Ms VAGHELA (Western Metropolitan) (12:44): My constituency question is directed to the Minister for Crime Prevention, Minister for Corrections, Minister for Youth Justice and Minister for Victim Support, the Honourable Natalie Hutchins. My question relates to the portfolio responsibilities of corrections. The Andrews Labor government has taken a significant step towards providing more support to women leaving prison in terms of housing security, financial independence and improved employment prospects. The services provided by registered housing provider Women’s Housing Limited at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre are now expanded to include a $2.8 million project for housing and support programs.
My question to the minister is: can the minister update me on how many women in prison this program will support in the Western Metropolitan Region? Women’s employment specialists are also working across the prison system to improve job prospects for women in preparation for their release, which is part of a wider $5.8 million initiative which includes family therapy services. This program is vital for women’s transition into the community.
Ms HUTCHINS (Sydenham—Minister for Crime Prevention, Minister for Corrections, Minister for Youth Justice, Minister for Victim Support) (29 April 2021): I thank the Member for her interest and advocacy on this important issue.
The Women’s Justice Diversion Program (WJDP) provides housing and homelessness assistance to women leaving prison to live anywhere across Victoria – including the Western Metropolitan Region.
The program assists women at DPFC on remand or short sentences (up to three months) as well as their location post-release, which includes urban and regional locations across Victoria. The WJDP works with various housing and support partners across Victoria to help women achieve their goals, with strong partnership with homelessness and housing agencies in the western region.
Given the short-term housing options that are often utilised, specific data regarding where support is provided is difficult to obtain, however the program has supported 116 women exiting the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre (DPFC) since its commencement in October 2020.
Over the life of the three-year contract, the program is targeted to provide support to at least 758 women.