In 2013, members of The Zonta Club of Sydney voted to support women affected by the criminal justice system as the Club’s principal Advocacy project. Since then, the Club, in partnership with the Sydney Community Foundation, Shine for Kids, Women’s Justice Network and the Miranda Project have hosted the annual Breakfast event, ‘Empowering Women, Changing Lives’ at Sydney’s Parliament House. The focus of this event is to advocate for change and raise public awareness into the many issues faced by women caught up in the criminal justice system.
Members of the ZCS Advocacy Committee serve voluntarily on the Keeping Women out of Prison (KWooP) Coalition and its sub-committees and join other ZCS volunteers at the ‘Empowering Women, Changing Lives’ Parliament House Breakfast.
In addition to the Breakfast event, two lunch events focussing on women affected by the criminal justice system have been held at the Union Club, Sydney.
By 2018, Coalition members were joined by collaborating organisations – the Community Restorative Centre (CRC), Dress for Success, Corrective Services NSW, Australian Centre for Public and Population Health Research, UTS, Justice NSW and UNSW School of Social Sciences.
Following the success of previous Breakfasts, in 2016 the Keeping Women out of Prison (KWooP) Coalition launched their first Position Paper at the 2016 Breakfast and determined the following Action Areas as their primary areas of focus and advocacy.
- Community-based diversionary options at all points of contact with the criminal justice system.
- Custodial sentences for women should be reserved for serious and violent offenders who pose a threat to the public.
- Women unlikely to receive a custodial sentence should not be remanded in custody.
- Expansion of sentencing options to accommodate locality and reality of women’s lives.
- Women must never be sent to prison ‘for their own good’, to teach them a lesson, for their own safety, or to access services or treatment.
- Disaggregation of data by gender and Aboriginality to be standard practice among jurisdictional agencies.
- Better evaluation and accountability on current expenditure on women’s incarceration.
- Long-term resourcing for women-centred, holistic, community-based services and support.
- The appointment of a specific officer in the departments of Education, Justice, Police, Health and Social Services, to work together with Corrective Services and children’s agencies such as SHINE for Kids, to facilitate effective support for children when their parent goes to prison or enters the criminal justice system.
In 2018, the updated position statement was released, with the following areas recognised for Advocacy and Action for Change
- Introduce targeted statewide diversionary programs as alternatives to custodial sentence.
- Strengthen laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of a criminal record.
- Develop meaningful employment options for women affected by the criminal justice system.
- Actively support legislative changes so that only women convicted of violent crime receive custodial sentence – the current UK model. All others to be sentenced to community based management.
At Club level, the Advocacy Committee provides members with monthly reports on media, statistics and reports from local and overseas sources relating to women affected by the criminal justice system. Our Club has also welcomed guest speakers from Corrective Services, the Women’s Justice Network and the Miranda Project.
Through financial donations, clothing and toiletries, ZCS members support Lou’s Place, Kings Cross. Lou’s Place is a community-based daytime refuge for women in crisis. Lou’s Place runs the Miranda Program, which supports women 18 years and over who are at risk of family or domestic violence and criminal justice system involvement. The program also provides support to women in the community, who are going to court for bail or sentencing, women on parole and women nearing their release date.
Personal advocacy – ZCS members are provided with a template letter to send to their local MP or the media on issues relating to women in prison, domestic violence and issues raised by Zonta International during the ‘Zonta Says No’ campaign from 25 November to 10 December each year. While members are encouraged and expected to raise their concerns, they are advised that letters must only be sent in a private capacity.
Follow updates on our advocacy projects in our latest news pages, or click on the links here –