Jocelyn Bignold

Jocelyn Bignold has spent her career supporting women and children leaving family violence, experiencing homelessness and mental illness.

Honour Roll

"It started with us going out to the prison with an exercise book and having women standing five deep to speak to us. We'd take down their names and details, and then go back to the office and start sorting them out. What we now have is a fully integrated statewide program" - Jocelyn Bignold

Clutching plastic bags holding their belongings, women who had just been released from prison were turning up at the Melbourne City Mission in Footscray with nowhere to go. According to Jocelyn Bignold, at that time the role of prison operators was solely statutory care: "their role ended at the prison gate."

Jocelyn was Community Services Manager at Melbourne City Mission, which responded to the need by developing a program specifically to support women. From its humble beginnings with exercise books and queues, Melbourne City Mission has been a significant player in the development of a fully integrated statewide program that offers support with housing, health, employment, social activities and family reunification.

The Women's Integrated Support Program (WISP) is a partnership between three organisations, Corrections Victoria, the Women's Prison system and Melbourne City Mission. "It has been an absolute privilege to be part of this development - the program was a real team effort, and a genuine model of partnership - I had not been part of something like this before."The WISP began in October 2006 with the philosophy of housing first. Every year it supports about 130 women.

At Melbourne City Mission, Jocelyn was also responsible for managing the development of programs supporting adults and families experiencing homelessness as well as young people at risk of homelessness.

Jocelyn spent eight years at Melbourne City Mission, and in August 2008 began as Chief Executive Officer at McAuley Community Services for Women, a ministry of the Sisters of Mercy. The organisation provides accommodation and support to women and children leaving family violence and those who have experienced mental illness and homelessness.

Jocelyn has now started scoping a project to help women who have come to Australia on spousal visas and are suffering domestic violence: "If their husband is violent within the two-year qualifying period, and they leave, they are not eligible for financial support and cannot maintain separate accommodation. Services cannot afford to house them without an income, which means they often have no option but to return home. Our program is to initially provide housing support, we then move onto employment - to allow economic independence."