Program leader says hope is the key to help
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.”