NSW Management Interns' Blog

Blog posts by NSW Management Interns of the Australasian College of Health Service management


Oscar Chaffey
Oscar Chaffey

ACHSM blog

Reflection: A Year at Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network

Author: Jess Harris, 2nd year HMIP Intern
Date: 18/01/2017

Entering a prison for the first time is a somewhat nerve-wracking experience. The countless  men and women in green tracksuits, the shouting that comes from the prison yards and the loud creaks that come from the prison guards ‘cracking’ open a cell.

My year at Justice Health & Forensic Mental Health Network (JH&FMHN) has been an unforgettable and rewarding experience in ways that I didn’t expect.

Prior to joining the ACHSM Health Management Intern Program, I completed a Bachelor Degree in Socio-Legal Studies at Sydney University. With a strong interest in sociology, law and health, I came to the decision that Justice Health & Forensic Mental Health Network was the perfect organisation for my first year placement.

During my first few weeks at JH&FMHN, whilst struggling to understand the organisation and the patient cohort, I was privileged enough to hear our former CE Julie Babineau speak about why the work that we do is so important. She pointed out that many of our patients have grown up without the same opportunities that we have had; without guidance, without an education and without knowing right from wrong, which is why this lived experience impacts their health, resilience and their decision making.

Crime statistics show that intergenerational incarceration is a significant issue as 45% of our juvenile offenders have a parent in custody and 30% of the adult custodial cohort received out of home care before the age of 16. Hearing Ms Babineau speak was a profound moment for me and really changed the way I thought of our patient cohort from that point on.   

Throughout the year, I have had the privilege of working with many teams on a range of projects. I had the opportunity to spend time with the Forensic Mental Health team and our patients on a Your Experience of Service survey and the Family and Carer Experience Survey. Walking into the Silverwater Correctional Complex to interview the patients, I was faced with the stark reality of the experience and plight of our patients. Each patient had a unique story to tell and varying backgrounds, each yearning for an ear to listen. It was confronting to hear. Hearing the patients’ stories first hand was an enlightening and enriching experience that provided me with the passion to do my part to make their experience with the health services better.

For my next placement, I worked with the Clinical and Corporate Governance Unit. In November 2016, JH&FMHN went through the onsite Accreditation survey and this was a wonderful opportunity to learn about all aspects of the organisation, in relation to safe and quality service provision. Accompanying the surveyors to the onsite surveys across the State was extremely beneficial in understanding the constraints the sites are often working under in the correctional settings, and the positive work that they are achieving despite these constraints. 

Throughout the year I have been afforded unparalleled learning experiences including attending the ACI Patient Experience Week Symposium, Forensic Mental Health Forum, Redesign Leaders Network Days, Aboriginal Closing the Gap celebrations, ACHSM Congress and the JH&FMHN Leadership and Change Forum. I have also facilitated a number of events including the Redesign Leaders Network Day at JH&FMHN, an ACHSM Professional Development Day at JH&FMHN, as well as assisting with the Network’s Patient Experience Week event.

At the beginning of the year I walked into the Long Bay Cafeteria a nervous wreck unsure of what direction I should look, how I should act and whether it was acceptable to talk to the inmate chefs. 11 months later, I can say that JH&FMHN feels like home to me. I have developed on a personal and professional level with the support and guidance from all my colleagues. I cannot thank JH&FMHN enough for this opportunity.

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