Wellington's Beyond Barbed Wires volunteer team recognised at NSW Volunteer awards

Winners: Bruce McLean and Volunteer Mentors Lianne Davids, Mark Hoare, Jodi Burnstein, Shiree Talbot, Arlene Toews and Jodie Morrison. Photo: Contributed.
Winners: Bruce McLean and Volunteer Mentors Lianne Davids, Mark Hoare, Jodi Burnstein, Shiree Talbot, Arlene Toews and Jodie Morrison. Photo: Contributed.

Wellington’s Beyond Barbed Wire volunteer team have been awarded the prestigious New South Wales Volunteer Team of the Year award at the 2018 Volunteer of the Year awards in Sydney. 

The Beyond Barbed Wire volunteer team consists of 12 volunteer mentors who work with mothers who are currently behind bars, or have recently been released.

The mentors spend time with imprisoned women to help them develop valuable parenting skills and connecting them with support systems that can help them with life after jail. 

Co-cordinator Shiree Talbot says that the work the group does is incredibly important. 

“We work with mums, pre and post release, so when they’re in custody and when they come home,” Mrs Talbot said. 

“We match women with a mentor who is a support person from their own community whilst they are in custody and they support them through telephone calls, through letter writing and when they come home and return to the community, we get to continue that relationship face to face.”

The group of mentors had already been recognised for their work by the Volunteer awards earlier this year, but could never have imagined they would make it as far as they have, with Mrs Talbot saying there was ‘no way’ they could have anticipated this result. 

“I can’t express to everyone how much our volunteer mentors do with the mums and women that we support but we were just thrilled with the recognition to what we’re contributing through the program and we never, ever anticipated that we would take out the top honour for the state, we’re just so thrilled.”

While the work can seem as simple as picking up the phone or helping a recently released mother with a chat, the results have been very effective in helping prevent women end up back behind bars. 

“The recidivism rate with Beyond Barbed Wires stands at 9 per cent, that means that 91 per cent of the women involved with our program are staying at home with their children.”

The recidivism rate amongst the general population of female offenders stands at around 48 per cent. 

“We’re helping break the cycle.”