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 walked out of prison a completely different woman.”

From trauma and addiction to freedom in Christ.


My name is Joanne Ugle I am a 51-year-old Wadjuk Noongar woman who grew up in Balga, a suburb north of Perth. I was brought up by my beloved grandmother, who has now passed on. She was the backbone of our family and losing her was a traumatic experience that I have carried with me through my life. I suppose it was that trauma which led to drug, alcohol, and gambling addictions. For me, spending time in and out of prison became the norm. 

Even though I thought I knew God, I didn’t have a relationship with His Son Jesus, and I continued backsliding as my sin became deeper. As Proverbs 13 says, the road of the transgressor gets harder and harder, and that’s where my life was heading. 

Throughout all my incarcerations I have attended many funerals, including my mother’s and my grandparents’. In 2019, my younger brother passed away. I think this was the point when I realised I couldn’t face another prison term. I was so desperate for something to change that I cried out to the Living God. 

God heard my cry, and He turned my life around. Somehow I knew it was different this time. I finally gave Him my full attention, so much so that when I was released, I walked out of prison a completely different woman!

Prison Fellowship became part of my journey whilst I was in prison. God used those volunteers to plant seeds in my life. They encouraged me through fellowshipping and opening the Bible together. It just shows that God can open doors for you to hear the gospel even when you’re in prison! I now walk with my head high, knowing who I am in Christ. Amen!

I made a stand to follow my God. I now wake up each day with a purpose. I feel a great sense of freedom and I now truly know the value of my family. My circle of friends is now full of people God has chosen to influence my life. What was once empty has now been filled with God’s love, favour, and grace. 

On the day of my release, I walked to reception to collect my belongings, only to be told they had lost all my clothes. These weren’t just the clothes I’d worn into the prison, they were the clothes I wore to my brother’s funeral. 

The officers took me to another room and gave me new clothes to wear out of the prison. It was like taking off the old and putting on the new that Paul talks about in Galatians. It was no longer me who lives, but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). I died to everything at the prison that day. At that moment, Jesus broke every chain of addiction and truly set me free! I remember looking up to heaven and asking, “Where now?”, because I had no idea where I was going, but I trusted God had a plan.

I am now employed full-time at Outcare, a community reintegration organisation, as a peer-support worker. The amazing thing about it is that I was once their client and now I work alongside them! It is truly a blessing, and it reminds me every day that if anyone can open doors, it is God Almighty! He didn’t give me a diploma but He did give me life experience and a powerful testimony to share and bring Him the glory.

Joel 2:25 says, “I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten.” God did that for me when He gave me back my son, Laney, who was taken away from me. 

I have now been out of prison for 2 years and four months, I have been clean all that time! I’m still running the race and my eyes are still on the prize “Jesus the author and finisher of my faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Thank you Jesus for saving me!


“When you are ready, take my hand and I will walk with you.” — Philip’s* life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ in a prison cell.

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Interview with Wayne Hicks

A Real Man

The Markshank Redemption

How to Turn Panic to Peace

Peace in Prison

“Sometimes they mock her, but she knows what she has found and she stands firm.” Diandra* finds it hard to explain to her family why she has peace while living in prison. She has difficulty understanding it even for herself. Finding peace in prison is not what she would have ever expected.

As course facilitators, Louise* and Ben* have spent time with Diandra, discussing what it means to have joy. How joy is more than just feeling happy. “We explained to her that joy is something that the Holy Spirit gives you, and that is why she has so much peace,” Louise said. “She told us that when she had a day in court, which would normally have freaked her out, she was reading her Bible in the waiting room and had absolute peace.”

“When Diandra first heard about The Prisoner’s Journey, she came to us and said she hadn’t even heard about Jesus. She has now attended three courses and has brought someone along each time. She’s not only become a disciple but one who makes other disciples. Diandra even asks visitors not to come on TPJ days – she’s had 100% attendance!” Louise is excited to see Diandra’s steady growth. “Her kids would like to be a normal family and go to church. Now Diandra can’t wait to get out and go to church with her family.

“We do challenge the course participants about what things stand in the way of following Jesus. I was very impressed by Diandra’s honesty in terms of the things she needs to change and let go in order to grow. She was quite specific about the things she needed to change. Her understanding of God’s grace and her joy is amazing.”

Louise sees how valuable The Prisoner’s Journey is for its ability to speak into a difficult time for prisoners. “We don’t have a high completion rate for the course because people are moved before they can finish. The uncertainty [of prison life] is hard for the women. There’s a lot of ups and downs in the process. It’s helpful to get a long-term perspective of something that’s eternal, especially in prison life.”

The eternal perspective of the gospel is presented clearly and simply in The Prisoner’s Journey, and Louise believes this is the strength of the course. “Who Jesus is, why he came, how we can respond. For me it expands grace and how Jesus died for sinners. One of the things we share is that there are two ways we can miss that message. One is to say ‘I’m too bad; God can’t forgive me,’ and the other is ‘I’m too good that I don’t need saving.’

“I feel humbled that God allows me to go in and share this message. About seven years ago I had a dream where God told me to work with Aboriginal women in prisons. I searched for an avenue to do this for quite a while. The day before the first course of The Prisoner’s Journey began, someone called to ask if I would be available.” Louise says she never would have expected to be serving people in this way but is passionate to meet people where they are with the good news of Jesus.

“A few weeks ago we were saying to the guards, ‘thanks for always walking us around and helping us to get to [the unit].’ The guard actually said, ‘we need to thank YOU because we see the change in the people as a result of the course!’ Praise God.”

Joanna Mann, Staff Writer