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health
Biography: Dr Lynore Geia is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman born and raised on Palm Island, Queensland, home to the Bwgcolman people. Lynore has over 30 years’ experience as a health professional (nursing/midwifery) her most extensive practice being in rural and remote Central Australia in Aboriginal community controlled health. Lynore is committed to developing effective health research and education that impacts on health praxis; in particular ‘Closing the Gap’ in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island health. This has led to a passion to develop support strategies with community members and community organisations to strengthen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth health and families through best practice. The passion to work with community has extended into the use of social media for public health activism and advocacy such as #IHMayDay an annual 15 hour Twitter event convened and moderated by Lynore in collaboration with public health journalist Melissa Sweet and other health professionals. Lynore holds the current position of Senior Lecturer and Academic Lead for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Indigenous Futures Research Lead in the Centre for Nursing & Midwifery Research, at the College of Health Care Sciences, James Cook University. Her research interest extends through the lens of Indigenous Health including Rural and Remote Health, Family Wellbeing/Family Violence, Perinatal Mental Health, Youth and Young Adults Health, Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs and Indigenous Prisoner Health. In addition Lynore is involved in various leadership roles in Indigenous health and community services on State and Federal forums.