About the Project
The ‘Social and Cultural Resilience and Emotional Wellbeing of Aboriginal Mothers in Prison’ (SCREAM) project is a National Health and Medical Research Council study aimed at improving health outcomes and culturally safe services for Aboriginal mothers in prison. The project is a mixed methods study based in NSW and WA. The project is known by its acronym, SCREAM, in NSW and by its full title in WA. The project is led by Professor Elizabeth Sullivan, Professor of Public Health, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney.
Indigenous women are the fastest growing group within the Australian prison population. Indigenous women have been, and continue to be, the main carers and providers in their extended families. The increasing imprisonment of Aboriginal women is therefore a major public health issue for Aboriginal families, communities and society as a whole. One way in which the burden of disease and cycle of incarceration within families can be addressed is by improving health outcomes for Aboriginal mothers and Aboriginal women in prison and in the post-release period. This project involves Aboriginal mothers and a broad range of other stakeholders in identifying practical steps to reduce health inequalities between Aboriginal mothers in contact with the criminal justice system and those in the community. In doing so, it will address the burden of disease and cycle of incarceration within families by informing culturally safe health care policy and practice.
This study has been initiated by and will be carried out by Aboriginal women. Two of the CIs are Aboriginal female academics that have participated in an advisory group for a NHMRC project grant on the impact of imprisonment on women whilst pregnant. This group was unanimous in the view that the consequences of imprisonment for Aboriginal mothers, women, children and communities are unique to Aboriginal peoples and a systematic investigation must be conducted and properly resourced if any practical benefit is to be derived from the research.
1. Involve a broad range of stakeholders throughout the research process
2. Describe the health of Aboriginal mothers in prison with a focus on social and emotional wellbeing
3. Investigate the equity of access to culturally safe health care in prison for Aboriginal women
4. Identify the key attributes of culturally safe models of health care for Aboriginal women in prison
5. Identify pathways for the transition of culturally safe health care into the community so that health gains are maximised on release from prison
6. Build capacity among Aboriginal researchers, Aboriginal community controlled health services and relevant community organisations
Design & Method
This is a study of Aboriginal women in prison and their institutional and external stakeholders. The study design uses a mixed methods approach, including the application of nationally developed standardised measures of Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing and narrative interviews. Stakeholder consultation has been undertaken throughout the project. The principle of involving stakeholders in defining and answering research questions and identifying actions to be implemented draws upon participatory action research.
Phase one of the project (2010-2012) involved extensive consultation with Aboriginal community organisations, government and non-government stakeholders culminating in the formation of project advisory groups to guide the project throughout the research. Phase two of the project (2013) was the data collection stage of the study involving collection of survey and interview data with Aboriginal women in NSW and WA correctional centres. The project is now in its third and final stage of data analysis and dissemination.
The high level of incarceration of Aboriginal women represents a health risk. However, culturally safe, high quality health care in this environment and successful integration with community-based services has the potential to reduce the health, social and economic burden of Aboriginal maternal imprisonment on society as well as the individual. The immediate outcomes of the research will include specific recommendations for models of care for Aboriginal women in the prison context, prepared with the involvement of women themselves, health and correctional services, and community organisations; increased capacity among Aboriginal female researchers in the field of public health and justice health; and recommendations for professional development and skills training among health and correctional workers in Australian prisons. In the medium- to long-term, it is hoped that the study will generate improved understanding of the needs of Aboriginal women in Australian prisons, with particular regard to the impact of this rising imprisonment on children and families as a whole. Opportunities for prevention and early intervention will be identified with the research providing a platform for policy and practice change in this area.
The outcomes of the research will include specific recommendations for models of care for Aboriginal women in prison; increased capacity among Aboriginal female researchers in the field of public health and prison health; and recommendations for professional development and skills training among health and correctional workers in Australian prisons. Opportunities for early intervention to prevent fragmentation and disintegration of the family; grief; stigma; financial hardship; and the psychological trauma which leads to offending behaviour in children will be identified, with the research providing a platform for policy and practice change.
Professor and Program Head
Ph +61 2 9385 9257
Professor Elizabeth Sullivan, Assistant Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research), Professor of Public Health, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, NSW
Professor Juanita Sherwood, Academic Director, National Centre for Cultural Competence, Office Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services), University of Sydney, NSW
Ms Jocelyn Jones, Research Fellow, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, WA
Professor Eileen Baldry, School of Social Sciences, University of New South Wales, NSW
Professor Tony Butler, Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales, NSW
Associate Professor Marisa Gilles, Rural & Remote Medical Practice, Combined Universities Centre for Rural Health, Geraldton WA
Professor Michael Levy, Director ACT Justice Health Service, Australian National University Medical School, Canberra ACT
Dr Sacha Kendall, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, NSW
Dr Mandy Wilson, Research Fellow, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, WA
Project Collaborators: External
Public Health, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney
National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, WA