Response to the Inquiry into children affected by parental incarceration report

Tuesday 9 August 2022

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Safe and Equal welcomes the release of the final report from Victoria’s Legislative Council Legal and Social Issues Committee’s inquiry into children affected by parental incarceration.

The report details how shockingly invisible these children are within the system, and the significant harms they experience when deprived of the opportunity to grow up with their parents. The Inquiry’s findings make clear the lack of appropriate community support available to children and families affected by parental incarceration, and the failure of the justice system and courts to consider the rights and needs of children when making custodial rulings. 

Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha commended the Committee’s recommendations for longer-term, sustainable funding for organisations that support these children and families. 

Organisations that support children and families of incarcerated parents do significant and highly-specialised work. It’s great to see their vital expertise acknowledged and prioritised in the report, she said. 

We welcome all recommendations contained in the report, and are particularly pleased to see the following: 

  • Legislative reform should be enacted to reduce the growing prison population in Victoria. 
  • That the Victorian Government implement systemic data collection processes to identify the number of children impacted by parental incarceration, including the children of parents on remand. 
  • That Victoria Police, in collaboration with legal and community stakeholders, implement a review mechanism for family violence matters capable of identifying instances where a victim survivor may have been misidentified as the primary aggressor in an incident and provide information about a process for the withdrawal of criminal charges. 
  • That the Victorian Government actively and continuously consult with children and families affected by parental incarceration in designing and implementing appropriate systemic changes and improved supports for this cohort. 
  • That the Victorian Government develop a long-term sustainable funding model to resource community organisations that support children affected by parental incarceration and their families. 

Importantly, the Committee’s findings highlight that family violence is a significant driver of women’s imprisonment. Without appropriate support for women and mothers experiencing family violence, we will continue to see unfathomably high rates of incarceration, and the increased risk of harm to children.

Even short periods of imprisonment can result in catastrophic implications for women and their children. We can’t ignore the links between structural gender inequality, family violence and the rising rates of women in Victoria’s prisons.

– Tania Farha, Safe and Equal CEO 

The report further highlights the improvements to systemic data collection required to address the invisibility of children and young people whose parents are in prison. As we simply don’t know how many Victorian children currently have a parent in prison, we cannot offer appropriate supports, or work to improve the system to better meet their needs.  

Notably, this report was released on National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Children’s Day (4 August). We know that women, and in particular Aboriginal women, are the fastest growing cohort in Victorian prisons. As the report states, 20 per cent of Aboriginal children will experience parental incarceration, compared to 5 per cent of non-Aboriginal children.  

These statistics are unacceptable and require urgent action. We recognise the strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the face of ongoing colonisation, racism and discrimination, and acknowledge that these factors lead to the over-incarceration of Aboriginal people. 

We are heartened to see such considered and actionable recommendations, despite the undeniable complexity of the issues detailed in the report. We look forward to working with the Victorian Government and our colleagues in the justice sector to achieve meaningful and long-lasting outcomes for these children. 

Read the full report here.

Page last updated Tuesday, August 9 2022


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