Synapse is working with Griffith University to review the processes for assessing the disability needs of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander prisoners. The project is funded by the Department of Social Services and has arisen out of recommendations from the Prison to Work Report (COAG, 2016) the project is a national study which aims to:

1. Identify methods, processes and current gaps, to improve the identification and assessment of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander prisoners with disability and/or impairment

2. Investigate and identify services and processes to support the needs of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander prisoners, and ex-prisoners with disability and/or impairment to better enable transition back to their communities and reduce potential barriers to exclusion and marginalisation, including employment.

The project will examine how disability is identified and assessed in adult (over 18 years) Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander prisoners and ex-prisoners who have exited the prison system within the last six months. The focus will be on people who have conditions that often remain unidentified such as hearing loss, cognitive impairments (Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) or acquired brain injury) and related disabilities. It will also examine ways to improve their access to rehabilitation, treatment and employment opportunities.

The project will examine how disability is identified and assessed in adult (over 18 years) Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander prisoners and formerly incarcerated people. The focus is on people who have conditions that often remain unidentified such as hearing loss, cognitive impairments (Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) or acquired brain injury) and related disabilities. It will also examine ways to improve their access to rehabilitation, treatment and employment opportunities. The project is being carried out under the cultural stewardship of Aunty Lauraine Barlow, and has been designed to include Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander leadership at every level of the project team (from governance and oversight, to community engagement, and to the active research team), and at every stage of the research (from conceptualisation and research design through to the sharing of research findings).

Interviews with corrections staff are currently underway in participating jurisdictions, and we are about to commence Community Consultations nationally. The Community Consultations involve focus groups with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community members including Elders, other respected Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, Traditional Owners, community advocates from peak bodies, and non-government organisations, individuals with lived experience, and their families. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community researchers have been trained to lead these focus groups.

Community Consultations will highlight the priority solutions and preferred practices identified by Community. Key stakeholders involved with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander disability and justice sectors will be consulted about how best to enact the solutions recommended by Community.

The findings will be used to:

  • Improve identification and assessment of disability and/or impairment for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander prisoners and formerly incarcerated people though culturally safe and appropriate methods.
  • Improve the support and rehabilitation services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners and ex-prisoners.
  • Develop options for more effective assessment tool(s) and processes to identify disability, and link people to in-prison and post-release supports.

For information or to participate in the project contact Synapse: 1800 673 074

Uncle Adrian Padmore, Community Engagement Officer APadmore@synapse.org.au,

Dr Michelle McIntyre, Research Fellow mmcintyre@synapse.org.au

Project Lead: Professor Elizabeth Kendall e.kendall@griffith.edu.au

Artwork by Aunty Lauraine Barlow

The Aboriginal artwork used for the ADNIP  document is by Aunty Lauraine Barlow. This painting, called Wamu Possibilities, is used with her permission as a symbol for the project. Her description of the art is:  Wamu (the black worker ant) works tirelessly and his tracks lead off in many directions, indicating the many different and complex paths we can follow in life. Two people are holding hands representing the need for support to create opportunities when our paths become lost. The triangles symbolise the balance between mind, body and land which is a strong stabilising force to help people find productive pathways in life.

Image of Cultural Advisor Aunty Lauraine Barlow

Aunty Lauraine Barlow

Cultural Advisor

Where non-Indigenous people are involved in the leadership of research, it is important that they engage with trusted cultural advisors. In this project, cultural stewardship is provided by Aunty Lauraine Barlow. Aunty Lauraine is a descendant of Mandingalpa Clan, Yidiny tribe and Kulla Kulla Clan, Lama Lama tribe in North Queensland. Her Aboriginal name is Jana-n Mandingalbay / Jigiddirri Jigiddirri, which means “standout willy wagtail”. Recently, she was honoured with a third name, Buligud, which means Grandmother. Lauraine has managed serious chronic illnesses and disabilities all her life. Two of her children have been impacted by disability and she cares for many other children with high support needs. She is a respected member of the community and has been a community researcher since 2003 focused on improving opportunities for First Peoples.

Image of Uncle Adrian Padmore

Uncle Adrian Padmore

Community Engagement Officer

Uncle Adrian Padmore is the ADNIP Community Engagement Officer. Uncle Adrian is an Elder of the Yidinji Rainforest people of Yungaburra. He recently retired from working for the Queensland government in a variety of roles for the last 52 years, including 27 years with the Magistrates Courts Offices in Innisfail, Townsville, Childers, Mackay, Cairns and Ipswich. Adrian was appointed as the Deputy Registrar, Magistrates Court (Civil), Cairns (1983) and later to the same position in Ipswich in 1989. Over the years, Adrian has also worked as a Mediator, Recruitment Officer, Equity Officer, Data Analyst, Evaluation Officer and Community Disasters Recovery Trainer. Adrian worked with the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities, sharing his expertise and knowledge when required.