A former female prison inmate who left school at 14 will today graduate with a Bachelor of Psychological Science from the University of South Australia.
Linda Fisk’s graduation is “a remarkable personal achievement”, says Academic Director of UniSA College, Associate Professor Deidre Tedmanson, who has been part of a university team supporting the 54-year-old to realise her dreams.
Ms Fisk was jailed for nine years after robbing a State Bank branch on Henley Road in 1991 with her then-husband. Since her release she has more than paid her dues to society, founding an organisation in 2006 called Seeds of Affinity for women who have served time in prison.
The organisation creates pathways to mainstream life for those who are often disadvantaged because of violent relationships, mental health issues, disconnected families and difficult financial circumstances.
Ms Fisk sat UniSA’s Special Tertiary Admissions Test in 2013 and was accepted into the Bachelor of Psychological Science program a year later.
In the past three years, UniSA’s support for Linda has broadened to include other women in the Seeds’ network, encouraging the former female inmates and prison volunteers to pursue university and TAFE studies.
“Linda’s personal achievement has shone a spotlight on the lack of study options for women prior to, during and following custodial sentences. Through her example, we have encouraged many other women to consider tertiary education,” says Assoc Prof Tedmanson.
“Over the years, UniSA has recognised the importance of supporting the Seeds women, most of whom face significant financial, health and social hardships. Many are sole parents who have been disconnected from their families and all struggle to move ahead following the prison experience.”
UniSA has donated computers to the organisation as well as the Adelaide Women’s Prison, and also produced an award-winning radio program with Seeds’ members discussing their life experiences.
The University has also paved the way for disadvantaged women by encouraging them to undertake the University’s one-year pathway Foundation Studies program which prepares students with no previous qualifications for university study.
A Hawke Centre symposium in 2014 titled Violent Lives and silenced voices: Criminalised women speak, coincided with White Ribbon Day, underlining the University’s commitment to this group of women.
“Now, not only Linda, but several Seeds’ women have experiences of higher education in ways they would not have previously envisaged through Social Work; Foundation Studies and TAFE,” Assoc Prof Tedmanson says.
“With Linda at the vanguard, Seeds of Affinity has seen an education revolution where university study is seen not as an option for privileged 'others,' but a necessity for life.”
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