Pro­gram leader says hope is the key to help

Mercury (Hobart) - - NEWS - AM­BER WIL­SON

IT’S never too late to work with pris­on­ers and see pow­er­ful out­comes — just ask speech pathol­o­gist and crim­i­nol­o­gist Ros­alie Martin.

The 2017 Tas­ma­nian Aus­tralian of the Year ran two phi­lan­throp­i­cally funded pro­grams at Ris­don and Mary Hutchi­son Women’s Prison for four years — and no­ticed some star­tling re­sults. With pris­on­ers she was work­ing with start­ing to turn their lives around, Ms Martin has now se­cured State Govern­ment fund­ing to de­liver a sec­ond 12month pro­gram on par­entchild at­tach­ment.

She said the prisons had “wel­comed” her in, and that At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Elise Archer had “cham­pi­oned” the par­ent-child pro­gram.

“It’s the qual­ity of the re­la­tion­ship and the safety and trust in par­ent-child re­la­tion­ships that leads to chil­dren’s rich­est lan­guage devel­op­ment, which also leads to their lit­er­acy devel­op­ment,” Ms Martin said.

“Se­cure re­la­tion­ships are the fer­tile ground and the root of the devel­op­ment of lan­guage, which gives us our hu­man agency, and pro-so­cial skills, which al­lows us to live to­gether well in so­ci­ety, solv­ing our prob­lems as we go.”

She said build­ing skills in pris­on­ers, who may have missed out on learn­ing vi­tal el­e­ments needed for a healthy and happy life, was key to re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing peo­ple out of in­car­cer­a­tion.

“Ac­tiv­i­ties and sup­ports that pro­vide peo­ple with hope — hope that they can move on from a chal­lenge they’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing at the mo­ment — is re­ally im­por­tant,” she said

“Hope as an emo­tional re­sponse and a mind-state is em­pow­er­ing, be­cause it’s an in­vi­ta­tional space that opens up all the pos­si­bil­i­ties that might have be­fore been closed down.

“If we don’t have the abil­ity to see pos­si­bil­i­ties, then we might be left just stuck in our cir­cum­stances, and of course peo­ple in prison are very phys­i­cally stuck in their cir­cum­stances. So it’s a men­tal re­lease — a re­lease of the mind for hope.”

Ms Martin said de­vel­op­ing trust and re­la­tion­ships with pris­on­ers was vi­tal in that process.

“It’s ac­tu­ally never too late,” she said. “Neu­ro­science over the past 20 years has shown us so much that we didn’t pre­vi­ously know about the ex­tent of the neu­ro­plas­tic­ity of the brain.

“It’s never too late to be able to gain skills, to be able to be sup­ported, to be able to have hope opened.”

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