22 December 2022
Donated Christmas gifts mean a great deal to women spending the holidays behind bars, a Prison Network volunteer says.
Each year, the organisation has delivered gift parcels to women in the two Victorian women’s prisons, the maximum-security Dame Phyllis Frost Centre and minimum-security Tarrengower Prison. The parcels contain hair products, coffee sachets, stationery and Tim Tams.
Volunteer manager Andrea Steele said the gifts helped the recipients feel seen and that it was obvious the parcels had been packed with love. Ms Steele said about 30 volunteers had packed 500 gift parcels this year with donations of useful items from churches and other groups across the state. She said every woman received a gift, and the surplus was given to children of the women or those leaving prison.
“Many of them don’t get anything for Christmas,” Ms Steele said. “They lose connection with their families when they’re in prison.”
She said the night spent packing the gift parcels was always a meaningful one.
“It’s my favourite event of the year to be honest,” Ms Steele said.
Prison Network is a faith-based ministry which seeks to support incarcerated women in Victoria with several initiatives including craft programs, programs for children with mothers in prison and support for those transitioning out of prison.
Prison Network volunteer and St Mark’s Anglican Camberwell parishioner Jan Harcourt said she was surprised that not everyone wanted to show care to women facing prison sentences. She said the church had been assisting the agency for about 13 years and provided the Tim Tams for the parcels.
“When you know their background, you can’t help but want to let them know that someone cares about them,” she said.
Ms Harcourt said Christmas was a challenging time for women in prison as they were separated from their families and children.
“For them to know that someone outside they don’t even know thought of them means a huge amount,” she said.
To find out more or get involved in Prison Network, see here.