In 2007, a group of women from NSW met at a conference in the NT. They soon came back, with fire in their belly, determined to advocate for systemic change, address the lack of support available for women in prison and upon release, and the rising recidivism rate for women in NSW. Carol Berry, Kat Armstrong and Nicki Petrou joined forces with Marissa Sandler to form the Women in Prison Advocacy Network (WIPAN).
In 2008, WIPAN was incorporated as a not for profit community organisation with its first voluntary Board of Management elected in May 2008. This consisted of Sue Barker as President, Lindy Schmidt as Vice President, Marissa Sander as Secretary, Kat Armstrong as Public Officer, Linda Steele, Barbara Biggs as Communications/Media Officer and Cathy Saunders, Suzette Glasby, Linda Steele and Nicki Petrou as ordinary Board members.
WIPAN was subsequently registered as a charity with Deductible Gift Recipient status.
In 2010 WIPAN recruited, interviewed and trained female volunteers from the community to mentor women being released from prison. The WJN Mentoring Program is a strengths-based and client-centered model that aims to encourage autonomy, support community reintegration and promote overall well being.
In 2016 extensive consultation with members, mentors, staff, and women with ‘lived experience’ occurred to discuss the potential for a new organisation name to reflect the broader work that WIPAN were doing which included supporting women prior to imprisonment, youth at risk and on diversionary programs.
In March 2017, Gilbert + Tobin hosted the launch of the WIPAN’s rebranding to the Women’s Justice Network (WJN). Women in Prison Advocacy Network (WIPAN) remains the organisation’s legal name with Women’s Justice Network becoming its trading name. In April 2017, during Youth Week, WJN launched their My Way Youth Mentoring Program. In January 2019 our Healing from Within Group Work Program commenced.
In May 2019, WJN established the Advisory Panel which consists of women with lived experience that help guide the work of the organisation.
In July 2019, WJN extended their mentoring services to the Central Coast, Hunter and Newcastle regions.
WJN’s Board continues to be voluntary and comprise a diverse group of women from the community, public and private sectors, which includes women with lived experience of the criminal justice system.
The Women’s Justice Network is currently the only community organisation in NSW that provides gender responsive mentoring for women and girls affected by the criminal justice system.
WJN acknowledges the hard work, dedication and commitment of many women, organisations and supporters over the years who helped make and shape WJN.