Prison program aims to empower

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times
Dr Jane Anderson and Maree Goulden.
Camera IconDr Jane Anderson and Maree Goulden.

Victims of crime and prisoners are coming together in the same room through a unique project at Bunbury Regional Prison.

The Sycamore Tree Project aims to create a “safe environment” for people affected by both sides of crime.

Administrator and facilitator Dr Jane Anderson said the project addressed the harm of crime and empowered victims.

“Many of the prisoner participants identify with these crime victims as surrogate parents, making them reflect deeply on what they have done,” she said.

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“This experience often prompts them to refresh or repair their relationships with family members.

“As for the crime victims, they get the chance to share their stories and ask questions ... resulting in a reduction of fear and growth in understanding, confidence and control of life.

“This program aims to bring about healing to all parties.”

A social anthropologist and victim of crime herself, Dr Anderson has developed the project — sponsored by Prison Fellowship Western Australia — over the past couple of years.

The restorative justice program runs one day a week over eight weeks and includes workshops based around conversations, forgiveness and questions.

Bunbury resident Maree Goulden has been taking part in the program as a victim of crime and said it had empowered her.

“There was no support, I was doing it alone and, as a person, you’re just living in the depths of despair and that’s the life you live before you actually find something like this,” she said.

“This has been in my life for probably about 28 years and now there’s been a shift because I’ve let the pain go. You just get stuck and it’s through doing things like this you can release that, you can become more empowered.

“I’d love to see more people get involved because it’s just an amazing thing.”

Dr Anderson is encouraging more victims to join the program, which runs eight times a year.

“They (victims) become much more confident ... they become stronger, more powerful, they can start crafting a more positive life and they move beyond being a victim,” she said.

Contact Dr Anderson on 0419 952 735 to join.

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