Corrections Social Worker Monica Singh, Acting Prison Director Arohata Prison Pippa Carey, Stardust author Ivana Mlinac, CEO of Wright Family Foundation Chloe Wright and Founder of the Mothers Project Stacey Shortall.Stardust, a children’s picture book about having a parent in prison was officially launched at Arohata Prison on Tuesday 19 November with the help of the Mothers Project and the Wright Family Foundation.

The book, written by Ivana Mlinac, explores the emotions that come with not being able to see a parent on a regular basis through a story about a girl and her mum finding a way to stay connected through the sky and stars.

At the launch, Ivana along with Stacey Shortall, founder of the Mothers Project, and Chloe Wright, CEO of the Wright Family Foundation who funded the book, spoke about the importance of the women staying connected to their whānau.

“Children are a driving force for women in prison. Their children navigate them through challenging experiences and steer them to make positive changes to ensure they stay out of prison once they’re released. Regardless of whether a woman sees her kids regularly or not, she always holds them in her heart and that’s what Stardust is all about,” says Stacey Shortall.

As part of the launch, every woman at Arohata Prison had the opportunity to send a personalised “Stardust pack” to their children. This included a copy of the book, craft items and instructions on how to make a stardust jar that features in the book.

“Having a mum is the most fundamental basic for a child. A large percentage of women in prison in New Zealand are mums. Many of them are primary or sole caregivers,” says Pippa Carey, Acting Prison Director at Arohata Prison.

“This book is a small but effective way to help these women stay connected to their kids, while encouraging their sons and daughters to dream big.”

Ivana, a mum herself, was inspired to write the book after visiting Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility as part of her Criminology degree where she learnt that many of the women there were parents.

She spent a year researching how having a parent in prison impacts children before putting pen to paper. Ivana describes it as a ‘home-grown project’ as her best friend from school illustrated the book.

Find out more about Stardust and the women’s reaction to the book by watching this short video: