Incarcerated fathers at Hobart’s Risdon Prison Complex can watch their children play during visits thanks to a new playground at the Ron Barwick Men’s Minimum Security Facility.
The Christian Family Centre received a $50,000 community infrastructure grant from the Tasmanian Community Fund (TCF) to purchase and install the play equipment, which was officially unveiled in December 2016.
Christian Family Centre pastor Norm Reed said the playground, believed to be the first of its kind in Australia, was constructed in hopes of creating memories and a sense of normalcy for inmates and their children.
“Importantly, it will create an environment where dads can just be dads,” he said.
“For some, the playground will become the ‘hub’ of visit times, allowing the incarcerated parent to engage with their children in a ‘normal’ father/child situation.”
Pr Reed said the playground, which includes slides, climbing frames, new basketball hoops and rubberised soft fall, would enhance the family environment in the prison visiting area, making visits “less confronting” for children.
“Maintaining contact with family while in prison is important for both the prisoner and their family,” he said.
“For children, regular contact with parents is essential in maintaining their emotional wellbeing and capacity for resilience.”
Christian Family Centre is a local church that serves the Risdon Vale community and supports families and children of prisoners incarcerated in Risdon Prison.
Pr Reed said this support included the provision of a house for families of prisoners visiting the prison – also funded through the TCF, activities days, opportunities for incarcerated parents to support their children in homework and video visits for families unable to visit the prison.
“These services are provided by volunteers from the Christian Family Centre and other churches and community organisations,” he said.
“We also work closely with child protection to assist children in their care to have meaningful visits with their incarcerated parent.
“The Tasmania Prison Service encourages family contact, and has been supportive of the work we have been doing in the prison, including the establishment of volunteer family engagement workers, these workers are available to support prisoners and families who are finding it difficult to keep in touch, for whatever reason.”
TCF chairwoman Sally Darke said the project represented a major component of a longer-term need to stabilise the families of prisoners in Tasmania.
“This project recognises the importance of providing opportunities for individuals and their families to engage in meaningful and mutually supportive activities,” she said.
“For some children, this playground will provide one of the few opportunities to engage in positive opportunities with their parent.
“The TCF is pleased to support such a worthy project and is confident it will have a long-term positive impact on the lives of prisoners and their families for many years to come.”
Pr Reed said the project was completed through approximately 300-hours of in-kind labour provided by volunteers, including a group of prison inmates.
The playground was installed by Island Recreation.
Caption: The playground for visiting children at Risdon Prison’s Ron Barwick Minimum Security facility, which was funded by the Tasmanian Community Fund. Image supplied by Christian Family Centre.