A new onsite salon, Hair 4 Change, has opened at Christchurch Women’s Prison to support the prison’s new hairdressing programme.

Development of the salon and programme is the result of a two year partnership between Corrections and the Hair and Beauty Industry Training Organisation (HITO).

“We are very excited about being able to offer industry standard hairdressing training at the prison,” says Prison Director Deb Alleyne.

“The majority of our women are mothers and a qualification in hairdressing will give them good transferable work skills and fulltime and part-time employment and career opportunities on release. Working alongside HITO means the women will have connections with the industry and people working in that industry, and the industry can be confident in the quality of the women’s training.”

The hairdressing programme runs for 48 weeks, covering six 8 week modules and qualifications. The women can complete the entire qualification in prison or continue their learning in the community while in employment on release.

The opening was attended by HITO Chief Executive Kay Nelson and Jacqui Victor, HITO Board Member and owner of award-winning True Grit hairdressers in Christchurch.

Left to right: Jacqui Victor, Deb Alleyne, Kay Nelson and Penny Hawker

“We are an industry screaming out for good employees,” says Kay Nelson, “so there is plenty of opportunity for people with skills and a passion for hairdressing. We are also an industry that likes to train on the job, which enables people to earn as they learn and work around other commitments. As the single most successful industry for women ownership, the sky really is the limit for these women.”

Three women are currently learning and working in the salon under the tutelage of Corrections’ Education Tutor and former hairdresser Penny Hawker. The course runs five days per week from 8.30am-3.30pm, teaching the women both the practice and science of hairdressing. They are currently learning the basics of working in a salon, hair washing, and trichology, the science of healthy hair. The training has been set up as a rolling course, allowing women to start at different times.

Emily*, one of the new trainees, says she is thrilled to be part of the programme.

“I am seeing my skills improving every day,” she says.

“I always wanted to do hairdressing and now this is a really realistic option for me. I have children at home and am being released quite soon. I want to work in a salon, so I have the enrolment forms here to transfer to a course in the community on release. This is where I see myself in the future.”

Jacqui Victor gives a Hair 4 Change trainee some tips.

Sarah* is also being released in the next six months and plans to continue her hairdressing training on release.

“I started the hairdressing course when I was seventeen, but I got pregnant and had complications and so I stopped. For the last 20 years I have been lost and involved in drug addiction,” says Sarah

“I came to prison and heard about this course. This is my big incentive, to get what I can get done here in prison, then get out and continue out there. Which is 150% what I’m going to do. It’s time to make a change I’ve got three beautiful children and I’ve made just too many wrong choices. I just want to do the right thing and be there for my family now, show them that I can actually do something with my life. I’m getting the basic skills and will transition straight to learning in the community.”

Emily says the new programme has caused quite a stir in the prison.

“When we go back to the Unit everyone wants to see our hair,” she says, “and there is a queue of women lining up to be on the programme or models for us to train on.”

HITO Chief Executive Kay Nelson says she hopes this flagship programme will lead to hairdressing training opportunities in New Zealand’s other two women’s prisons.

* Names changed to protect the women’s privacy and future opportunities.

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