This information is for those preparing for release from prison, or for those who have recently been released.
Day-to-day challenges can put a lot of stress on someone who has just been released. Things like finding a place to live, talking to Centrelink or getting in touch with family and friends can all be difficult. Although you may have heard that many people released from custody end up back in prison sooner or later, there are many others who succeed in making a new start. The first few weeks and months are critical. This information is here to help you through this time.
You may think that if you can handle prison you can handle anything, but many people on release have said that the first few weeks outside were actually harder than the time they spent inside. Coping with money problems, dealing with other people, and feeling like you don’t fit in can be overwhelming. You may feel depressed and anxious and not want to leave your room. If the stress feels like it’s getting too much or is stopping you getting things done, it’s time to seek support.
> Who can help?
On this website is a list of key agencies that provide free help.
Telling services that you’ve been in prison can help them understand better what you’re going through. But it’s up to you to decide how much you feel you want to say and what you are comfortable with.
CRC has developed a range of fact-sheets about common questions and worries that people have when they get out of prison. These fact-sheets were written during COVID-19 when services were operating a little differently, but have information that should be useful at other times also.
If you are still in custody, it can be very difficult to organise these things yourself so it can help to ask a SAPO, case manager or Community Corrections officer to help you. It can also be helpful if you have family or friends on the outside who can help organise things.
HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
Homelessness is often the biggest worry that people have when being released from custody. A lot of people leave prison not sure of where they will live. Sometimes people need crisis accommodation (often known as ‘TA’) when they first get out. TA usually means a short period of accommodation in a hotel or a motel.
CRC staff are experienced in helping people coming out of prison to navigate TA and access homelessness services, so please call us for help on (02) 9288 8700.
> I am in prison and I don't have anywhere to live when I get out. What should I do?
Talk to a SAPO, case manager or a parole officer about the fact you will be homeless on release. If you are on parole, there are a limited number of short-term transitional beds (usually for up to 12 weeks) that might be options. These beds are in group settings, and have support workers attached who are there to help with reintegration and finding your feet after prison. Most of these services need Community Corrections to make a referral and have quite detailed eligibility criteria so you will need to check this out.
There are also a number of support services (like CRC) who can work with you longer term to try and find some accommodation, but this can be a long-term process so it might well be that you need to find some short-term or crisis accommodation first.
There is a referral program called ‘Set to Go’ that allows you to book five nights temporary accommodation (TA) before you get out of prison. This used to be just for people on parole, but it is now available for all people in prison. If you are on parole, your community corrections officer should make the referral. If not, ask your SAPO or case manager. Sometimes people working in prisons haven’t heard of this program, so you might need to ask a few times! If you can’t get anyone inside prison to help you with this, call CRC on (02) 9288 8700 and we can try and work with you to get this organised before you get out.
> What happens if I am released from prison and I am homeless?
Link2Home is the main service for people who don’t have a bed for that night. Their number is 1800 152 152. Remember that it can take a long time for someone to answer the phone at Link2Home so it is a good idea to make yourself comfortable before you call. Link2Home can provide TA as well as referral to a casework service. TA can also be accessed through any NSW FACS/Housing office.
> I am in Temporary Accommodation. How long can I stay in temporary accommodation?
Temporary accommodation is usually for 3 nights, with a limit of 28 nights per year
. The rules around TA changed during COVID-19, and people were being granted longer periods of TA and it was easier to extend it.
It is a good idea to check with Link2Home directly how many nights TA you currently are able to access. You can always apply to have your time extended in TA if you don’t have anywhere to live. To do this you can contact Link2Home by phone (1800 152 152), or you can email the local housing office (if you have been given this email). If you have a case worker, they can also email a support letter for extension of your TA. If you are having problems extending your TA and you don’t have anywhere to live, please call CRC on (02) 9288 8700.
> Is it still possible to inspect a property?
Landlords and agents can still show you the premises after they have made an appointment with you. Before they do this they might ask you questions about your health and how you are feeling. This is to make sure you don’t have COVID-19. They should provide masks and hand sanitiser/wash and ensure you don’t touch anything.
> I am sleeping rough. How can I stay safe? What crisis services can help me?
If you are in Central Sydney, you can call Missionbeat on 1800 306 461
and they can help you by transporting you to a crisis service or helping you to access TA.
The Department of Communities and Justice has patrols that look for rough sleepers in areas where they often sleep, such as around Central Station/Belmore Park and Martin Place. They will work with you to find accommodation. This is a particularly risky time to be sleeping rough so even if you don’t usually like to access Government services, it may be worth giving it a try now.
Websites and Phone Numbers for Further Information
List of all NSW FACS/Housing offices: https://www.facs.nsw.gov.au/about/contact/housing/a-z
Renting during COVID-19: https://www.tenants.org.au/blog/renting-and-covid-19-information
Information for rough sleepers: https://www.facs.nsw.gov.au/providers/homelessness-services/updates/people-sleeping-rough-and-covid-19-dcj-and-homelessness-sector-response
Call Link2Home on 1800 152 152.
CENTRELINK AND FINANCES
There have been some changes to the way Centrelink operates since COVID-19, including the amount that you get paid and what you have to do to keep getting paid.
There are a lot more people who are trying to get help due to the pandemic. This means that it can take a long time to speak to someone on the phone, or that there can be long lines at Centrelink to see someone.
It might take extra time for your payment to get sorted out. If you need a bit of extra support give CRC a call on (02) 9288 8700
> I am in prison and want to organise Centrelink before I get out.
Centrelink has a special prisons unit that helps people before they get out of prison to get their payments organised so there is money in your account on the day of release.
If you have a release date, have been in prison for more than 14 days, and you have been on Centrelink before, there is a system in place to organise getting your payment sorted before you get out.
> How can I organise payment before I get out?
If it is coming up to your release and no-one has spoken to you about organising Centrelink payments, ask to speak to a SAPO (Services and Programs Officer). They can organise a phone call with staff at Centrelink who are there to help people in prison. Try and organise to do this at least a week before you get out.
If you have confirmed your identity with Centrelink in the past, they will be able to organise your payment by running through what is called ‘an alternate identification process’. If you have received Centrelink before but they do not have a record of your confirmed identification, you will still be able to receive a payment, but will need to confirm your identity with them once you get out. You will have six months to do this.
You will need to have details of a bank account that Centrelink can put money into when you call them.
> Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and ID
If you are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and you don’t have enough identification for a payment, you can sign a Confirmation of Identity form with Centrelink.
You might need to ask for this, because it isn’t always something that Centrelink staff will offer. Signing this form allows up to 12 weeks for you to obtain the ID needed for Centrelink without your payments being suspended. A link to this form is here.
You can also contact the Centrelink Indigenous Call Centre on 1800 136 380 Mon – Fri, 8 am – 5 pm.
> What if I don't have a bank account?
If you don’t have your own bank account, you can nominate to use someone else’s bank account until you do. You will need to get a Centrelink form to nominate a bank account from a SAPO. You will need to fill the form out, and then send it to the person whose bank account you plan to use. They will need to fill out a section of it, and then take it in to Centrelink.
This can take a bit of time, so try and do this at least four weeks before you are due to get out. When choosing a bank account to nominate, it is best to make it someone in your family who you really trust. Later, when you are out and have had a chance to open your own bank account, you can change your details with Centrelink.
If you are not able to organise opening a bank account, and there is no-one else’s bank account you can use, it is also possible to request an EBT (Electronic Bank Transfer) card for your first payment. After this you can organise a bank account for following payments.
> What if I can't organise Centrelink before I get out?
Sometimes it isn’t possible to organise payments before release. Sometimes this is because Centrelink might need more information to work out the right payment for you, or they might not have a record of you on their system. If you don’t know your release date in advance (for instance, if you are on remand, or you are released unexpectedly on parole) it can also be very difficult to organise Centrelink before you leave prison.
If you do end up getting out of prison with no Centrelink, you should go to a Centrelink office as soon as you can. You need to go in the first seven days after you have been released. You should take any identification that you have, your bank account details and your release papers. In the first seven days after you have been released if you are eligible for Centrelink payments you will also be eligible for a crisis payment.
If you are feeling unwell, do not attend Centrelink in person. Call Centrelink to ask how you should get started.
Centrelink Phone self-service 136 240 (24hr / 7 day)
Centrelink reporting 133 276 (24hr / 7 day)
Online Services Support Hotline 132 307 Mon – Fri: 7 am – 10 pm, Sat – Sun: 10 am – 5 pm
Find more contact numbers for help here.
> How much money will I get?
There are a few different kinds of Centrelink payments and how much you get depends on the payment type that you are eligible for.
Jobseeker is for people who are looking for work.
Disability Support pension is for people with disabilities who have difficulty working because of their disability (there are strict eligibility criteria for this).
Youth Allowance is for people who are under 22 years of age, including people who are looking for work.
Payment rates for Jobseeker and some forms of Youth Allowance have temporarily increased since COVID-19 because of a new payment called the Coronavirus supplement. Payment amounts are different for different people so it is best to check with Centrelink about your own situation. The amounts below are an example of what you would receive if you are a single person, with no children, who is eligible for the full amount of Jobseeker (the old Newstart). The government have said that the coronavirus supplement won’t go beyond September 2020, which means the total amounts below will be halved.
The fortnightly payment for people on Jobseeker is $565.70. The Coronavirus supplement is $550 a fortnight, dropping to $250 a fortnight from 24 September 2020 until 31 December 2020.
This means that if you are eligible for Jobseeker, from April 2020 you will receive both of these, a total $1,115.70 per fortnight (or $815.70 per fortnight after 24th September). It can take a little bit of time for this to get sorted into a regular payment, and this can make budgeting your payments for the first few weeks after prison really challenging.
When you are released from prison you will receive a crisis payment. This is a one-off payment of approximately $280. At the same time as you receive the crisis payment you can elect to receive the first HALF payment of your Jobseeker allowance. Most people leaving prison choose to do this. At the moment this is $280 Jobseeker, PLUS $270 of the Coronavirus supplement (dropping to $125 after 24th September 2020).
This means that when you leave prison, there will be approximately $830 in your bank account.
Two weeks after that, you will receive the second half of your jobseeker payment which will be about $550 ($280 plus $270 of the Coronavirus supplement). This will need to last you another two weeks.
You will receive the full payment of $1,115.70 every fortnight as long as you meet the eligibility criteria. You will receive the higher Coronavirus supplement until the end of September, and the lower supplement after than until December 31st. After that, you will only receive the Jobseeker allowance rate of $565.70 per fortnight.
If you are on the full Disability Support Pension your rates of payment have not changed. On release you will receive a crisis payment of $470 PLUS $470 (which is the first half of your full payment). In total, you will receive $940. This will need to last you for two weeks. And then you will receive the second half of your first payment which will be $470. This will need to last you another two weeks. After that you will receive $940 per fortnight.
Remember, everyone’s circumstances are different. These are examples of two of the most common payment types. Centrelink will make decisions about what you qualify for based on how much money you have, whether or not you have any kind of work, whether or not you have kids, and whether or not you have a partner.
> Do I need to prove that I am looking for work?
If you are on Jobseeker, then yes, but there are some changes to this because of COVID-19. Jobseeker payments usually mean you have to keep looking for work and be able to prove you are looking for work.
A lot of people are having problems looking for work during COVID-19 because there are not as many jobs as there once were. It is best to check directly with Centrelink about what your obligations are in terms of looking for work.
It is possible to write to Centrelink to ask for a six month exemption from looking for work if you have just been released from prison and are very stressed. There are also social workers at Centrelink that you can talk to about your situation.
> Can I organise to get paid without going in to the Centrelink office?
Because of the COVID-19 crisis, at the moment you can call up and organise your payment without going in to an office. Make sure you have all your ID and bank account information with you when you make the call.
It is not easy to get through on the phone because many people are trying to call Centrelink. It is a good idea to prepare yourself for a long wait, so make sure you are somewhere comfortable and safe, without too much background noise before you call.
Call 132850 for Jobseeker, Crisis payments or to ask to speak to Social Worker
Call 132490 for Youth Allowance
Call 132717 for the Disability Support Pension
We know that coming out of prison and settling back into the community is difficult for many people. It can be even harder when you have a disability and need someone to help you. There have been some changes recently because of COVID-19 in terms of how disability services are working. Talk to CRC about your support needs and we will do our best to help you find the services you need. You can call CRC on (02) 9288 8700 between Monday and Friday.
> Who do I call to talk about finding disability support?
People with Disability (PWD)
is a good place to talk to someone about your disability and getting support. PWD has a free service called Wayfinder Hub that you can call on 1800 843 929
. To use that service, you need to call up and leave a message with your name and number. Someone will call you back. The call will come from a private number.
Council for Intellectual Disability (CID). If you have an intellectual disability, you can call 1800 424 065 to talk to someone about getting help. This number is free.
COVID-19 Disability Information helpline (The Australian Government Department of Social Services Helpline) 1800 643 787.
IDEAS Offers phone information for everything disability related: 1800 029 904
> Will my usual disability support service still be able to help me?
Most disability support services are still running but may only be able to provide support by phone or internet. This might make it more difficult for you to feel supported and get the help you need. If you already have a disability support worker or service that helps you, phone them to ask how they can help you.
> What about the NDIS?
The NDIS is still running but during COVID-19. Many meetings and appointments are by phone. They have an action plan to make sure everyone who gets help from them keeps getting help. NDIS participant plans may be extended by up to two years, depending on your situation. This means you do not need to worry about your plan ending too soon. The NDIS has set up a special helpline for people during COVID-19. You call 1800 800 110
then press 5
If you already receive the disability support pension then this will continue as normal during COVID-19. People who were already receiving the disability pension before March 2020, and people who became new recipients of the disability support pension between March 12 and 13th April (inclusive), also receive a one-off $750 Economic Support Payment. If you don’t think you have received this payment, you can call the COVID-19 Disability information helpline on 1800 643 787.
Phone numbers and websites for further information:
Centrelink Disability Support Pension line: 132 717 or https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/disability-support-pension
Many people lose their personal ID when they have been in custody. It can be difficult to replace when you get out as you often need some form of ID to get other types of ID. It is really important to keep hold of your Release Certificate.
We understand that you may not want people to know you have just been released and showing people the certificate can be distressing, particularly when many services and organisations do not recognise it as official ID. But sometimes this is a really important starting point. Never forget that you are much more than someone who has been in prison – you are a person, like everyone else, who needs and deserves help.
Your release certificate can be useful in helping you to get a birth certificate, which can then help you get photo ID. You can call CRC on (02) 9288 8700 to have someone help you work out what you need to do to get ID.
> I have just got out of prison and I don’t have any identification. How do I get some ID?
If you were born in NSW call Service NSW on 13 77 88
. You will be able to speak to NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages or your closest Service NSW office. If you were born in another Australian State or Territory, you will need to call Births, Deaths and Marriages there. If you were born overseas, you will need to contact that country’s consulate. You can call CRC on (02) 9288 8700
and we will help you work out what number to call.
If you are asked to go into Births, Deaths and Marriages or Services NSW, take your Release Certificate. The Births, Deaths and Marriages Research Team can help you to get a copy of your birth certificate. If you are receiving Centrelink payments, you should be able to get a replacement Pensioner Concession Card. To get a replacement Medicare card you need to contact Medicare general enquiries on 13 20 11, or visit a Medicare service centre with other forms of ID.
If you have any other forms of ID at all, keep them safe as they may be useful. Examples include a citizenship certificate, bank card, TAFE ID card, home utilities bill from the past 3 months, any work-related licences.
> What identification do I need to access Centrelink or get a mobile phone or bank account?
You need 100 points of ID to open a bank account, or access Centrelink benefits. Different types of ID are worth different points. This usually means that you need to have a birth certificate, a passport, or a citizenship certificate. These are all worth 70 points. These forms of ID prove that you are an Australian citizen and have a right to benefits.
> Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and ID
If you are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and you don’t have enough identification for a payment, you can sign a Confirmation of Identity form with Centrelink. You might need to ask for this, because it isn’t always something that Centrelink staff will offer. Signing this form allows up to 12 weeks to obtain the ID needed for Centrelink without payments being suspended. A link to this form is here
> Websites and phone numbers for further information:
ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS
Many people who go to prison have ongoing problems with alcohol and/or other drugs (AOD). Using drugs and alcohol is often something that people do to try and manage pain and cope with difficult situations. Nobody chooses to become drug dependent – but it can be very easy to get stuck in a cycle of drug and alcohol use and imprisonment. This information is for people who want some help to find their way out of this cycle.
> How can I get AOD help on release from custody?
It can sometimes be difficult to know where to start with asking for help, and what kind of help would be most useful. Some people want to stop using drugs and alcohol completely. Other people don’t want to stop, but they don’t want to keep using in ways that land them in prison.
If you were using in custody, you might need to detox to safely remove drugs from your body. If you have already detoxed, you may need more support so that you use less or don’t use again. The type of long-term support that is likely to work for you depends on your needs. You might want to get into residential rehab. This can be difficult sometimes because of a lack of beds. Recently some rehabs have also been taking fewer new clients because of the COVID-19 crisis. For some people, ongoing support and counselling in the community is easier to access than rehab.
CRC has an AOD counselling team that may be able to help you figure out what you want and talk through where you are at. You can call us on (02) 92888700 (between Monday and Friday). There are also many other services available and CRC staff can help you to find services in your area.
For support, and up-to-date information about which rehabs are open you can also call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) which is open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week on 1800 250 015
> How can I use safely?
NUAA is an organisation that has lots of good advice on using safely. You can call them on
(02) 8354 7343
or look at their website https://www.nuaa.org.au/
NUAA recommends the following (especially during COVID-19*) to reduce the risk of transmission:
- Avoid sharing: bongs, joints, pipes, cigarettes, banknotes/tubes/straws for snorting, and injecting equipment (including water).
- Prepare your own drugs and inject yourself! Don’t handle or touch other people’s equipment/drugs, and don’t let them touch yours.
- Picking up? Wipe the package with a swab or hand sanitiser before you open it – especially if it has been in someone’s mouth!
- Be overdose aware. Erratic drug supply, illness and stress increase your overdose risk.
- Take-home naloxone is now free at participating chemists and services – why not stock up now so you’re prepared?
*read more in Phone Numbers and Websites for Further Information
> What about methadone?
The Opioid Treatment Line provides information, advice and referral about methadone and other opioid treatment and options. You can call them on 1800 642 428
There have been some changes recently during COVID-19 (such as different pick up times, or new rules around takeaways). It is best to speak to your provider to ask how they are currently working.
> 12 Step Meetings
To find out about 12 step meetings (both those that operate online and those that are back operating face to face), you can visit both the AA and the NA websites. These websites also have information about what to expect at meetings. To speak to someone about 12 step meetings and what they are about you can call AA on 1300 222 222
The Alcohol and Drug Information Service also can help with information on 1800 250 015
for AA meetings or https://www.na.org.au/multi/meetings/
for NA meetings
> Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Clients
If you are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and would like an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person to help you, CRC has experienced First Nations workers who can help people reconnect with their community, their culture, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander support services and programs.
> Phone Numbers and Websites for Further Information
Community Restorative Centre: (02)92888700
Alcohol and Drug Information Service: 1800 250 015
NUAA: (02) 8354 7343 https://www.nuaa.org.au/safer-using/safer-using
Opioid Treatment Line: 1800 642 428
AA: 1300 222 222
*Information about harm reduction taken directly from NUAA’s COVID-19 and Harm Reduction Factsheet available here
CLOTHING AND FOOD
When you leave prison, you will need to find your own clothes and food. It is difficult to know what services are open right now and where you can get the things you need. These are not normal times but don’t despair – this will not be forever. This fact sheet focuses on Sydney but wherever you are in NSW, please call CRC on (02) 9288 8700 and we will help you to find what you need in your area.
> I have got out of prison and don’t have any clothes to wear. Where can I get clothes?
Often when people come out of prison they don’t have any clothes. It can be really frustrating only having prison greens or clothes that don’t fit anymore. Big shops, like Kmart, Target, Big W and dollar shops are still open and have low-cost basics. Some op shops are also still open.
> I have got out of prison and don’t have any money or food. Where can I get food?
There are charities and community centres in many areas providing free meals, free or low-cost grocery basics or food vouchers. You can look up what is available in your area on www.askizzy.org.au
. CRC staff can look them up for you as well. Call CRC on (02) 92888700
Many of the usual charities are still providing meals during COVID-19. This is usually takeaway food only to allow for social distancing. This varies from area to area, so please call CRC for information about where to go in your area.
> I am feeling sick and need some groceries. What should I do? Who can help me?
If you are feeling sick with any symptoms it is important not to leave the house at the moment. Major supermarkets can deliver ‘basics boxes’ to your home; these are low-cost but not free. There are also some community pantries with low-cost essentials, such as the Sydney Food Pantry at 181 Parramatta Road Annandale, tel: 0449 844 006, or the Food Pantry at Addison Rd in Marrickville, which is open 12-4 on weekdays. They can be reached on (02) 95697633
Websites for further information:
DOMESTIC AND FAMILY VIOLENCE
This fact sheet is for women on the inside who are at risk of being released back into domestic violence. A lot of women who have been to prison have also survived domestic and family violence. Leaving prison, staying safe, rebuilding your life and finding somewhere to live can be difficult, and can feel overwhelming. But there are many places where you can get help. And remember, you are not alone.
> I am coming out of prison and I am worried about my partner or family member being violent. What should I do?
If your partner or family member has been violent in the past, and you are going back to the relationship or household where they live when you get out, it would be a good idea to talk to a SAPO, your case manager or other support worker if you can about calling the Domestic Violence Helpline on 1800 656 463 or 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) before your release. If you are in Dillwynia CC, you may have access to the DV Helpline on the CADL system. If you have another support worker on the outside that you trust and you want to speak with them, you might be able to organise a video visit or phone call (during COVID-19 there are no face-to-face visits). A lot of women feel like they have to sort out everything on their own, but trying to find someone you trust to help you is always a good idea.
> What do I do to stay safe when I am released?
If you are in immediate danger, call 000
. If you need to talk through your situation, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732
or the Domestic Violence Helpline on 1800 656 463
to make a safety plan. Both these services can take a while to get through to, so make sure that you are somewhere safe and comfortable in case you need to wait to speak with someone. You can also try the Women’s Legal Service Domestic Violence line on 1800 810 784
. If you are not sure who to call, you can contact CRC for help on (02)92888700
and CRC staff can help you to find services close to you. You can also look at services near you by visiting askizzy.org.au
> What if I have nowhere to stay?
The Domestic Violence Helpline 1800 656 463 can help you arrange accommodation through Link2Home. You can also call Link2Home direct on 1800 152 152. Both of these numbers can help you find crisis accommodation. Sometimes there are refuges that you can stay in. If not, you can get temporary accommodation, usually in a hotel, for five nights while longer term accommodation is found.
> What if my partner or family member becomes violent again?
If you are in immediate danger, call 000
. Your safety is the most important thing.
If you are worried about experiencing violence again, you can speak to a domestic violence support service to help make plans and support you in keeping yourself safe.
You might want to protect yourself by taking out an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO).
> How do I take out an AVO?
An AVO, or Apprehended Violence Order, is an order to protect victims of domestic or other violence when they are fearful of future violence or threats to their safety. They are sometimes called restraining orders or protection orders. An AVO sets out restrictions on the other person’s behaviour. They may not be able to approach you or have contact with you. If you have children, the order will also protect them.
If police are called to a situation where you are a victim of domestic violence, they will apply for an AVO on your behalf. You will also automatically be referred to the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service (WDVCAS) which is a referral service that will telephone you, check you are safe and connect you to services that could help you. You can also call them on 1800 WDVCAS (1800 938 227).
You can also go to the police and ask them to apply for an AVO on your behalf if there has not been a situation where 000 have been called. Ask to speak to the Police Domestic Violence Liaison Officer as they have been trained to help you.
Another way to get an AVO is to apply through a lawyer:
The Women’s Legal Service (1800 810 784), Legal Aid (1300 888 529) or Wirringa Baiya (1800 686 587) or a private lawyer can apply for an AVO for you. You will need to tell them information about what has happened to you and that you are fearful of future violence and/or threats to your safety. You might need to show them evidence such as photos, text messages, social media messages or physical marks on your body, if you feel safe to do that.
Usually you have to go to court if there is an AVO being applied for to protect you, however this has been different recently because of COVID-19. It is best to check if you need to go to court, by calling one of the legal services numbers listed above. An AVO is not a criminal charge. It is a protection order. However, if the perpetrator breaches the order they can be charged with breach of AVO and this does become a criminal charge.
> If I have outstanding warrants and I call the police because I am in danger, can they arrest me?
Police cannot arrest you for being a victim of violence and calling the police to help you should not jeopardise any bail, bond, parole or community-based orders. It is always best when dealing with the police to ask to speak to the Domestic Violence Liaison Officer as they are most able to help.
> The Miranda Project
The Miranda Project
, based in Western Sydney, is a program of the Community Restorative (CRC) for women who come in contact with the criminal justice system and who have also been victim/survivors of, or are at risk of domestic and/or family violence. The Miranda Project aims to support women to live lives free from violence and free from the criminal justice system.
You can contact the Miranda Project on (02) 9288 8700
> If you are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and would like an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person to help you:
When you call the DV Helpline you can ask them to help you find a culturally safe service, or a First Nations worker. Many Aboriginal-specific or culturally sensitive services have a domestic violence team. These include:
Mudgin-Gal (02) 9689 1173
WEAVE (02) 9699 9036
Women’s Legal Resource Centre has an Indigenous Women’s Legal Contact Line – Phone: 1800 639 784
Wirringa Baiya – Aboriginal Women’s Legal Centre Phone: 1800 686 587
Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service 1800 WDVCAS (1800 938 227)
> Summary of Phone Numbers and Websites for further information:
1800RESPECT: (1800 737 732) https://www.1800respect.org.au/
Domestic Violence Helpline 1800 656 463
Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service 1800 WDVCAS (1800 938 227)
Link2Home: 1800 152 152
NSW Domestic Violence Line: https://www.facs.nsw.gov.au/domestic-violence/helpline
Legal Aid Fact Sheets re AVO’s https://www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au/publications/factsheets-and-resources/covid-19/covid-19-apprehended-domestic-violence-orders
The term ‘mental health’ can mean many different things, and is sometimes used to describe feelings of stress, worry and sadness. These feelings are distressing but are sometimes a normal reaction to difficult circumstances. It is not surprising that you feel these things when you have just been released from prison. Finding support and practical help is really important.
Having a ‘mental health condition’ is different to this. Mental health conditions such as major depression, severe anxiety, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia deeply affect how you feel, think and behave. Mental illness can take some time to be formally diagnosed and can often be managed through a combination of medication and therapy with a psychologist. Whatever your concern is about your mental health, CRC can help you to find the best options for support and treatment. Call CRC on (02) 9288 8700.
> I need some help with my mental health. Who can I call to talk to?
A good place to start is to talk through what you are feeling with a service such as:
BeyondBlue 1300 224 636
NSW Health Mental Health Line 1800 011 511
These services have trained professionals available 24 hours, 7 days per week, who you can talk to about your mental health and get some guidance on what to do next.
If you have a family doctor (GP), they are also good to talk to as they can assess the best type of help for you and refer you to a variety of supports such as psychologists or community mental health services.
> Are community mental health services still operating?
Community mental health services are running as usual but taking extra precautions to prevent COVID-19 infection, including screening clients for symptoms via phone before a face-to-face visit, wearing face masks and only conducting home visits when ‘absolutely necessary’. If you are already in contact with a mental health service, call them to ask what their current arrangements are. In a serious crisis, you may need to go to a hospital emergency department.
> What if I’m feeling suicidal?
If you are already linked in with a community mental health service, call them straightaway or call the NSW Health Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511
. You can also call the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
for urgent and ongoing support.
Phone Numbers and Websites for further information:
> Dealing with Anxiety and Depression on Release
Quick Guide to Coping with Anxiety and Depression
It’s normal to feel anxious or depressed in the months following your release. You may:
- Have difficulty sleeping
- Eat more or less than usual
- Feel sick, or have difficulty breathing
- Feel agitated, restless or panicky
- Find you don’t have the energy to do things
- Feel negative, and that everything is too hard
- Feel fearful that people know that you’ve been in prison
- Find it hard to make decisions.
have these kinds of feelings without a break for three weeks or more, or
can’t do basic things like feed yourself or go to parole appointments because you feel so bad, or
just want help so you cope better,
Do you have ‘gate fever’?
It’s normal to feel anxiety or ‘gate fever’ as the date of your release approaches. This is more likely the longer you’ve been inside. As well as feeling excited about your release, you may also be feeling fearful that something will go wrong so that your release will be delayed, or that you won’t be able to make it once you’re released. You may notice physical signs of anxiety, like sleep problems or agitation.
Here are some tips about dealing with the emotional side of being released.
They don’t know where you’ve been.
You may feel like everyone can tell you’ve been in prison and that they have you marked out. But after a while you will realise that most people are too busy to pay much attention and you will gradually stop feeling so separate and different, and worried that people will find out.
It’s normal for people to look you in the eye.
In prison you learn to look away so no one will get the wrong idea, and think you want to take them on. It may feel uncomfortable when you get out when people look you in the eye, until you realise that they do it with everyone, and it isn’t about you.
You can’t take everything personally.
If something goes wrong, don’t assume it is because people had it in for you. Sometimes you have to tell yourself things like “they’re just rude to everyone” or “they’re just having a bad day” so you don’t get caught up in stuff and take everything personally.
You forget how busy and noisy things are.
Driving away from prison at 60kph may feel like speeding, and even crossing the road can be a challenge so take things slowly, and be careful, until you get used to it all again.
You have to stop watching your back.
You may have to unlearn lots of things you did in prison to make sure you were safe. When out in public, you may need to learn to relax, and not check everybody out to see where they are and what they are going to do.
Don’t push yourself too fast.
Pace yourself and don’t try to do everything at once.
It helps to get out of the house.
You may feel anxious around other people and not go out much. Try going out once a day, even just to go and get the paper, or go for a walk, and after a while it may get easier to go to more places and stay out for longer.
You have to learn to make decisions again.
This can be anxiety-provoking as inside, most of your decisions were made for you and you may be out of practice. Let others help you and try not to worry too much about getting things right all the time. It can take a long time to get used to having so many choices and deciding for yourself.
Getting help with anxiety and depression
If anxiety or depression are making it hard to get on with life, see a doctor. It may be helpful for you to take prescription medication for a period of time and/or to talk through your feelings with a doctor, a counsellor or health professional. Using drugs or alcohol may make you feel better for a brief time, but they don’t keep helping in the longer term.
Signs that you may be anxious include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feeling restless and agitated
- Feeling sick
- Losing your appetite
- Panic attacks (feeling sweaty, shortness of breath, heart racing).
Signs that you may be depressed include:
- Feeling continually sad and hopeless
- Not being able to enjoy anything in life (it all seems ‘grey’ or pointless)
- Having a lot of negative thoughts about life and yourself
- Lacking motivation to do anything, even to get out of bed
- Losing your appetite, or overeating
- Being unable to sleep, or sleeping too much
- Thoughts of suicide.
You can expect to have some of these feelings as you adjust to life outside. However, if you find these feelings go on for more than a couple of months, or become so severe that you’re unable to function properly (feed yourself, meet parole commitments, etc), then seek help. Talk to your doctor or a worker you trust.
> Keeping Your Cool
Quick Guide to Keeping Your Cool
After you leave prison you may have lots of reasons to lose your cool, especially in the first few months when plans might fall through, people don’t understand, or you have to wait for things you need now.
Keeping your cool can help you keep your freedom. If you can find ways to avoid getting aggro with others, it’s worth it. It may help to:
- Remind yourself about what could happen if you lose it
- Take time out
- Take 10 deep breaths
- Stay away from people or places where you get aggro
- Find ways to relax and stay calm
- Anger management courses can help you learn more ways to do this.
There’s plenty to be frustrated about when you come out of prison. Particularly in the first couple of months, you may find yourself under intense pressure. Things will go wrong, fall through, or take longer than expected. You may feel like you’re constantly hitting your head against a brick wall. If you ‘lose it’ and lash out at someone, whether it’s your partner, your kids, a worker, or someone at the pub who you think is looking at you the wrong way, the next stop may be the remand centre. Here are some tips from people who’ve found ways to keep their cool, even when times are tough.
Learn positive self-talk
You just get worked up if you let yourself think things like “they’ve got it coming to them”. Instead, say to yourself “I won’t let this get to me”, “I can handle this”, or just “chill”. Positive self-talk can help you to stay calm.
Think about the consequences
Think about what will happen if you lose your cool- there’s no way you want to lose your freedom. Then when you’ve walked away, give yourself a little pat on the back for keeping it together.
Sometimes you’ll just have to get away from the situation. Go for a walk until you feel calmer.
Take some deep breaths
If you take some deep, slow breaths, it can really calm you down. If you notice yourself getting worked up, because you start breathing faster, stop and take 10 slow, calm breaths.
Learn to read the warning signs, so you can get away from the situation, or if you can’t leave, try to slow things down. When you hear your voice getting louder, and start to feel hot and sweaty, you tense up so learn to stay in control, rather than letting your body take over.
Tell yourself that it takes a really strong person to be in control of their feelings and take charge of their life. If you let other people wind you up, you’re really just letting them run the show.
Be assertive, rather than aggressive. This means talking about what you want, without shouting at people or trying to scare them. You don’t have to use force to get your point across. It means you usually get better help from people because they listen to what you say, and don’t try to get you out the door as fast as they can.
Do things to help you relax
Working out can help you to feel better when you’re feeling aggro and if you do it every day, it can help you stay cool. Working out isn’t for everyone, but walking, swimming, or yoga should work the same way.
Try to think ahead and avoid problems. If you’re already feeling worked up, try to stay away from people and places where you’ll start feeling worse. If you know that you have to go somewhere that might stress you, take some time to relax first so you’ll have a clear head and a good attitude.
> Are you feeling isolated or lonely?
Quick Guide to Overcoming Isolation and Loneliness
Feeling isolated and lonely is very common after you’ve left prison. In prison you didn’t expect to open up to people and enjoy their company. Now you’re outside it takes time to relax and be friendly to people.
Small talk doesn’t happen much in prison, and once you leave it takes time to learn what to talk about, and how to chat. Having someone who can support you during the first months when you leave prison can really help. If you don’t have family or a friend who can do this, look for a support service that may be able to help.
If your aim is to go straight, you may not want to hang around your old mates, but you may feel like you don’t have anyone else. If you’ve got a mate who’s also wanting to go straight, you can support each other. If you need someone to talk to right now, ring Lifeline on 13 11 14 for 24-hour confidential telephone counselling.
Lots of people on release from prison feel isolated and lonely, especially if they aren’t living with family. Some people have ended up reoffending just to return to prison where they know people and don’t feel out of place. Meeting people and making friends is hard for most people, and it’s even more difficult when you’ve been in prison.
Your ‘prison self’
In prison you may have acted tough, hiding your feelings so that no one thought you were an easy target. Being like that protected you and helped keep you safe. But outside prison, behaving that way isn’t necessary and may scare people off.
What you need to ‘make it’ in the community is the very opposite of what cuts it inside. Being open and friendly is more likely to get you what you want than behaving as you would in prison.
To get to know people and make some friends you’ll have to slowly take a few risks and open up to people.
Talking about the weather, the football or what you did on the weekend doesn’t happen in prison much. In fact, what passes for normal conversation in the general community can seem trivial and annoying when you’ve spent time in prison, where survival was the main concern. Learning what people in the community talk about takes time, and feels strange.
It will take time to get used to the different social rules that operate outside prison. Listen to other people. How do they start a conversation? What gets talked about? You’ll soon get the hang of it. Don’t forget that most people, ‘straight’ people included, feel shy or don’t know what to say from time to time.
Choose a support person
While you’re in custody, you can choose to have a meeting with a person who’ll be your key support when you get out. They could be a family member, trusted friend, or community member. Talk to people supporting you about your expectations for life on the outside, and follow this up with them when you get out.
Having someone to call when things get difficult can be a real help. Don’t forget that you can always call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Old mates and new mates
A lot of people who want to go straight when they come out worry about seeing old associates from criminal or drug-using circles. They know if they hang around those people, there’s a strong chance that they’ll end up reoffending. On the other hand, if they don’t see any of their old associates, they’ll have nobody. At least with their old connections they feel comfortable and know the score.
There are no easy answers to this one. Building up a new circle of friends is not easy, but it can be done. Here are a few tips:
- Make it clear to your mates that you don’t want to fall back into old ways, but don’t rely on them to make it easy for you. People who are still using or breaking the law are more likely to want to drag you back down than wish you well in your new life. That’s reality. After all, if you succeed, they might feel uncomfortable about their own lives.
- Be selective about who you keep in contact with. It’s not hard to tell who is good for you and who means trouble. Another person who’s also committed to staying out can be a great help. Build on your contacts with those people who you believe are likely to stay out and who are serious about going straight.
- If you’re going to meet someone who still uses drugs, think about how and when you have contact. It might be better to see a person in a café rather than in their lounge room, where it’s all too easy to light up that bong or have that hit.
- Form a relationship with a support worker you can trust. Although workers are professional people who are paid to help you, a real bond of trust can develop.
- NA, AA and other 12-step programs have a ‘sponsoring’ system in which more experienced members of the program provide support and guidance to newer members. If you have drug or alcohol problems, attend a meeting and see if there’s someone there you like. They may be able to sponsor you. Contact AA on (02) 9799 1199 or NA on 1300 652 820 for a referral to your nearest meeting.
See www.succeedsocially.com/meetpeople for some good ideas about meeting new people
Finding something positive to do
If you have spent a long time involved with crime and other people who are offending, it can be hard to find other, more positive things to do after you have been released. Being involved in pro-social things like sports and hobbies can be a good distraction, help you to meet new people and get fit. See the NSW Sports and Recreation website for many different kinds of sporting organisations.
FINANCES AND DEBT
> Do you have debts or unpaid fines?
Face up to debts as soon as you can. Most debts have to be paid eventually. You’ll probably pay less money in the long run if you work with your creditors, rather than avoiding them.
Financial counsellors can help if you owe lots of money. They can often talk for you to people you owe money to. Financial counsellors can help you sort out affordable payments, and set up a budget. Contact the National Debt Hotline on 1800 007 007 to find a free financial counselling service near you.
Many people who come out of prison find they owe money for unpaid bills, old fines, etc. A lot of people put off dealing with debts, but this can make it worse in the end because many creditors will keep going until they get the debt paid. By then interest and penalties may have made the debt a lot bigger than it was in the beginning.
If you find yourself in a lot of debt when you get out, ring the National Debt Hotline on 1800 007 007. They can help you sort out your money and find a financial counsellor. Financial counsellors can talk with the people you owe money to, and work out arrangements you can afford. They can often get creditors to come to an agreement, even where you haven’t been able to get the creditors to listen. They can sometimes get the amount you owe reduced.
> Do you owe money to Centrelink?
If you owe money to Centrelink, talk to them about your options. Remember that Centrelink can’t refuse to pay you benefits just because you owe them money. Visit their website
> Do you owe Child Support money?
Contact the Child Support arm of Services Australia on 131 272
or visit their website
if you think you may owe money, or you’re concerned about your child support obligations.
You can also contact Legal Aid’s Child Support Service for advice on call 02 9633 9916
(Sydney) or 1800 451 784
(regional) and view their website
for more info.
> Do you owe Victims Compensation?
Contact the Tribunal on 1800 069 054 to make arrangements if you have an order to pay a debt to the Tribunal. You can pay in instalments and, depending on your circumstances, payments could be reduced or put on hold.
> Do you have unpaid fines?
If you owe money for unpaid fines, ring Revenue NSW on 1300 655 805
or visit their website
. You can apply to pay these debts back in instalments or have them postponed or waived.
For help dealing with Revenue find your local community legal centre by calling (02) 9212 7333, or visit this website. Or talk to a financial counsellor.
> Do you need to check your credit record and credit history?
To find out if you owe any money for unpaid bills, credit cards, etc, contact Equifax
to request a copy of your credit file.
> Do you have debts with Revenue NSW?
Call Revenue NSW on 1300 138 118
to ask how much you owe. You can also contact them online here
. You can apply for the debts to be deferred (put off until later) or paid back in instalments.
You may be eligible to reduce your SDR debt by doing community work or attending certain programs if you have a disability, are homeless, drug dependent or experiencing severe financial hardship. This is called a Work and Development Order (WDO). Check the Service NSW website for more info.
> Do you have a referral to a Financial Counsellor?
Financial Counsellors can help you find out your credit history, work out how to repay debts and help you manage your finances after you’re released. They provide free, confidential options.
You can call the financial counselling helpline on 1800 007 007 Monday to Friday 9.30am to 4.30pm
> If you are under a Restitution Order, have you arranged payment?
Call the Victims’ Compensation Tribunal to arrange payment or deferral.
Phone: (02) 8688 5511
or 1800 633 063
ATSI line: 1800 019 123
If a Public Guardian has been appointed to help with decision-making on your behalf the Guardian should be involved with your pre-release planning.
Ph: (02) 8688 6070 or 1800 451 510 free-call from outside Sydney.
> Is your money being looked after by the NSW Trustee and Guardian?
If so, you will need to contact your Estate Manager before you get out, to tell them when you’ll be getting out and where you’ll be living so you can collect your money. You should be able to find the number for your estate manager by calling 1300 364 103.
> If you have to pay Child Support, have you contacted the Child Support Agency?
Contact the Child Support Inquiry Line on 131 272 to arrange payment.
> Have you got a print-out of your Inmate Account Cash Record?
Get a print-out of your Inmate Account Cash Record (showing the last three months of transactions). You need this to apply for things like clothing, gratuities (gate money), and travel money. To obtain a print out, put in a blue form or speak to your SAPO.
> Do you have a current bank account?
You need 100 points of ID to open a new bank account (see section on ID above). Most people need a bank account in order to receive Centrelink benefits.
> Have you contacted the bank to make sure your account is still open?
If you had a bank account before you came into custody contact the branch where you opened the account. If your account is suspended, you can reopen it. Banks charge monthly fees for some accounts so when you deposit money again, they will take out fees that haven’t been paid while your account has been unused.
> Do you have a Tax File Number (TFN) or tax you can claim?
You need a TFN to get Centrelink benefits and when you find a job.
For an application form, call the Tax Office (the ATO) on 1300 720 092.
> Do you know where to get help for problem gambling?
Call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 to find a counselling service near where you’re going to live and arrange an appointment.
> I am in financial difficulty and need help with expenses. Is there anyone who can help me?
The Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, Anglicare and Wesley Mission all have central intake services you can call and have a phone assessment to see if they can help.
> I have a power bill that I am struggling to pay and I am worried I might be disconnected – is there any help available?
is a NSW Government Scheme designed to help people who are having trouble paying their home electricity and/or gas bill because of a crisis or emergency situation. The Scheme is aimed at helping people in these situations to stay connected. The $50 EAPA vouchers are distributed to electricity and gas customers by a range of community welfare organisations. Please check this list of providers
You can also contact the Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON) for help. EWON can assist with payment plans, disconnections, high bills and rebates that you may be eligible for.
EWON can be contacted on 1800 246 545 or by email at email@example.com
> How to make your money go further
Use your Concession Card and Health Care Card
You can get Concession and Health Care Cards from Centrelink if you get an income support payment or are on a low income. If you’re eligible for a pension card you may save extra money, eg. on movie tickets.
Beware of fines
Be especially aware of fares and rules with public transport as fines can add up quickly. Contact the Credit and Debt Hotline if you need help sorting out unpaid fines.
Public transport in Sydney and surrounding areas means that you need to have an Opal card. The area covered by the Opal card system is between the following points around Sydney:
• Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney
• Bondi in the east of Sydney
• Goulburn to the south of Sydney
• Scone to the north of Sydney
If you don’t use public transport very often, you can buy an Opal single journey ticket, but if you use trains, buses or ferries a lot, it is usually cheaper in the long-run to get a personal card that you can top-up with credit as you go. Don’t forget to ‘tap on’ and ‘tap off’ at the beginning and end of your journey so that the card charges you the correct fare.
Watch your phone bill
Try a pre-paid mobile so you can keep track of the costs and avoid surprise big bills.
If you have a support worker, ask if you can make some of your important calls (for example, to other support services) from their office.
If you can’t pay a bill, call the company and explain.
Don’t ignore bills. Ask for help from the company to work out smaller payments, which may take a while to pay off slowly but are more manageable. If you show that you are trying to pay the bill, your service is less likely to be disconnected. The National Debt Hotline can advise you about this, call 1800 007 007.
Help with electricity and gas bills in an emergency
The Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) Scheme helps people experiencing a short term financial crisis or emergency to pay their electricity or gas bill. These can be obtained from various other community agencies. Please check this list of providers
Avoid excess bank fees
Use ATMs from your own bank and check how many free transactions you can have before the bank starts charging for them.
Buy things secondhand or use lay-bys for large items. In Sydney, check this fact sheet from the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre for places to find low cost or free furniture and other household goods.
In regional towns, large charities such as Anglicare, St Vincent de Paul, and the Salvation Army are the best places to go for low-cost furniture.
Material aid means food or food vouchers, electricity vouchers, clothing or furniture. Cash assistance is rare.
Material aid agencies have limited resources and may not be able to help you. Try to be polite if you’re refused, because you may want to ask for assistance another time. If they can’t help you, ask them if they can suggest anyone else you can contact.
Call CRC’s Telephone Information and Referral Service (TIRS) on (02) 9288 8700 for details of where to find material aid in your area.
PROPERTY, CLOTHES OR TRANSPORT
> Is your Property Record up to date?
You need to check that your Offender Properties Report is up to date. Ask your Case Officer to give you a copy from OIMS. Check and sign this report, which will go on your case file.
> Do you have OK clothes for release?
A SAPO may be able to help you with clothes and a bag for your property, or refer you to a local clothing provider.
> Have you arranged a property inspection?
Arrange an inspection of your personal property before you get out with the Wing Officer or Area Manager.
Complaints about property can be put in writing to the Wing Officer, and if you are not happy with their decision you can appeal to the General Manager for a review.
> Do you have enough money to get home?
You can get a voucher or money to pay for public transport to the place where you are going to live after your release. Talk to a SAPO about this assistance.
> Do you have public transport information?
Call the Transport Info Line for timetable, route, and fare information for trains, buses and ferries in the greater Sydney area. 131 500 (6am to 10pm, 7 days)
> If someone is picking you up, have you confirmed this?
Contact that person and confirm the date, time and where you will be released.
> Will you be on parole supervision when you are released?
- Check with your Parole Officer that reports required by the State Parole Authority are being completed.
- Discuss your proposed accommodation with your Parole Officer to ensure an assessment is being completed.
- Ask your Parole Officer to explain your parole order and parole conditions. Make sure you understand what is expected of you. Ask the Parole Officer to clarify anything you are not sure about.
- Check what arrangements have been made for you to report to a parole office.
> Has your proposed accommodation changed?
Your Parole Officer will have to undertake some checks before you are released, mainly about where you are going to live. Check that your proposed accommodation is still available.
> Will you be on supervised parole?
You will be given a copy of your parole order and details of where and when you have to report. You will usually have to report on the day of your release or the next working day.
Make sure you keep to your reporting arrangements. If, for a good reason, you are unable to report, make sure you telephone the parole office to make other arrangements.
Your Parole Officer may give you directions regarding:
- counselling or other treatment
- avoiding certain people or places
When a person who has a criminal conviction recorded against them or who has been given a custodial sentence has served their time, they have the right to feel that they should be able to resume their life. However, this is not always the case. Many people find it difficult to find work when they have a criminal record or have spent time in custody. The good news is that many people are able to find work after having spent time in prison.
> Have you registered with a Job Services Australia provider?
Job Services Australia providers assist with various kinds of support for people looking for work. For information about registering with, or changing your Job Services Australia provider, contact the Employment Services Information Line on 13 62 68
One of the most active job services providers in the area of helping people who have a criminal record and/or who have spent time in prison is WISE Employment. They provide a lot of services that assist people with a disability or mental health difficulties to find and keep employment. However, they are also skilled at assisting people with all kinds of barriers to employment. They develop relationships with employers who are open to considering people with a criminal record or history of incarceration and understand the challenges that people face.
> What services might be able to help me to find a job?
Employment services can help you to identify what kind of job would suit you and support you in making job applications and after you start work. They can help you to write a resume, practice interview skills and advise on the industries that are less likely to discriminate against a person with a criminal record.
Try one of these services:
If these services do not have an office in your area, check here for other Jobsearch providers: https://jobsearch.gov.au/serviceproviders
> Have you got a CSI Work Reference?
Apply for a Work Readiness Reference from the Corrective Services Industries (CSI) Overseer or Senior Correctional Education Officer.
> What information is disclosed in a criminal record check?
Please see the NSW Police website here:
For more detailed information on finding a job when you have a criminal record, please click on these articles:
> Do you believe you have been discriminated against because of your criminal record while searching for work?
People who have been in prison often find it difficult to find a job after their release. Sometimes this is because of a lack of work experience and sometimes it is because of a lack of confidence to apply for jobs. People who have been to prison can also face discrimination by potential employers because they have a criminal record.
There are employment services who can help you to get job-ready and support you in your search for employment. These organisations should also be able to help you understand the rules about discrimination on the grounds of having a criminal record.
For more information about employment discrimination, see this report ‘On the Record’ or contact the Australian Human Rights Commission.
> Have you received a letter about your visa being cancelled?
If you have received a letter from Immigration and Border Protection about the possible cancellation of your visa, you can contact Legal Aid for assistance. You can contact Legal Aid NSW Civil Law on 9219 5790
or the Prisoners Legal Service on (02) 8688 3888
. More information can be found on the Legal Aid website
FAMILY AND CHILDREN
> Are you returning to your family?
If you’re returning to your partner:
• It’s normal to feel anxious about living together again
• Talk about your hopes and plans before release
• Keeping talking once you go home
• Listen to them
• Get help early if you’re having relationship problems.
> What do you expect of your partner after you’re released?
Picking up where you left off in a relationship may be more difficult than you expect. You and your partner will have adjusted to living apart. It’s understandable that you both may feel anxious about living together again. You may not be sure how you’ll get started with even everyday things like having sex and working out money.
The key is to talk to your partner about your ideas and hopes before you get out, and keep talking after your release. It’s easy to get carried away inside prison with ideas about what it will be like when you get back together. If your partner tells you you’re being unrealistic or getting carried away, listen. He or she is probably more in touch about this than you are.
> What if you had relationship problems before you went to prison?
Any problems in your relationship before you went to prison will probably still be there when you get out.
If, for example, your relationship was violent or there were lots of arguments, you may find these patterns return after your release, even though you may have hoped they’d be different. If things aren’t working out, it’s important to seek help.
You can contact CRC’s Telephone Information and Referral Service (TIRS) on (02) 9288 8700 to find services that are in your area. You can also contact Relationships Australia or Interrelate. They provide counselling for individuals about relationship or family issues, couples counselling and family counselling and mediation.
1800 RESPECT is a 24 hour national service for domestic or family violence and abuse. Contact them on 1800 737 732.
> Did you start your relationship while in prison?
A relationship that starts in prison can be very intense, because you often have a lot of time to focus on it, and few distractions. Even if you know each other really well, there’ll still be more to learn when you’re able to spend more time with each other. You may find it hard if you learn things about each other that you weren’t expecting.
You may feel prison has changed you, or you may be confused by your feelings and behaviour. Being withdrawn or having mood swings and angry outbursts are common. It’s all part of the difficult process of readjusting from prison life to family life. Suddenly you’re faced with a whole new set of demands.
What helps people survive in prison may be unhelpful back home. In prison, violence and intimidation are often used to ‘solve’ conflict. At home, those tactics could destroy your relationship with your family and even land you back inside. The skills of listening and open communication are essential to a good relationship.
If you do find yourself having problems, relationship or family counselling can help sort things out. Don’t wait until the relationship is on the rocks or your family is falling apart to seek help. It’s better to see someone early, when things are easier to sort out.
> Are you returning to your children?
• Be prepared for the children to take a while to get used to you being back at home
• Try to be patient and understanding – they aren’t old enough to understand how you feel
• Remember children are often messy and noisy – this is normal, although it may take time for you to get used to it
• You may need to rebuild trust with your children and the people who’ve been caring for them
• Get help early if you’re finding it difficult to cope with your children.
> Will your children be living with you all or some of the time after your release?
Children can react in lots of different ways when a parent comes home from prison. They may be extremely happy, but they may also be upset and confused because you were away for so long. Any changes can be unsettling for children. Younger children may not remember a time when you were at home with them. Older children may have taken on family responsibilities, and for a time may resent the changes that come when their mother or father returns home.
Remember that they need to hear from you that you do love them. Try not to be too hurt if they give you a hard time. They won’t understand that you didn’t mean to go to prison, and they may feel that you’ve let them down. Listen and try to understand how your children feel rather than being defensive. They’ll settle down if you can be patient and are prepared to work to regain their trust.
Perhaps some other family member took on the parenting role while you were in prison. You may need to regain their trust, as well as your children’s, as you and the person who has been looking after your children work out exactly what roles each of you will play in your children’s lives.
If your child was placed in their care through a court order, you may benefit from legal advice to find out what steps would be involved in resuming their care.
Be prepared for the noise and mess that children make.
In prison, the one thing you have control over is your cell. If you always kept your cell spotless, you may find it difficult to cope with children who leave toys around and yell and scream.
It can help to remember that this is normal behaviour for children. You can teach them to tidy up after themselves, but you can’t stop them behaving like children. Insisting on having complete control over your environment will only create more stress for you and them.
> Will you be a single parent after you’re released?
It can be hard enough to look after yourself in the early days post-release, let alone a demanding child. Some children may become particularly ‘clingy’ when their parent returns home from prison. This may be due to their fear of being separated again.
It’s important to get support if you feel you or your children aren’t coping. Don’t wait until things build up to the point where you lash out at the children, take drugs or do something else that might hurt you or your children.
You can call CRC’s Telephone Information and Referral Service (TIRS) on (02) 9288 8700 for services near you that can support you with your children. If your children are school-aged, contacting their teacher or a school counsellor may be helpful.
> Are you returning to live with your parents?
• Parents may keep checking up on you because they’re worried that you may use drugs or reoffend
• It can help to remember they’re checking because they care about you
• Let them know how you feel, and what’s helpful for you
• If you and your parents can’t agree about expectations, you may find it better to move into other accommodation.
• Programs in prison may help you work on parenting and communication skills.
Living with parents after your release can have practical, emotional and financial advantages but it can also be stressful. Parents of people on release from prison often worry that their child is going to reoffend or use drugs again. They often try to control them or monitor their behaviour in various ways. If your parents do this, remember it’s because they care about you.
However, feeling that you’re being watched over, or that your parents don’t trust you, can be hard. You can even feel tempted to do something rash just to break out. Remember that the decision not to reoffend or use drugs is about what you want for your life. You’re not doing it to please them.
Tell your parents what’s helpful and not helpful for you in terms of support. It may be useful for them to hear from you how what they do affects you. Remember that while you live in your parents’ house it’s reasonable for them to expect you to live by their rules. If you can’t do this, then you’ll need to look for your own place.
People often really look forward to returning to their family after prison. But many people say that after the ‘honeymoon period’ is over things may not go smoothly. CRC knows how difficult it can be to come from prison back into the family, and can provide support. If anyone in your family is having trouble coping, call CRC’s Telephone Information and Referral Service on (02) 9288 8700 for information about family support services who may be able to help.
> Who else can help me?
NSW Family Referral Services can refer you to organisations whose support workers can help with parenting and other family matters through home visiting, counselling and educational and social groups.
Call the Child Protection Helpline 132 111 (24 hours/7 days) if you want to report a child at risk or request assistance.
Find your local DCJ Community services centre to contact if your child is in FACS care and you’re not sure who to talk to about them.
Parentline 1300 1300 52 is a free telephone advice and referral helpline for parents of children under 18 years of age. You can ring 9am – 4.30pm for telephone counselling and advice if you’re feeling stuck, and can refer you to services, such as parenting courses in your area.
> Do you need help with separation, custody and child support issues?
The Child Support Agency helps separated parents manage their child support responsibilities by working actively with parents to help them make the best arrangements for them and their children. Call 13 12 72
or visit their website
The Family Court of Australia provides mediation, dispute resolution and counselling for couples going through separation. They assist separating couples to reach agreement on custody, child support and other arrangements without going through the courts. They can also make orders for children to live with other family members where DCJ isn’t involved. Call (02) 9217 7111 or visit their website.
LawAccess provides legal information and referral to Legal Aid. 1300 888 529 or visit their website.
Link Up assists Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women from the Stolen Generations in re-establishing contact with their families. Visit the Link Up website or call (02) 9421 4700 or 1800 624 332 (Free call, not available to mobiles)
Studying may be a good option for you to help learn new skills, give you more options for employment, and generally to help keep you motivated after leaving prison.
> Are you interested in studying at TAFE?
If you’ve done some study in prison (eg. with AEVTI or TAFE) you can get recognition for what you’ve done, and keep working towards a qualification with TAFE or another training provider.
TAFE staff such as the vocational counsellors, Outreach Coordinators or Aboriginal Coordinators can help you get recognition for your prison studies and help you choose a course and find out how to enrol.
You can get income support from Centrelink while you study.
If you’re on a Centrelink pension or benefit you can enrol in a TAFE course for free. For fee paying courses people on Centrelink benefits receive a concession fee, people with a disability and First Nations people are fee-exempt. Most TAFE Outreach courses are free, and reading and writing courses are available for adult learners.
Contact TAFE NSW on 131 601 for more information, or check their website at www.tafensw.edu.au.
To find local reading and writing courses contact the Reading and Writing Hotline on 1300 655 506.
Studying at TAFE
Getting qualifications can make it easier to find work. If you’ve finished modules of study with AEVTI or TAFE while in prison, you’re already on the way. If you didn’t get the chance to study in prison, you may have opportunities to get started now.
It’s a good idea to take the results of any courses you’ve done when you go to discuss study options at TAFE or other agencies. They may want to see your academic transcripts (lists of modules and marks).
PEET (Pathways to Employment Education and Training)
TAFE runs PEET through Community Offender Services (Parole) offices in different parts of NSW. Sessions run for four hours each week, over nine weeks. The course helps people who’ve had drug or alcohol issues to set goals for education and work. It’s a good place to start if you’re not sure about your options for work or study. Talk to your Community Corrections Officer if you think PEET could help you.
Finding a TAFE course
TAFE campuses in NSW are organised into groups, called institutes. Not all courses or services are available at each campus.
Many courses will enrol students only once or twice a year. This means that you may have to wait before you can enrol, depending on your release date. Outreach courses and basic education courses start throughout the year.
If you want to find out more about TAFE courses, or already know the area or course you’d like to study, you can get information about TAFE courses at www.tafensw.edu.au or by contacting TAFE on 131 601.
If you’ve left prison and want help to decide whether you could study at TAFE, and what you would study, try talking to a TAFE counsellor. Almost all TAFE colleges have a counsellor, and they’re trained to provide counselling to help people make work and study plans.
TAFE counsellors also help with personal or learning issues that could be barriers to studying successfully. You can find out about courses in your area by contacting the TAFE NSW Information Centre on 131 601 or your nearest TAFE institute.
Fees for TAFE courses
If you’re on a Centrelink pension or benefit you can enrol in a TAFE course for free. For fee paying courses people on Centrelink benefits receive a concession fee, people with a disability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are fee-exempt. A number of TAFE access courses, such as Outreach courses and basic education courses, are free.
Many courses need textbooks and equipment, which you have to provide. If you’re Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, you should be able to get help through Abstudy with buying texts and equipment for the course.
Income while you study at TAFE
If you’re studying full-time at TAFE you should be eligible for Youth Allowance (up to age 24) or Austudy or Abstudy. This means you won’t have the obligations to look for work that go with Newstart.
If you’re First Nations, or receiving a Disability Support Pension, you can get some extra help from Centrelink if you’re studying. Contact Centrelink for more information.
Help to succeed at TAFE
TAFE offers introductory learning courses that can help you improve your reading, writing and number skills and learn work skills. These can be stepping stones to other TAFE courses, or to the workforce.
Outreach courses also provide introductory courses that cover a range of entry level vocational areas. They’re usually shorter courses running for about 6 to 10 weeks. For more information, contact the Outreach coordinator at the TAFE institute nearest to you.
Support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
TAFE offers services to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to feel comfortable about accessing TAFE courses. Contact an Aboriginal Coordinator at the TAFE institute nearest to you to ask about support for First Nations students.
Most campuses will have an Aboriginal student support officer. They can help you with enrolment and give help while you do your course. They’ll have information about any other support services that could help you.
Should I tell TAFE staff about being in prison?
You don’t have to tell anyone about being in prison unless you choose to or are asked. Sometimes TAFE staff will be able to support you better if they do know that you’ve been in prison, but the decision to tell staff is up to you.
TAFE counsellors provide a confidential service, so if you tell them that you’ve been in prison they can’t share this information with other TAFE staff. Certificates that you’ve gained in prison may show that you’ve studied at AEVTI. Most people in TAFE who see your certificates will not be aware that you got them in prison.
> Are you interested in studying at a Community College?
Community colleges are non-profit colleges for adults. They’re often located in the grounds of state schools. They offer courses ranging from hobby classes to certificate courses similar to those at TAFE.
If you’ve been studying General Education courses in prison, you may be able to continue to work towards a certificate in these subjects at a community college without having to pay fees. Most of their other courses have fees, and they don’t have the same concessions as TAFE.
To find a community college phone (02) 9642 5622 or visit the Community Colleges Australia website.
> Are you interested in studying at university?
Some jobs need university qualifications. Some universities have alternative entry options, especially for older students. These can include special study programs and special schemes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
Fees for university are generally much higher than for TAFE, and students often have to use government loan schemes to pay for them. Local libraries will generally have publications such as the UAC (Universities Admission Centre) Guide, Good Universities Guide or Job Guide with information about university courses.
TAFE qualifications at Cert IV level or higher can sometimes count towards the first stage of a university degree. Contact the Universities Admission Centre on (02) 9752 0200 or www.uac.edu.au for more information.
Buying and cooking your own food is the cheapest way to eat well.
When you leave prison you can choose what you eat, and when. This can be great, but it can also feel a bit overwhelming when you haven’t had these choices for a long time. Takeaway food is quick and easy, but it costs a lot, and may not be the best for you.
> Healthy eating
There are a lot of different ideas about healthy eating, and it’s easy to get confused. Most food experts agree that it’s best to:
• Eat a range of food
• Eat some fruit and vegetables each day
• Eat meat, fish or dairy in moderation
• Not to eat too much deep fried or battered food
• Keep cakes and sugary things for treats, not every day.
Take a look at this Healthy Eating Guidelines.
You can find more information on the Health Direct website.
> Shopping on a budget
Here are some tips for shopping on a budget:
• Write a list before you go and think about what meals you want to cook. This will help you know what you need, and it’s easier to avoid buying things on impulse that you may not need, or won’t use later. Don’t go down the aisles with items you don’t need.
• Never go shopping when you’re hungry because you may be more likely to buy junk food
• Look for the supermarket brand, or the plain tins without pictures. They’re much cheaper, and most of the time they’re just as good.
> Losing Weight
If you’ve put on weight in prison you may be keen to lose it once you get out. Here are some tips on losing weight:
• Be realistic, aim for small goals and take it step by step, day by day
• Talk to your doctor about losing weight
• Walk or cycle every day as much as possible – which might also save money on public transport fares or petrol
• When you first get out, you might spend a lot of time on your own and find it is easy to eat just to have something to do. Try to stick to meal times, and do something to distract yourself when you think of eating.
> What you need in the kitchen
You may need to get some basic equipment for your kitchen. See the list below for some ideas about what you’ll need.
New kitchen equipment isn’t cheap, and you may want to approach agencies like the Salvation Army (Salvos) or St Vincent de Paul (Vinnies) for help with second-hand things, at least until you get settled. Or you could try $2 shops, which will usually be cheaper than the big chain stores for these items. Once you’re settled you can replace things with better-quality items if you wish.
Also think about the stove you’ll be using. If you don’t have a griller, a frying pan or wok will be useful for cooking meat.
Basic kitchen equipment:
• Small and large plate
• Dessertspoon, teaspoon and knife
• Sharp vegetable knife
• Chopping board (or use large plate – gently!)
• Medium-sized saucepan with lid (handy for straining pasta, etc)
• Frying pan or wok
• Mixing bowl (or use ice cream container)
• Egg slice
• Tea towel
Extra equipment – you could add one or two of these to your shopping list each week:
• Vegetable peeler
• Bread knife
• Whisk or egg beater
• Wooden spoon
• Potato masher
• Oven tray