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Women in Prison: It’s complicated

Keeping Women Out of Prison
Lunch Presentation

The Keeping Women Out of Prison Coalition with Sydney Community Foundation’s Sydney Women’s Fund convened a special lunch presentation by Vanessa Swan, Executive Director Offender Development for Correctional Services, South Australia.

Women in Prison: It’s complicated…
South Australia’s experience

Wednesday 17 July 2019
12.15pm for 12.30pm until 2pm

Across Australia women prisoner numbers have increased at a much faster rate than male prisoner numbers; up 10% from June 2017 to June 2018, and up 77% compared to the decade before that.

Despite the increase in numbers women comprise only a relatively small proportion of prisoner and offender populations. In South Australia 7% of the prison population are women.  This relatively small but significantly different population of offenders creates many challenges for justice services.

Women have different life experiences, needs and responsibilities to men, which mean their pathways into and out of offending are also different, but historically this has not been adequately taken into account.

The presentation focused on the nature of prisons, propose a gender sensitive approach to the correctional services system and outline what South Australia is doing to address these issues.

Read Presentation here.


Vanessa Swan is the Executive Director Offender Development for the South Australian Department for Correctional Services.  Amongst other things she is responsible for prisoner and offender rehabilitation, education, prisoner movements and security ratings, Aboriginal services, research, policy, serious offenders, warrants, volunteers and the Women Offender Framework.

Prior to this she was the Director of the South Australian Office for Women and the Director of Yarrow Place, Rape and Sexual Assault Service, the South Australian forensic sexual assault service.

Vanessa was a member of the Parole Board of South Australia for nine years and a member of the National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.  She was the chair of the National Association of Services Against Sexual Violence, the peak body for sexual assault organisations.  She has also been chair of the South Australian Attorney General’s Victims of Crime Ministerial Advisory Committee and a member of Medical Professional Misconduct Tribunal.  Prior to this she worked in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Vanessa is the recipient of a Public Service Medal and has been inducted onto the South Australian Women’s Honour Roll.


The KWOOP Coalition comprises individuals and organisations: service providers, philanthropic, not for profit, universities and women with lived experience of the criminal justice system. It is a strategic partnership between Sydney Community Foundation and its Sydney Women’s Fund; Community Restorative Centre (CRC) through The Miranda Project; Dress for Success Sydney; SHINE for Kids; Women’s Justice Network; Zonta Club of Sydney; Australian Centre for Public and Population Health Research UTS; Corrective Services NSW; Justice NSW; and UNSW School of Social Sciences.

The KWOOP’s vision is for better outcomes for and children affected by the criminal justice system. Its purpose is to influence systems, policy and practice in order to reduce the number of women in prison and to minimise the impacts on their families and children. The KWOOP provides an independent authoritative voice and targeted support based on evidence and expertise.

The Keeping Women Out of Prison Coalition is a sub-fund of the Sydney Community Foundation. If you can’t attend the lunch, you can still make a donation to support our work.

Your generosity will go toward providing critical programs to help women and their families restore their lives after imprisonment and creating stronger Sydney communities.

  • $20 creates experiences for women in a safe environment
  • $50 helps a woman overcome barriers to positive living in the community
  • $100 provides tailored case support for a child and their carer

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