‘Finding objects to portrait my experience with the criminal justice system was not difficult as they are things that I focused on to get through this time or things that I still hang on to when I am faced with barriers because of the ‘criminal label’ that I now have. The white dress is to provide a contrast to the disgust that I had of myself and how dirty I thought I was. It also represents that I now actually like who I am. Since my teenage years I had low self-worth, feeling that I had to do more in order to please, to not speak up as I feared rejection or a negative response. My life was built around fear and guilt, developing anorexia nervosa in my late teens and then severe depression when my marriage split. The white also helps me to remember who I am when I still face barriers because of the conviction. In an attempt to feel some sense of worth, I made poor decisions which lead to my offence. Owning my mistake and facing the consequences provided me with opportunities to challenge what I thought about myself. Disclosing to my children, parents and friends was one of the hardest things I have ever had to face apart from being taken to prison and separated from them for almost a year. I remember straight after telling my parents that I had committed an offence, asking them if they still loved me and breaking down. This experience taught me what I had not believed my whole life; that I am loved know matter what. I had so much support and these people are my rock. I have an education and had a long-term career. This does not make you immune to making big mistakes. These things were both helpful in coping through each day in prison, but also felt like a death sentence as I am no longer able to continue in my previous employment, which I was so passionate about. Having a faith does not make you immune to making mistakes, but it was my faith in Jesus that helped me face and own up to my mistakes. My son graduated when I was ‘inside’ yet he waited for me to be released to attend his graduation ceremony with him. This made me feel like he was not ashamed of me. When at a party, a person was gossiping about me to him, not knowing he was my son. He stopped the gossiper in his tracks and said ‘That’s my mum you are talking about.’ How proud I am of him. At the beginning of this year, my youngest son went on his first overseas trip and bought me back the pearl pictured here. Again, this reminded me that he believes I am worthy. My daughter was married last weekend and got ready for her big day at my place. I thought of her life as a little girl and now becoming a wife. I hoped that my mistakes taught her to value who she is without the need for external approval. I had a Mentor who provided me with unconditional support and I now hope to offer women the same, so that they too start to believe their worth and to look forward to their future.’

Eleni – ex-prisoner
Charge – undisclosed
Life today – In 2016, Eleni received the ‘Inspiration Award’ at the prestigious FILEX health and fitness convention, an event that recognises excellence within theFitness Industry. Eleni won the award due to her commitment in promoting awareness of eating disorders and dedication to educating others in how to overcome feelings of self-loathing.