Breaking Barriers to Empower Women with a Criminal Record to Achieve Meaningful Employment

Success Works Partners, a DGR-registered charity and innovative social enterprise supporting women with a criminal record into employment has partnered with the Judith Neilson Foundation to launch the Breaking Barriers Program.

Generous funding from the Judith Neilson Foundation will enable Success Works to establish the program, which will see 65 women in employment or on the pathway to employment in the first year.  The program will support some of the most marginalised women in Australia, who have been unemployed for six months or more post-incarceration or conviction (in the case of a community order), or who are facing sustained and persistent insecure employment due to their record.  

Success Works Chair, Megan Etheridge OAM said partnering with the Judith Neilson Foundation is an important step for Success Works Partners: “We are delighted to have found the Judith Neilson Foundation, a partner who is so aligned with our values and strategic focus. The funding for the Breaking Barriers program will support some of the most vulnerable women in our community. These women enter our program feeling defeated by a system that is working against them: discrimination can have a devastating effect, and as research has shown, a lack of access to employment results in an individual having a significantly higher propensity to reoffend. The indirect beneficiaries of the Breaking Barriers Program are the children of these women, as many of them are mothers.”

Since becoming a social enterprise in 2022, Success Works has onboarded 209 women and placed 77 women into employment. The organisation is currently supporting 87 single mothers (whose children are not in their care) to find employment.

The Judith Neilson Foundation has provided generous and flexible funding for the Breaking Barriers Program for the next 18 months. Head of Australia Programs for the Judith Neilson Foundation, Candice Van Doosselaere, highlighted the uniqueness of the outcomes that Success Works delivers: “Success Works is doing something that’s very focused and incredibly needed, de-risking hiring for employers. When hiring someone with a criminal record, you’re telling employers “we’re going to back this woman, we’re going to help her succeed with you, and we’re going to make sure that she’s in a good place to be able to do that”. 

The Breaking Barriers Program includes one-to-one support from women with lived experience, a mentoring program, job readiness workshops, and introductions to Success Works Partners’ supportive growing network of fair-go employers. Success Works staff member and the Breaking Barriers Program Candidate Support Officer, Kylie Chambers, has lived experience of the justice system and knows first-hand how impactful the work of Success Works is: “I was a candidate of Success Works and the organisation provided me with assistance in boosting my confidence and offered guidance on disclosing my record to employers. As a result, I secured casual employment in a role that permitted me to pursue my studies and focus on other aspects of my recovery.

In my role as Candidate Support Officer, I can now use my own lived experience and knowledge to guide and support other women in navigating the challenges that have kept them from secure employment.

Thanks to the Judith Neilson Foundation and the Breaking Barriers Project, I have been given the opportunity to work with some of the most vulnerable women and offer them guidance, support and hope through my own lived experience. These individuals have experienced extended periods of unemployment as a result of the obstacles presented by their criminal records. I am excited about the chance to collaborate with them in job readiness workshops and offer personalised support throughout their journeys. The objective is to empower these women to showcase their skills and potential to employers, focusing on their abilities, rather than their records.”

The Judith Neilson Foundation partners with organisations in Australia working directly with vulnerable women, led by the needs and desired outcomes of the people they serve. The Judith Neilson Foundation values partnerships in Australia and Africa that recognise the diverse and interconnected challenges faced by disadvantaged communities. In fact, 36% of Success Works candidates rely on community organisations and support networks rather than family and friends.

Success Works would also like to acknowledge the support of the Bennelong Foundation for their support of the Breaking Barriers program.

For more information, interviews, and images, contact:

Nicola Norris, Board Member    0423 174 597

Megan Etheridge, OAM, Board Chair       0408 708 717

If you are a potential Employer, contact us to discuss the role you might play in helping a woman with a criminal record gain employment.

We are currently looking for new Employers. Could you change a woman’s life?

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