Playgroup for parents in custody keeps families connected


ACT Corrective Services (ACTCS), together with SHINE for Kids, have launched a playgroup for family members in custody at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC).

The Stay Together, Play Together program supports vital family relationships, improves children’s wellbeing and better prepares parents for a hands-on role once they are back home.

This program is the first playgroup offered to fathers in custody across any of the correctional centres that SHINE for Kids work with across Australia.

Yeddung Mura Aboriginal Corporation has also partnered with the program to provide live music and culturally appropriate resources and activities to the playgroup.

Minister for Corrections and Justice Health Emma Davidson said the playgroup aims to remove the discrimination and stigma faced by children and families due to a parent’s imprisonment.

“This program is about connection and family. For parents in AMC, connection with their family helps them return home with better support, belonging and pride in their children. These elements set them on the best trajectory to be healthy and safe in our community and reduce the likelihood of reoffending,” Minister Davidson said.

“When parents enter the criminal justice system, and children grow up without a parent for a period of time, it can significantly impact their development, identity and sense of belonging. This program not only helps parents stay connected, but support children to have positive relationships with the adults in their lives.”

“The playgroup, with the other family programs SHINE has been delivering since 2011, supports healthy family connections to reduce family engagement in the justice system. It explores the emotional and social complexities of shame, anger and denial which can have a negative impact on family relationships and community reintegration.”

Additionally, SHINE’s national Australian research has found that:

  • 97 per cent of parents said their child benefits from SHINE for Kids services
  • 90 per cent of parents in custody report feeling more confident in their parenting skills after completing a SHINE for Kids program
  • 98 per cent of parents and carers said SHINE for Kids makes it easier for children to visit their parent

A SHINE facilitator said the first playgroup session went wonderfully and shared the moving moment when one dad’s toddler fell asleep on his shoulder, with the young dad saying: “I can hear his heartbeat – I feel like a dad again.”

A landmark UK review in August 2017 by Lord Farmer found that detainees who receive visits are 39 per cent less likely to reoffend than those who do not.

More information on the programs can be found on the SHINE for Kids website.

Quotes attributable to ACT Corrective Services Acting Commissioner Bruno Aloisi:

“ACT Corrective Services is proud to be the first jurisdiction to host SHINE for Kids’ supported playgroups for both mothers and fathers in custody.”

“We know family connection plays a key role in rehabilitation and SHINE for Kids’ partnership with Yeddung Mura Aboriginal Corporation makes these supported playgroups even more valuable.”

Quotes attributable to SHINE for Kids CEO Julie Hourigan:

“We're at the beginning of an exciting time for SHINE for Kids in the ACT. It's not only the first time we've offered playgroups for fathers in custody, it's also the first time our entire suite of programs has been provided at any correctional centre.

“Children with a parent at the Alexander Maconochie Centre can now access supported visits, child and parent days, our storytime program, and playgroup – and parents in custody can participate in parenting programs.

“It will be wonderful to see the benefit of all our programs working together and our partnership with ACT Corrective Services for families in the ACT.”

Quotes attributable to Kieralea Baxter, Yeddung Mura:

“Yeddung Mura does a vital job of weaving cultural activities into the AMC Parenting program to maintain connection to culture, community, and family. Yeddung Mura brings a culturally safe lens to the playgroup that strengthens the engagement and support for Families.”