It’s hard to celebrate a birth when you know what’s coming. Still, Rowrow smiled as she lay in a hospital bed, 38-weeks pregnant with her fourth child. Her green prison uniform sat carefully folded next to her. Two corrective service officers hovered nearby.
At 9:20pm we heard his first cries.
Four days later, with tears in her eyes and breasts full of milk, Rowrow was handcuffed and transported back to prison without him. The next morning baby John and I travelled 8 hours by train so he could be with family.
Seven weeks later, in a gesture of cruelty only bureaucracy could invent, Rowrow was released early on bail.
I never imagined my girlfriends would be incarcerated. Growing up, it was usually our boyfriends. It’s easy to grasp now when I consider, women, specifically First Nations women, account for the most significant growth in Australia’s prison system.
I grew up in a small town in Australia notorious for its open drug culture and alternative lifestyles. As young women, our choices were limited; violent relationships and becoming a mother at a young age were normal, and the dream to ‘leave and start a new life’ meant leaving our family, friends and community behind.
As such, I have spent a decade documenting women in my life as they grapple with the complexities of motherhood, trans-generational trauma, turbulent relationships, bureaucratic violence, and the burden of low expectations.
Weaving several narratives of loss, hope, vulnerability and resilience, ‘You’ll Know It When You Feel It’ is a long-term project which aims to accentuate these invisible stories in Australia—a country where racism and class bias thrives and where those experiencing the complexities of poverty are misunderstood, demonised and dehumanised.