Volunteering is an opportunity to give back to your community and many of our officers at Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) regularly dedicate time outside of work to help their community and make a difference, like Senior Psychologist Jennifer, from Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre who started volunteering four years ago.
Jennifer said volunteering was a great way to meet people, share knowledge and build new skills while giving back to the community.
“I have been involved in a community group providing support to the lower socio-economic group by way of helping with fundraising and monster garage sales. This was a great opportunity to meet locals, help facilitate the garage sales and provide links for consumers with the community organisation,” Jennifer said.
“I have also been fortunate to sit on a subsidiary board for the Domestic Violence Action Centre, writing and publishing educational material, including putting together a DVD, educating first responders how to identify victims of domestic and family violence, and provide referral pathways for the victims.”
Jennifer’s day job entails managing the ‘at risk’ portfolio of women prisoners who are vulnerable to self harm, suicide or very unwell with mental health conditions. She also supervises her team of psychologists, provisional psychologists, counsellors, cultural liaison officers and program delivery officers.
“My team is a conglomeration of talented individuals who share the same goal of ensuring the women in our care are safe from risk of harm to themselves and others by managing them on ‘at risk’ observations where necessary, similar as if a person was in hospital and had a nurse check on them hourly.
“Safety is paramount when interacting with prisoners. You don’t always know what they have been through, what they are thinking, or how stable their mental health is. Anything can happen, so being on your guard is important to ensure everyone is kept safe. We also need to be aware of potential trauma history and what could be interpreted as a trauma trigger for the ladies, and it could be as simple as closing a door.
“We also provide rehabilitation programs to help the women turn their lives around for the benefit of themselves, their children and the broader community. We offer education, vocational training, parent courses and assist mother’s repatriate with their children that are involved with Child Safety Youth and Women,” Jennifer said.
She joined the public service almost five years ago when she was looking for an internship to complete her Psychological General Registration.
“I was looking for an organisation where I could actually provide intervention in a non-voluntary capacity to get my foot in the door.”
Jennifer has worked at various centres, including Southern Queensland Correctional Centre, Borallon Training and Correctional Centre, Wolston Correctional Centre and now Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre (BWCC) where she has worked for almost three years.
“My role is exciting and different everyday and what I love most is making a difference.
“Every job comes with its challenges however, and at times our challenge with the women is motivating them to want to change.
“We can provide all the care and intervention to the women, but ultimately they need to want to change, so helping provide that motivation is key.
“At BWCC, our ethos is to change a woman is to change a generation. We aim to change the trajectory of their path and help them return to society with viable skills to become more self-sufficient and strong individuals so they can endeavour to lead crime-free lives.
At the end of a challenging and tough day, Jennifer enjoys the tranquillity of being on the water with her standup paddle board or riding her push bike, which helps burn adrenaline and calm her mind.
For anyone considering a career in corrections, she recommends street smarts, some life experience, resilience and wanting a challenge.
“This environment and cohort is not for the faint-hearted, but it is a life long career and you will never stop learning or being challenged. It’s here if you’re ready for the challenge,” Jennifer said.