The Head and the Heart: How the power of the gospel became tangible to Joshua


Joshua* felt that deep overwhelming burden constantly, the burden Jesus knew we would all, in our human frailty, be weighed down by at times. 

The burden of fear.

Finding himself in prison once again, Joshua’s faith journey up to that point had been tenuous. An ongoing struggle to really grasp with his heart the knowledge he had of Christ in his head. Fear would rise, dagger in hand, to destroy hope, and Joshua would wrestle as the anxiety would manifest itself in enormous sadness during the day, and in terrible dreams throughout the night.

“Why should things be different this time?” he wondered. His courage failed him over and over during this most recent prison sentence. He was due to leave prison soon…again. But how could he be sure he would not end up back here…again?

Daniel, a chaplain in the Darwin Correctional Centre and Victor, a volunteer chaplain for Prison Fellowship Australia, met Joshua halfway through his sentence. They would share words of encouragement, compassion, and understanding. Daniel and Victor patiently journeyed alongside Joshua, reinforcing the true freedom that comes with the Gospel of Christ. They prayed with him knowing it is an individual journey we all have with the Lord, and that only the work of the Holy Spirit can bring the knowledge of this truth to the heart.

Victor and Daniel encouraged Joshua to persevere. They assured him that concerns, anxieties, and doubts are common to all believers at times – whether inside prison or outside. Each sojourner has seasons of  ‘going deeper’ and exploring and anchoring their faith.

Then came a day when everything changed! A change that was so apparent, so evident in Joshua – His face was no longer etched with fear and sadness, but now shone with hope and possibility. Joshua had read Philippians 4:6-7 – “Be anxious about nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgivings, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God surpassing all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s encouragement had touched Joshua’s heart and it was as if a physical burden had been lifted from him.

The breakthrough had come for Joshua. The chains had been broken. The strongholds of his fear, brought down. The enormity of the power of his redemption and the price Christ paid for him, was truly grasped.  “It is like someone being in this prison here now taking my place – serving this sentence for me. And I could walk free,” he said. What he had known in his head, he now knew in his heart.

The power of the gospel became tangible: that in taking the sentence which is rightfully ours to pay for eternity, Christ has redeemed us and paid our debt once and for all. And we walk away and are set free!

And nothing can ever change that.

Joshua now faced the future with confidence and assurance. Daniel and Victor encouraged him to attend his church when he left prison and to truly live this New Life in Christ, surrounded by other believers with the fullness of the Word etched in his heart:

And I no longer am living, but Christ is living in me. And what I am now living in the flesh, I am living by faith in the Son of God— the One having loved me and handed Himself over for me.’ 

Galatians 2:20 DLNT


Yvonne Smuts, Prison Fellowship Volunteer



*Name has been changed


“The prisoners opened up my heart again” Lisa* never thought her patients in prison would be the ones to bring her back to Christ.


Most of the stories we share are about Prison Fellowship volunteers sharing the gospel with inmates and the transformation they experience whilst in prison. 

But what happens when the inmates become the disciplers? 


Lisa* has been working in prisons for 4 years as a Transition Coach and Mental Health Officer. But her life was transformed when some of her clients in prison shared their faith with her.  

“I work with a community organisation that works alongside Correctional Services to integrate prisoners on parole.” 

“We mostly work with high-risk prisoners, and work on goal-setting like finding accommodation or work for after their release, or supporting them to engage in pro-social behaviour. Basically just helping them in the transition towards release. I love it!” 


Growing up in a Lutheran family, Lisa has always been involved in the church. But when her church failed to support her and her husband through a difficult period in their marriage, she found herself separated from her church family, and eventually from her husband as well. 

Lisa ended up moving interstate and starting fresh. “I still had a strong desire to be in relationship with God and I tried to go to other churches but I would get very panicky. My church experience had been too traumatic and I ended up walking away from my faith completely for 10 years or more.”  


“My church experience had been too traumatic and I ended up walking away from my faith completely for 10 years or more.”  


“My experience meant I had a really bad perception of anyone who called themselves a Christian. Anytime someone said they were a Christian, I would leg it – I didn’t want a bar of it.” 

“In those 10 years I tried Shamanism and all sorts of crazy things, but I always felt empty, hoping the next thing would be the problem-solver.”

At that time Lisa was working in prison as a Disability and Mental Health Officer. “I would mostly do intake meetings to see if they fit the criteria, but the guys eventually found out that I was just someone they could talk to. During COVID, there was a really high demand for just having a chat with someone because these guys wouldn’t fit the criteria to see the mental health nurse or the psychologist and they didn’t have any visitors, so I would spend time just talking with them.”

“I would ask them, ‘How are you coping in prison? What keeps you strong, what keeps you well so that we can do more of that?’ And there were a couple of guys who would say, ‘Oh it’s my faith.’”  

“Whenever they said that I would seize up. I remember wanting to press the panic button and just get out of there. I would suggest other wellbeing activities like walking and enjoying nature, and they would just say ‘No, it’s just my faith that keeps me going.’”

“I got to a point where I thought, I just have to lean into this, I’m obviously struggling with this issue. I would read victim impact statements with no dramas, but the second they mentioned faith I would run a mile.”

“There was one guy who was doing it really tough. He was from overseas and didn’t have any contact with his family. One day he was really struggling, so I asked him what he would do back home. He said he would sing hymns in his choir back home. And all of a sudden I heard myself suggest to him that we sing a hymn together. I couldn’t believe what I was saying! But he started singing a hymn in his own language and I just thought to myself, ‘Just lean into this, there’s clearly a message here.’” 


“I would ask them, ‘How are you coping in prison? What keeps you strong, what keeps you well so that we can do more of that?’ And there were a couple of guys who would say, ‘Oh it’s my faith.’”


“Another prisoner I met was probably the main instigator. He was referred to me because he was really struggling. I asked him what it was that kept him going and he told me about his faith. At the end of the session I was relieved because he didn’t end up fitting the criteria to continue our appointments.”

“But then one day he saw me in the yard and asked why I hadn’t made another appointment with him. I asked if he wanted more appointments and he was so enthusiastic. So again, I just told myself to lean into it because I’m here to support them.” 

“During our conversations he told me about his faith and why it was so important to him. He was the first person who never made me feel judged or condemned. He didn’t use his faith as a way to judge or condemn people. He was just telling me his story and he was always accountable for what he had done. I ended up sharing my own story about my church experience, which I would normally never do because I don’t share any personal details, and we just had this beautiful dialogue. I just felt safe to have this conversation with him.”

“Because of these conversations, I kept thinking about going back to church. Eventually, I ended up visiting the church that had hurt me. I just wanted to go back and face them. It took a lot, but I walked in and sat there just observing the service. Then I had this overwhelming presence of God tell me I needed to forgive. So I sat there and forgave them. I sat through the whole service, just saying to myself, ‘I love them, I forgive what they’ve done. My life is bigger than this one experience – I’m on a journey and I just need to forgive these people.’” 

“I then felt driven to go and find my own church. I did lots and lots of research and eventually found a little community church with only 30 people. It’s a sweet little community and I feel safe there – I know I’m in the right place. My son, who is 3 and is usually very shy around strangers, was going around talking to everyone at the end of the service! I knew that it was a safe place for us then.”


“Because of these conversations, I kept thinking about going back to church. Eventually, I ended up visiting the church that had hurt me. I just wanted to go back and face them.”


“After that, I left the prison system and went into teaching. I just felt that I needed to get out of prisons for a while. I started praying, asking for the right door to open. I ended up getting a job at a TAFE teaching mental health and community services. I had to tell all the prisoners that I was leaving, and I did not expect their response. The men were all crying and thanking me. On my last day, two inmates escorted me away from the prison to make sure I got away safely. That just made me bawl my eyes out! I just kept thinking, ‘Here are these people who are condemned by others, and they’ve always kept me safe.’ They are the people who have treated me with the most respect and care in life. They shared their stories with me and I’ve had so much respect for them.” 

“This is what I’d like people to see about prisoners. I was bitter when I met them, but through my work with them they opened up my heart again. 


“This is what I’d like people to see about prisoners. I was bitter when I met them, but through my work with them they opened up my heart again.” 


I had intense grief when I left because I missed them all. When I started my new job at the TAFE, all I cared about was telling people about those prisoners. I love changing people’s perspective about inmates so I try to get people to love them and I encouraged my students to work with prisoners! At that point I realised that maybe God was calling me to go back to prison!

“So I ended up appyling for a job that had been closed for a month. But they called me up, I interviewed, and they gave me the job on the spot! I was so excited because it aligned with my beliefs about loving and forgiving people and giving people a second chance.”

“One of the guys I’m working with is getting released soon. He’s got accommodation and a license – he’s rebuilding. He’s even going to help me bake cookies for the Prison Fellowship Easter Biscuit Bake in Victoria! It may not sound like much, but for me it’s huge! I had been trying to think of a way for ex-prisoners to give back to the community – they’re never given a chance to give back and they’re so excited to do it. And in the end, it’s really not about the baking. It’s about giving hope to those who are still inside. The biscuits are going back into the prison I used to work at, to the guys who brought me back to Christ.” 


*Name has been changed



The Pathway to Hope


My name is Nathaniel*, and last year I had the privilege of participating in the Sycamore Tree project. When I began this course, it felt like I was destined to live a life of shame and guilt because of my crimes. I carried an oversized and overfilled backpack of deep regret, sadness, and despair. Profound remorse was like a dark cloud that hung over my head full of built up healing potential, with nowhere to direct the energy. 

The community that I knew, my family and friends, all turned their backs on me for the crimes I committed. I realised the system was keen to anchor me as an outcast of society, not deserving of basic decency. There just wasn’t a vehicle to heal all the wounds that were created by the devastating ripple effect of my crimes. 

Everyone affected by my crimes was sitting in a cesspool of pain, and I was all too aware that my futile incarceration came at a great cost to the taxpayer. 

There seemed to be no healing or justice for anyone involved. 

But during the Sycamore Tree Project I finally had somewhere to channel my energy and I was able to learn what it truly means to take responsibility for my crimes. I learnt the difference between punitive justice and restorative justice, and I developed a sense of empowerment as I understood the importance of confession and being repentant. I also learnt about the power and the importance of forgiving myself and others, as well as being forgiven and committing to meaningful change.


“During the Sycamore Tree Project I finally had somewhere to channel my energy and I was able to learn what it truly means to take responsibility for my crimes.”


I realised that I had done untold damage to my friends and family, but the Sycamore Tree Project made me realise that I had incredible power to also do good! I have always underestimated my ability to affect change. Now I am committed to doing good! I found a pathway that has given me hope and confidence to be the best man I can be. 

For weeks I sat in awe of the facilitators of the Sycamore Tree Project. All of the volunteers were simply beautiful human beings with only one goal – to repair the damage that crime creates. I used to call them the Healing Crusaders. It was truly a privilege to be in the same space with these Good Samaritans as they led us wounded men on an honest journey. They showed us the pathway to our recovery, and that of our victims. 

I will be eternally grateful for the role each facilitator played in my own personal healing. They truly changed my life. 

Participating in the Sycamore Tree Project has been a life-changing experience. I want to show my gratitude to the facilitators and my fellow journeymen who have been so inspiring on this enlightening rollercoaster ride!


Participating in the Sycamore Tree Project has been a life-changing experience.”


To Christine*, the chaplain, for making this program happen, I commend her passion and commitment to the cause of helping us be the best versions of ourselves. It was an honour to be guided by such an angel. Thank you!

To the men who embarked on this journey with me, I recognise you all as fellow inmates over my 3 years. But what I learned about you through the program gave me tremendous insight into humanity. I learnt we were all experiencing pain in our own way. We all aspired to that Holy Grail of forgiveness for our crimes. We all want the opportunity to make amends for our sins, and we all hope that one day there will be reconciliation for the pain we have caused. As a group we became connected through our journey of discovery together. And in the end, I felt a real bond of comradery I never thought possible in prison. 

To everyone involved, thank you for the experience, and thank you for who you are. The true crime is that so many prisoners miss the opportunity to participate in this program. For humanity’s sake, I hope that changes. 



Sycamore Tree Project participant 


*Names have been changed 


“I was the lowest of the low!” How God’s amazing grace turned Stuart’s life around. 


My name is Stuart* and I have been in jail now for just a bit over 5 years. I was arrested in 2017 and I will serve a total of 8 years. 

Before coming to jail I had let sin take over my life completely. Drugs, alcohol, lust, and greed were my downfall. I had broken just about every rule in the book – even worse, I had broken almost every one of God’s commandments.

In my eyes, and everyone else’s eyes I was a complete failure. My life was a disaster and I had let my family, friends, and community down in a huge way. I hung my head in shame, and lived a life of regret. I was disowned by everyone I had ever loved, everyone except my older sister and her husband who still cared for me, God bless them.

Early on, I remember sitting in my jail cell, thinking bad thoughts. At that point I denied everything I had done and I was going to fight the charges. I was angry, wild, scared, worried, broken-hearted, and sorry, and another thousand emotions. Thoughts ran through my head – I knew no one, had no one, I wished my life would just end there and then. So, I withdrew into myself, put on a brave face and stayed out of trouble when I could. But the tension kept rising and I felt that I was soon going to snap.


“I was angry, wild, scared, worried, broken-hearted, and sorry, and another thousand emotions.”


Then one day a man came to our sector and into our pod. A lot of the other guys seemed to like him and showed him respect. I asked one of my fellow inmates, “Who’s that?” He replied, “He’s the chaplain.” 

I watched on with interest as he spoke to a few of the guys and they had a word of prayer. I couldn’t hear anything as they were in the interview room, but I could see their facial expressions as they poured out their hearts. They smiled, they laughed, they had a deep connection with this chaplain.

I turned away to look outside through the window, lost in my own thoughts. I didn’t hear him at first. Then one of the guys yelled, ”Oi! Stuart, you’re wanted!” I looked up to see the door open at the interview room and the chaplain waiting to see me. I was confused. I felt nervous, thinking, “What’s this about, what have I done?” But he smiled at me and said, “Hello, I was just wondering if we could have a word – come in please.”

I walked in and sat down. The door closed, and he introduced himself. He mentioned that he always tries to connect with the new inmates, when time allows. He also said if I needed to talk about anything I could fill out a request form and he would come back when he could. He also said I could request a Bible if I wanted. 

Then he asked if I would like him to pray for my family and friends. I thought to myself, “I suppose it couldn’t hurt,” so I agreed.

When he had finished I thanked him and turned to leave. Just as I got to the door he said,  “Stuart, God loves you.” I was taken back for a second. I didn’t know what to do. I gave an awkward smile and walked out.

I returned to my seat lost in thought again, thinking about what he had said. I wondered how anybody could love me, let alone God. I was the lowest of the low! 

Strangely, over the next few weeks I kept thinking about my meeting with the chaplain and what he said to me. “Stuart, God loves you.”


“I wondered how anybody could love me, let alone God. I was the lowest of the low!”


About a month later I had the worst week ever. I had been copping torment, ridicule, and threats of violence and hate from some inmates, which led to mental stress and anxiety. Then one week it was so hot and humid that you slept in your own sweat. There was no breeze and to top it off my fan had broken and the TV had also packed it in too. I was so bored I was going out of my mind! With mixed feelings and thoughts going through my head I was doing it hard, and it didn’t help that one of the guys was getting out soon. I felt trapped in endless torment with no fan, no TV, and no hope!

The next day I filled out a request form to the chaplain asking for a Bible, just so I had something to read! That night was the first time in a long time that I had prayed to God. I asked for help, even if it was only a working fan. I pleaded for something to change in my life, then I went to bed hot and irritated. Later that night it began to rain, and I fell asleep in the cool night air.

Strangely, the next day, one of the other inmates asked me if I wanted to change cells and double up with him, as his old cellie had just gotten out.He said he preferred to have someone he knew than someone he didn’t. He had a working TV and fan in the cell, so it didn’t take me much convincing to move. 

There was one rule, however – he watched church on TV every Sunday morning. Everything else was negotiable. That night I was watching TV as the fan blew cold air around the cell and I felt that things had definitely changed.

The next morning I was called to the guard post, I had mail. It was a Bible from the chaplain! 


“The next morning I was called to the guard post, I had mail. It was a Bible from the chaplain!”


During the day you are locked out of your sleeping cell into the common room with everybody else. I laid down on the floor near the vents under the fan and I opened the Bible for the first time in over 30 years. The last time I remember opening a Bible was at Sunday school back when I was just a kid.

I flicked through the Bible and ended up in the New Testament in the book of Matthew. I started to read about Jesus and his followers. Then I got to Mathew 5:21-26, which is titled, Jesus Teaches About Anger. Verse 25 said, “And the judge will hand you over to a guard, who will throw you into jail. I assure you that you will not leave there until you have paid everything you owe.” This hit home.

I got down to Matthew 5:43-48 where Jesus teaches about loving your enemies. By now I was confused, shook up, and worried, but I couldn’t put it down! Before I knew it I was reading about repenting, confessing, Jesus dying on the cross for my sin, and how they crucified Him on the cross. Then I read about how He rose again. I remember thinking there was so much more in the Bible than I remembered as a kid – I didn’t remember half of what I was reading!

But I could remember all the stuff I had done wrong in my life, all the sin and crime, all the pain and hurt I had caused – and it cut me to the bone! I felt pain so deep in my chest I thought I was having an anxiety attack, possibly even a heart attack. I couldn’t blame this feeling on alcohol or drugs as I hadn’t had anything for over 8 months now, and I was thinking clearly for the first time in a long while.

I asked myself why I felt so empty. I knew then that there was something missing in my life. It wasn’t freedom, or family, or friends – this ran deeper and it cut me to the bone. At that moment I realized I was lost. But then those words that the chaplain said came back to me “Stuart, God loves you!” 

I think that was the first time I was convicted by the Holy Spirit, I knew right then that I had to confess and repent to Jesus for all my sins, and ask Him to come into my heart.

So as I lay on the floor, I placed the Bible on my chest and closed my eyes. I silently prayed to Jesus and asked Him to forgive me of all my sins and to save me. To anyone else looking at me, they would have thought I had fallen asleep with a book on my chest, they had no idea I was in deep prayer with Jesus.


I silently prayed to Jesus and asked Him to forgive me of all my sins and to save me.”


I pleaded to be saved and asked forgiveness, while forgiving all those who had hurt me.  I prayed for my family, that they would forgive me, and asked that Jesus would protect them and watch over them. I asked for God’s help in asking for forgiveness from all those I had hurt. 

I had lost everything I loved, but in doing so, I found the one who loves me unconditionally. I prayed for Jesus to come into my heart, to lead me forevermore and to change me, heart and mind. So now I follow Jesus, He is my saviour.

Jesus has changed me in so many ways, I am no longer that angry man I was. My fear and worry has all but gone, and I am growing in strength, belief, and faith daily. 

In Romans 4:7-8 it says, “It is a great blessing when people are forgiven for the wrongs they have done, when their sins are erased! It’s a blessing when the Lord accepts people as if they are without sin.” Also in Romans 5:1 it says, “We have been made right with God because of our faith, so we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I pleaded guilty to my crime and got 8 years or 6 and a half years with parole. I have now given my life over to Christ and I am on a journey with Jesus leading the way. My prayer life has exploded! I pray to the Lord everyday and I now do Bible study courses and go to church meetings in my sector each week. 

I recently got invited to do a program called The Prisoner’s Journey. It’s a study on the Gospel of Mark and it explains how Mark wrote this Good News about Jesus and his life. It gave me a much deeper understanding about Jesus and what he has done for me, for all those willing to listen.

Jesus came to save humanity and to pay the price for sin, to make us able to pray to God directly through Him. Through The Prisoner’s Journey I learnt about Jesus, why he came to Earth, what I must do now I’ve heard the good news. I learnt about grace, faith, love, and forgiveness. I also learnt about His resurrection and how Jesus will come again soon. I now understand about God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

I am not sure what will happen tomorrow or the next day, I just take one day at a time, with Jesus in my heart. I trust my future to Him and accept what may come my way.

I have put my past behind me as I know I can’t change it, but with Jesus’ help I will change my future. In Philippians 3:13-14 it says, “Brother and sisters, I know that I still have a long way to go, but there is one thing I do: I forget what is in the past and try as hard as I can to reach the goal before me – I keep on running hard towards the finish line to get the prize that is mine, because God has called me through Jesus Christ to life up there in Heaven.”


“I am not sure what will happen tomorrow or the next day, I just take one day at a time, with Jesus in my heart. I trust my future to Him and accept what may come my way.”


In the Gospel of Mark I learnt that only Jesus could heal the sick and forgive sin and remove evil from people’s lives. I learnt about the Sabbath day (God’s holy day of rest) and how Jesus has changed people’s way of thinking including mine. It now also has changed the way I act – I have left my old self behind. I have accepted Christ as my Lord and Saviour, and my belief and knowledge has been strengthened by what I learnt by in The Prisoner’s Journey.

My faith has grown through scriptural revelation, I now have a strong conviction that the bible is indeed the word of God. I am so grateful that “jail-time” gave me the opportunity to learn from God’s truth. I now place my trust and faith in Jesus Christ my Saviour.

My rehabilitation started with Jesus as he placed a new heart in me. The word of God strengthens me and gives me a positive attitude for the future. Whatever may come my way I know that Jesus is with me, on my journey to everlasting life. The forgiveness of my sins and the salvation I now have comes from God – it is a free gift of grace. Through the work Jesus has done on the cross, I now know he died for all of us, so we could be forgiven of our sins, and through Him be made right with God!

Through God’s word I learnt that eternal life is more than living forever – it’s being with God so we can praise and worship Him first-hand. I am now experiencing God’s love and fellowship first-hand. I feel joy and happiness, and most of each time I pray I feel God’s presence through His Holy Spirit.

I am so happy that Jesus came into my life to save a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I am found, was blind but now I see. God has given me His amazing grace and I now sing about it whenever I can. All glory and praise belongs to God!


Amen. Thank you Jesus.





*Name has been changed




The Power of Your Story – Aunty Pearl Wymarra on the power of your story

“Your story is your story, if you know it no one can take it away from you.” 

Aunty Pearl Wymarra has been visiting inmates in New South Wales prisons for over 35 years. After seeing some of her own family and friends in prison, Pearl feels keenly the need to support Indigenous inmates, and is passionate about giving all inmates their best chance after release. 


Storytelling is fundamental to Aunty Pearl’s ministry in prisons, for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal inmates. “I tell young people to know their story,” she explains. “The way you’re going to survive on the outside is to get to know your story, first in your heart. Balance it with your mind and develop the language to express it. Stories are important. If you [get to know your own story] you’ll be able to hold your own within your language, peer group, and outsiders too.”


“I know this works because a girl came to me at a function and introduced me to her kids. Beaming at me, Rachel* said, ‘I’ll never forget you telling us different stories about identity. Because of that, I was able to do what I needed to do once I got out of prison.’” 


“A woman once heard me talk about the healing power of heartfelt and genuine listening. Afterwards she said to me, “So are you saying, ‘hearts are for listening, ears are for hearing.’ She was right! It’s just as important to listen to other people’s stories, and to listen with your heart. It is in another person’s story that you will find an answer for yours. When we share stories, we learn things that will be good for our own story.”


Sharing her own story is an important part of Pearl’s ministry. “I told my story how it was,” she said, not holding back the grittier details of growing up on Thursday Island in a large family and not a lot of money. 


“I’m still above ground,” she’d say. “I’m still here – I grew up like that, really poor and struggling, and I’m still here. The boys were shocked that I had such a tough time as a kid, and they responded really well. ‘Aunty, that was good’, they’d say to me. I think it helped them to see me as not very different from them. That if I had made something of myself, they could do the same. They would say to me, ‘I’ve heard my grandma talk like you.’ 


“I shared stories and strategies that I learnt to navigate my way in amongst my tensions in life. I used to tell them about how I dealt with the racism. They related to my stories and found answers for theirs. I taught them stories of people from the past who have been imprisoned for their faith, and how they were able to survive. It’s the power of prayer. The boys really loved what I was doing with them,” she says. “We used to do singing, art, and storytelling. It was just one hour a week, but they were giving good feedback to the staff. I really enjoyed going in each week. ”


Pearl recalls working at a correctional centre without fences. When she worked with the boys, she would warn them, “There are no fences out here, just bush. If anyone does a runner while we’re out here playing rounders this program is going to stop, so you better behave yourselves.” But she says, “The boys respected the rules and appreciated that our group regularly visited them once a month.”


“They always knew I was a Christian, and over time, I drew Jesus into the story and shared Jesus’ life with them. I would tell them, ‘This is how Jesus did it’. My way of sharing the gospel is simplistic – it was from that strong teaching I had as a child. I remember falling in love with Jesus right away! The boys used to listen and were really interested in hearing about Jesus.”


“I would explain to the boys that we’re all captives in life – we’re all in the prisons of our minds. So I challenged them to think about who were the good people in their lives. I would say to them, ‘When you leave here, go back to the good people in your life. They’re waiting out there for you, but so are the ones who contributed to you being in here.’ I encouraged them to protect their spirits. ‘Don’t mix with people who are no good for your spirit. Make sure you go back to the good people!’”


“I like writing new words to old tunes. We were talking about this song written by Andy Travis, ‘There’s room at the cross for you,’ but I changed it to ‘There’s room on the outside for you; your lands are out there.’ I was trying to plant in their minds that they have an identity and there are people waiting for them on the outside, even on their country.”


“I encouraged the boys to make the most of their time inside to heal from the inside out. I encouraged them to write their stories and focus on the positive things that have happened in their lives.  There is a uniqueness to the time spent inside, a time that must be used well, not neglected. Make the most of the time inside because when you’re outside you don’t have time – you go back to old patterns.”


“Prison ministry is really vital, because it’s an opportunity to reach out – particularly to young people – to help people to trust again and to know that they can and should make the most of their life while in prison. They should work on the restoration of their spirit, and make time for prayer. We have an opportunity to tell stories of people who have been in prison – we need to be able to share those stories.”


“One day I was at Penrith station in Sydney, and this Aboriginal boy and girl were walking towards me with a stroller. He looked at me and said, ‘Hey Aunty Pearl, how are you? You probably don’t remember me, but I was in your class in prison, when you used to come in and teach us.’ And I said, ‘Oh, Mitchell* you’re out now!’ He said, ‘Yeah, and this is my partner and our kid.’ We had a great yarn, and that was a lovely thing to happen to me that day. It was so rewarding.” 


*Names have been changed 


In thinking about Aunty Pearl and how long we have benefited from her wisdom and input on the NSW Advisory Council, I am reminded of the many strong women described in the Bible. Theirs are stories of miracles, of grace, of daring and of cunning. Pearl has always operated in the margins and has always pointed people she meets to a God who saves, a God who loves, and a God who transforms and restores. I hope this articles reveals to you some of Pearl’s obedience to answering the call of God in her life, and her determination not to allow any constraints that she has experienced in life, especially as a young child, to hinder her sense of purpose and mission to others.

– Andrew Baxter – Chair, NSW/ACT Advisory Council

The Margins: Traversing the lines that divide

The margins of society.

It’s a term often used to identify the space in which prisoners find themselves. Separated, divided, apart from others. Usually the margins are not crossed over, and when they are traversed it is only in isolated circumstances.

I’ve been working with Prison Fellowship and entering prisons for 5 years. Prison ministry is one of the most challenging spaces I have ever worked in, and that has nothing to do with the inmates. Prison is a place where the rules can change at any moment and often without explanation. It can be a challenging and discouraging environment.

Yet, prison ministry is also full of surprising moments of encouragement. Recently, while running Change on the Inside with the 10 inmates who had requested to take part, I was suddenly and unexpectedly encouraged. We were coming to the final session for the day when some of the comments just seemed to make it all worth it.

“We really appreciate you coming in and being so vulnerable with us, letting us see that you have the same struggles as us. The other guys that come in behave high and mighty, but you really show us you care.”  

Although it was Jason* who spoke the words, some of the others around the room nodded in agreement and later expressed deep gratitude to us.

As a State Manager I go to great lengths to let the guys in prison know that the men and women who visit them are volunteers. They are doing what they do because they care for them. They want to be in the ‘space’ and spend time engaging. They want to traverse that line and be there in the margins with them.

The longer I am part of this ministry, the more I want my friends, family, and the wider Church to visit prison with me so they too can see there is nothing to fear. To see that there are beautiful men and women who are discarded and forgotten by society, many of whom long for real change in their lives. And who, like all people on either side of the margin line, find self-worth in knowing they are loved and cared for.

It reminds me that our volunteers in prisons are somewhat like the kindly harvester and the sheaves of wheat spoken of in Ruth 2:2-4.

“One day Ruth, the Moabite foreigner, said to Naomi, ‘I’m going to work; I’m going out to glean among the sheaves, following after some harvester who will treat me kindly.’ Naomi said, ‘Go ahead, dear daughter.’ And so she set out. She went and started gleaning in a field, following in the wake of the harvesters.”

Ruth was anticipating that she would find wheat that the harvester had left along the margins of the field, as was the requirement of the Law. But she was hoping to encounter an abundance that was even more than the required amount, so that she and her mother-in-law, Naomi, could eat. Both being widows they were struggling to survive.

In the same way, prisoners enter our rooms expecting to perhaps, at minimum, encounter some meaningful engagement with those from the other side of the margin. 

These women didn’t just find the added generosity of abundance in the margins that day; their lives were changed forever through an encounter with Boaz, the owner of the fields. I know that the same can happen in the lives of inmates as they encounter the abundance of God’s love when expressed through volunteers who go into the margins.

Lives are changed forever through these encounters – and that is our constant prayer at Prison Fellowship Australia, that more people step into the abundance of the margin experience of  being a volunteer.

Ian Townsend  
State Manager SA and NT

*Names have been changed

A Transformed Life: How finding a Bible in prison transformed Michael

I’ve been volunteering with Prison Fellowship since 2017 and as an assistant chaplain since 2021. I’ve had a wonderful time working with the team here! I consider it an incredible opportunity to be part of a world-wide team that is so well-established and well-organised. 


It’s a very rewarding experience, working in prisons. The inmates who attend our chapel services are so encouraged to have the chance to fellowship and worship with other Christians. Each time they hear the Word of God, their desire to learn continues to grow – It’s very moving and energising for us as volunteers!


Phil (left) with David Berry, Daniel Tetteh, and Victor Rao in Darwin


I’ve seen many inmates give their life to God over the years. One man in particular, Michael*, is from one of the Northern Territory islands. I met him many years ago in the community, and a few years later he found himself in prison. Michael began attending our chapel services each Saturday in the prison.


One day after Saturday chapel, I asked him what kept him coming to the services, and he replied, “Well, Phil, I came to prison not having anything to read. I looked and looked for something to read, and I only ever found a Bible. So, I began to read it. And I read and I read, and it began to change my heart. Over time it also began to change my life.” 


We began to see that something in Michael was different. And a few weeks later after one of our church services, he called me aside. His face glowed with relief and peace as he told me, “Phil, I had a visit from my wife this week and she said that she had forgiven me.” He had already been transformed by God’s forgiveness, and now he had been forgiven by his wife! 


When Michael finished his sentence he moved back home and helped to establish a local secondary school. More recently, Michael is a visiting elder to the prison in Darwin – he’s very well-respected in the prison. 


There’s nothing like speaking to people who are desperate to hear what you’re saying. When we tell the stories of Jesus, you can see the guys connect with them. When you’re talking to these guys, they really want to hear what you’ve got to say. That’s a real blessing. Volunteering in prisons has been one of the highlights of my life!


The Lord bless you for your service.


Former prison chaplain and State Advisory Council member, SA/NT


After 5 years with Prison Fellowship, Phil is stepping down from his role to care for his wife. Phil joined the team as we were establishing a presence in the Darwin Correctional Centre for the first time, and it was God’s perfect timing. We will see Phil’s influence on our work for many years to come as he has helped so much in establishing the tone of care and love that the team has in that place. We will miss his gentle spirit and wisdom. It is our prayer that both Phil and Dorothy enjoy the pleasures that the NT provides in their retirement. – Ian Townsend 


*Names have been changed



Why would you help Him? Kevin Maddock reflects on God’s grace for inmates

The line between good and bad doesn’t run around the top of the prison wall – it runs right through the middle of each of our hearts. This is one of many things prison ministry has taught me.

When I first started to visit Victorian prisons regularly in 1979, one of the issues I needed to deal with was, ‘Are there any prisoners that I didn’t want to spend time with?’


If I met a person who was convicted of a crime when I knew the victim or their family, how would I react? How would others outside the prison react if they knew that I was spending time with some of these people on the inside? 


A Leopard Can Change Its Spots 

I am always aware that when I share at public gatherings about prison ministry there are likely to be victims of crime in the audience. I always point out that the bottom line in what we do is, “No more victims.” It’s not about condoning crime or criminal behaviour. It’s about stopping the cycle of crime. 


One day when I had shared about the ministry of Prison Fellowship in Victoria, a lady came up to me and told me that it was useless trying to help or support those who were in prison because, “A leopard can’t change his spots.” 


Ron Nikkel, the former President of Prison Fellowship International once said,

“When I say that I have never met a monster in prison, I am not saying that I haven’t met people who aren’t capable of and culpable for their evil deeds. What I am saying is that, while I have met offenders who are guilty of the vilest and most violent offences imaginable, and while their actions are repulsive, I can only meet them on the level ground of our common humanity. God’s gift of life to each of us. That does not mean those offenders are not responsible for their deeds or that they should not be punished. What I do mean is that as long as they are alive, they are a person whose life story is not finished, and because God gave them life and God loves them, their life story remains open to all of the possibilities of grace and redemption – transformation, reconciliation, and restoration.”


I am a witness to such stories of redemption and transformation, for among the “incorrigible” offenders who have done monstrous evil are many who have been completely transformed by the grace of God and the love of people who did not diminish them or write them off as monsters. 


Some years ago I was on the news as I met a high-profile prisoner at the prison gate, and drove him to the district where he was to live. He had been convicted of murdering a child and had just been released at the end of his sentence.  


When we walked out of the prison together the media cameras were recording. As we drove out of the prison car park a helicopter came down low and was filming our exit. The helicopter followed us for about 30 minutes, filming as we travelled, continually coming down very low beside us. The whole episode was the lead story on the evening news. The media company involved didn’t bother to hide my number plates, and some of our neighbours let me know that they were not happy with me helping a person like that.


But my friend in prison wrote a letter to me saying, “I was sitting in my cell watching the TV News – and saw you picking him up. Your work does not go unnoticed for those you help no matter the crime.”


Two Huge Lies

I have found this quote by Rick Warren to be true, “Our culture has accepted two huge lies, the first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”


There is always the question, “Does this man deserve support and help?” Often the response is “No,” especially when you know the lives that have been destroyed by their choices, decisions, and actions.


But does accepting people, showing them respect, and treating them with humanity mean that I condone their actions and crime?


It can be hard to sit with the person who has had a different life from you, perhaps been rejected by family, who has poor health, maybe experienced great trauma, perhaps struggled with mental illness, who can’t hold down a job.


In their search for grace and peace, they may have turned to different types of addictions, to gambling, drugs or alcohol. They may be angry, have a short fuse, and may have lost any respect for themselves and so have no respect for other people. They may lash out at any person who offers care, especially the “do-gooders” who they expect to be self-righteous and judgemental.


It is sometimes a slow process to win friendship and build trust, especially for someone who has had their trust betrayed many times. But it is enormously rewarding to witness the light appear in the eyes of a person as they start to discover that they are cared for and respected and ultimately loved by God, and as they discover God’s goodness and grace.


We come to understand that there is no human being that is so far away, that God’s love cannot reach them.


Even in our brokenness and failures the fingerprints of a gracious creator are still on each of us. And because of that, we have the potential to be healed of the wounds that we carry, and our future can be different from our past.


Carl Jung, the great Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst said, “But what if I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself – that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness – that I myself am the enemy who must be loved. What then?”


Grace always seems unfair until I find myself in need of it.


Everybody Needs a Friend

I remember not long after I started to visit prisons I was sitting in a with an elderly man who asked me what my role was in the prison. I told him that I was a visitor offering friendship to those who needed a friend. I remember his eyes filled up with tears and he said, “I have never had a friend.” Some inmates are rejected and isolated and treated badly by other prisoners as well as their families.


I remember being told by a lady who was the Program Manager at one of the main long-term prisons of the state that over 60 percent of the prisoners in that prison had no contact with anyone outside, no one on a phone list, no visitors, no Christmas, or birthday cards. 


One man that I was chatting with, referred to his “waxer.” I didn’t know what he meant so I asked him. He explained that it was an old sailing term referring to a friend who was trusted, the sort of friend who would watch your back while in prison. He explained that in times past sailors on the big sailing ships worked in pairs when they were making or repairing the sails. One sailor would sew the canvas sail while the other one would rub wax onto the stitching to protect it from the weather. The person who did the heavy work of sewing the sails would swap with his mate when he needed a rest, and the person who had been waxing the stitching would then continue with the sewing. Many prisoners don’t have a “waxer.”


A good friendship makes the person understand that the “best self” is the “real self.” Sometimes I have sought to plant seeds of hope and meaning in their life. I have told many inmates, “After this is over, you could be the type of bloke who could make your little kids so proud of you.”


He didn’t get there by himself

When I was in my early teens, my dad taught me an important lesson. We were building a new fence line on our farm in Victoria. It was heavy work and dad had taken a break from the post hole digging. As I walked along the fenceline, I noticed a strange thing. There was a tortoise sitting on top of a fence post. 


Its head was right out of the shell and the head and legs were waving around in a strange way. I called out to my dad and asked him to come and look at it. He came slowly back with a big smile on his face. He had seen the tortoise travelling across the paddock and had picked it up and placed it on the post to show me when I came along later.


I remember what he said to me. “When you see a tortoise on a fencepost, you know he didn’t get there by himself.” 


He said that when you see a person who had become very wealthy, powerful, or successful, to always remember that he didn’t get there by himself. There are always a group of people who have contributed to their station, maybe family, community, or employees who have worked and made sacrifices to make it happen. 


Over the years of life’s journey, I have come to see that there is another side of that wise saying. In spending time visiting in the prisons, I have met some people who have arrived at the bottom of society, with no wealth or power, now hated and feared by society because of the crimes that they have committed. They didn’t get there by themselves either.


I remember speaking with a chap who has spent most of his life in prison. He told me that for the past three generations his family had been totally involved in organised crime. His father and grandfather had both been killed in gang wars. He said, “I wonder what my life could have been if I was born into a different family.”


A senior person in Corrections Victoria once told me that over ninety-five percent of prisoners had been either victims of crime or were struggling with mental health issues. I have spent time with many men who, for various reasons were made wards of the state in their early years. Many experienced different types of abuse and violence.


We must always have more sympathy, empathy and offering of support for the victims of crime than for the person who has committed the crime. Yet, at the same time, we must see and connect with another’s humanity, no matter how damaged it seems. We cannot afford to dehumanise anyone.


Recently I read about an elderly pastor who was known to help men turn their lives around. From heading toward prison to becoming strong stable people who could help others with the issues of life.


He was asked how he was able to bring change to these men. He said, “I hold a crown over their heads and encourage them to grow into it.”


May the Good Lord help us as we seek to reflect accurately God’s love, forgiveness and grace to those who need it the most.


Kevin Maddock – Prison Fellowship Supporter and Volunteer


Transforming Lives Every Day

When I first heard that children with a parent in prison are 6 times more likely to end up in prison than their peers, it broke my heart. Innocent children whose lives are turned upside down at such a young age. 

Little did I know that God was preparing me for a role at Prison Fellowship years later, where he would use me to set up a program called Extraordinary Lives. This wonderful program brings together Angel Tree and Camp for Kids under the one umbrella to work in a more connected way by also incorporating one-to-one mentoring, educational support, and facilitating prison visits for families.

It’s estimated there are around 43,000 children in Australia who currently have a parent in prison. These children are the innocent and invisible victims of crime. Some are living with grandparents, some with extended family, and many are in the care of the state. 

Prison Fellowship in every state and territory of Australia is working towards expanding its services to secure the wellbeing and future for these children and young people. We pray that our mentors sow the seeds of God’s love and purpose for them and their future, and that they invite Jesus to be central to their lives.

In my 18 months as national Extraordinary Lives Coordinator, it has been wonderful to see the impact that mentoring and support can have on a child with a parent in prison. Put simply, lives are transformed. 

As part of this role I have connected with grandparents who were just beginning to wind down and enjoy retirement when they were suddenly thrust back into a full-time child-raising role as one of their children was sent to prison. I am amazed by their strength, love, sacrifice, and care

Deborah* was waiting at the Prison Fellowship office to collect her grandchildren who were coming back from Camp for Kids when she overheard volunteers being trained as mentors. Walking into the room, she began, “Excuse me, I’m sorry to interrupt. I just have to say thank you for all you do for children. Mentoring would be wonderful for my grandkids, they need it so much. I am overwhelmed that there are people like you that care enough to want to help.”  

For Deborah, Camp for Kids was her first break from her grandchildren since her daughter went to prison. She was run down and exhausted.


Deborah’s grandchildren loved camp! “It’s important that they get a break from me and have other people to talk to. All the kids on the camp had something in common [a parent in prison], which made it much easier for them to talk about things. The camp leaders are different from parents and teachers and they are there to help. Their communication with me was great – when one of them wasn’t doing well they rang me and together we talked about what would work best for her particular behaviours. It was really good that they called. My grandkids got to see things done differently and that really helped.”

Deborah’s grandchildren are now being mentored by two leaders from camp. “It was really good,” she says, “Knowing the mentors from the camp and having that relationship made a big difference once mentoring started. It has helped them take responsibility, as well as doing things they enjoy like cooking and rollerblading.”

For children with a parent in prison, having a supportive mentor who listens to and affirms them, who offers encouragement and is a positive role model in their lives can increase their self-esteem. A Christian mentor can also share the love Jesus has for them and how He sees them, counteracting the negativity they hear about their identity and their future.

Through Extraordinary Lives, Deborah’s grandchildren now have mentors, attend camps in the school holidays, receive gifts from their mum at Christmas, and receive other support as needed. 

Oh, and Deborah gets some time to just relax!


When you talk, don’t say anything bad. But say the good things that people need—whatever will help them grow stronger. Then what you say will be a blessing to those who hear you. Ephesians 4:29 ERV


Sue Oliver, Former Extraordinary Lives Coordinator



Volunteer your time to mentor a child with a parent in prison or become a leader on Camp for Kids.

“I was on my way to jail, but Camp changed that.” How Camp for Kids changed the trajectory of Holly’s life.

“Prison Fellowship actually changed the trajectory of my life. They showed me what normal looked like. I’ve had a lot of social work interaction, counsellors, and psychologists as a young person, and none of them was as effective as the volunteers from Prison Fellowship.” 

For many children of prisoners, having a safe space to be seen, heard, and encouraged is rare. But Prison Fellowship’s Camp for Kids is one such space. This free week-long camp is designed to be a time of encouragement and fun, where children of inmates spend time with other kids in similar situations, hear about Jesus, and have a lot of fun. For Holly Nicholls, Camp for Kids was so much more than just a fun week away from home. It was a life-changing experience. 


A Broken Home

“Growing up, I had a lot of trauma. My dad was a substance user and he was in and out of jail. Every three years, he’d go in for crimes relating to poverty – he would do robberies or whatever, just to get his drugs. It led me to feel a bit abandoned. I literally came from a broken home, in every sense of the word. There were heaps of holes in our walls and nothing worked. It was just horrible to live there, and I never really felt safe, ever. I was always hypervigilant from all the trauma and watching my mum get really badly beaten all the time, so I had insomnia when I was little. And when I first came into contact with Prison Fellowship I was very antisocial and very aggressive because that was my safety mechanism.” 

“I was an angry young person because I was going through these social issues that my friends couldn’t really relate to. It was hard because dad was in and out all the time. That was really frustrating for me. I had low self-esteem because I thought, why can’t he just stay out? Why can’t we be a family? What’s wrong with me?” 

“That made me angry and I was hypervigilant because of the trauma that came from observing family violence and just dealing with the police a lot, that would come to our house and kick our door in, and stuff like that. I was really hostile towards any authority figures, including my teachers at school. It was pretty hard. I couldn’t make sense of what was happening, so it just led to anger, always angry.” 

“We were really poor. All the money my dad got just went straight up his arm. That’s what my mum always used to say. I was 10 and I didn’t really understand what she meant. Mum used to go to the pokies a lot. She was pretty good at making sure we had food, even if we just had bread for dinner, which we did a lot, we always got fed. At least we always had dinner and breakfast.”


A Life-Changing Camp

It was only when Holly was invited to attend Camp for Kids when she was 13, that she experienced positive affirmation for the first time.

Holly at Camp, 2010


“We played a game called shooting stars – it’s a confidence-building exercise where we get positive affirmations from our peers. We’d sit in a circle, and then we’d say, ‘I’d like to send a shooting star to…’ and then we’d pick someone in the group, and thank them for something, or say something positive about them. I just remember feeling something I had never felt before. It was unusual for me to hear positive things about myself. I really, really loved it.” 

“I feel like the whole cohort at camp did not really have self-esteem, because when your parent keeps going to jail the lens becomes inward-focused, and you think, ‘Why don’t you love me enough to be good, to not go to jail?’”

The other activities at camp also boosted Holly’s confidence and social skills. “We did a lot of physical activity, but then we did some games that helped us with our social skills and relationship building. That was a skill I really needed at the time as well – [at school] I didn’t really have the social skills to make friends. I was kind of a bully actually because I didn’t want to get bullied myself. It was just that power and control thing, I think.”

“The self-esteem that I got from the activities at Camp was huge. The games focused not just on physical activity, but they targeted our emotional well-being. That was a very new concept to me and it was really cool to hear young people saying nice things about me because in school that didn’t happen. It helped me build my sense of self-worth that got torn away from me by my dad because he wouldn’t stay out of jail.”

“Camp was the first place I really experienced healthy love. I would display a lot of positive behaviours post-camp, as well. For a good six months, I’d be super good. For that six months, I wouldn’t be out shoplifting or hurting people, attacking people in the community. I used to fight, fight all day, every day. Just used to fight anyone, everyone. After Camp, I didn’t feel like I needed to do that anymore because I felt in control of my own life after spending a week away with these amazing people that just lift you up. I just think that’s paramount to young people’s well-being, to be able to connect with kids that are like-minded and in the same situation because every kid has that allyship. We seek out who’s similar to us and being in mainstream school, it’s not many. To be able to form those connections is really important.”


The Impact of Mentors

“The mentorship from the leaders on camp was really impactful. We’d go for bush walks and have chats – they were really helpful. It was nice to talk to an adult who wasn’t substance-affected because that was the norm for me, for my dad to be so stoned. He would be nodding off when I spoke to him. So when I spoke to a male that was not substance-affected, it was really nice. I didn’t have any male role models at all, so it was helpful.”

Dean, one of the camp leaders

Two leaders, in particular, were influential for Holly. “I had a lot of people, like Dean and Abel, just put time into me, checked on me, and drummed into my head, ‘You have so much potential. You need to go to university. The way you think and the way you speak, you’re really smart. You just have to do something with yourself.’”

“Abel’s got a really caring and compassionate nature, the way he responded to me when I was angry as well, was just really calm. He wouldn’t get angry with me. He used music as well. He used music to connect with me and other young people and it was really therapeutic. It worked well.”

“Dean would tell me, ‘You’re a really bright young person, you have a lot of potential. If you ever need a job reference anything, I’ve got you.’ I never had that male mentorship before, so I guess it gave me a sense of what normal looks like. These are young men, they’re functioning, they have jobs, they’re kind, they don’t lose their mind if you do the wrong thing or step out of line. You’re not going to get beat up. You’re not going to get screamed at. It was just really different for me. It just opened up a different element of society I had never seen before because my dad was a drug user, so therefore all his friends were also drug users too. I’d never met a man with a job.”

“My education definitely helped me to break the cycle of crime because I broke away from my old friendship groups and started to make better friends at university. I have a whole host of friends who are employed and they make positive contributions to the community. I still have friends that use drugs and are in prison right now, people from my childhood that I grew up with. But my education changed my trajectory and that’s partly thanks to Prison Fellowship for their leadership and mentorship – the things that they showed me and taught me on camp.”

“Those positive connections that I made with caring adults who actually cared and held our well-being as important – it was really important and something very new to me and I know it was new to a lot of other young people too.”

Angel Tree also had a big impact on Holly as a kid. As she explains, “We were dirt poor and I was given a designer bag through Angel Tree. I felt amazing. Like the shooting stars game, it just lifted my self-esteem immensely. I was so grateful for that.”


Paying it Forward

Holly today

Holly, now 29, is a social worker, working with kids in temporary housing and foster care. “I did a diploma in community service work at TAFE and a social work honours degree at RMIT. I now work at Anglicare Victoria as a therapeutic youth worker. I work with young people in out-of-home care in a residential setting and act as a pseudo-parent, just making sure they’re okay. I help build their life skills, enhance their well-being, and keep them safe.” 

“I guess the connections that I made with the adults on Camp made me want to become a social worker. I guess I’m paying it forward because I know they had a big impact on my life. They really did. It’s just hard to find the words. They did change the trajectory of my life because they showed me how to be a normal member of society. I want to help people as well. They made a difference for me and it’d be beautiful if I could do that for another young person.”

“The leaders on camp definitely influenced my own leadership style. I try to lead with compassion and seek to understand because that’s how they operated. When you take kids away on camp, there are going to be rules, but they would always lead with compassion and care, and always seek to understand, instead of just being punitive straight off the bat. Camp for Kids is really important because it gives kids insight into a new normal and what a functioning person in society looks like. That’s important.” 

“I think we need to destigmatise having a parent in prison. It is not very talked about. I made the mistake of telling someone in primary school and I did get bullied for it, and I did not really understand why. We need to start having conversations about it, because I do not really understand where the stigma comes from.” 

“It’s really important to keep Prison Fellowship going because they have a really good model of care. It is crazy – I am practising as a social worker, and I do not think I have ever met anyone that has the skill base and compassion that the volunteers on those camps have. No one can match it; it is crazy. So just making sure that they stay up and running and keep extending and extending to help kids like us is really important, because they are changing lives. We need them.” 


Give a generous gift today to allow more children of inmates to experience hope and love on Camp for Kids.