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Mothers Project 

seeks to enable meaningful connections between imprisoned mothers and 

their children.  

The Hui goes behind bars to meet mums desperate to reconnect with their tamariki and the woman that's helping them to do so. 

About Mothers Project

Around 20,000 New Zealand children are impacted by parental imprisonment.  

At any given time there are approximately 800 women in New Zealand prisons and around 87% of these are mothers. Once inside, it can be difficult for mothers to maintain meaningful relationships with their children and for those children to have their mother’s emotional support

Government research tells us that these children are 5 times more likely to end up in prison than children of never-imprisoned parents. 

Regardless of what these women have done or been through, we can tell you that they love their children. They want to stay connected to them, even if only to tell their children not to end up in prison like they have. 

Mothers Project is about helping children with a mum behind bars to maintain a positive connection with their mum - so they can go on to live productive lives.


Our trained volunteer lawyers visit every women’s prison in New Zealand once a month to help imprisoned mothers understand their responsibilities and rights regarding their children. 

They assist mothers to understand where their children are, who is caring for them and what the mothers need to do in order to preserve their legal rights. Volunteers make calls to Oranga Tamariki (the Ministry for  Children), family members, caregivers, schools and legal aid lawyers, to open communication lines and share information, and arrange prison calls and visits with children as appropriate.

About Mothers Project

Our Storybook Programme:

Our Storybook Programme helps imprisoned mothers and their children connect - by reading stories, mothers use their own voices to love, comfort and encourage their children even though they're not at home.

Each month, a volunteer goes into Auckland Women's Prison with a box of books and a device to record mums reading to their children, these are then sent to the children so they can hear mum reading to them and hold the book their mum held.   

Children miss out. 

They miss their mums.

They miss the sound of her voice. 

The voice that many of them have

known all their lives grows quiet.

And for some, it disappears. 

One of the very first mums we worked with - face scarred and hardened - almost broke down in tears at the sight of that book box. She was so excited that her daughter would get something new.


She was almost at a whisper when she first tried reading it aloud, she couldn't remember anyone doing that for her as a child. She worried that her reading was too slow, too halting. But, three practices later she nailed it! 

And as she wrote her child's name on the small card inside the book, she wept for her daughter living outside the wire without her. 

- Stacey Shortall, trustee & founder

Storybook Project
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