Three Wise Men’s Mobile Café gives mums released from prison a second chance

For most people in western New South Wales, the Three Wise Women Mobile Cafe is a place to grab a coffee, but for some women it’s a second chance.

The social enterprise, run by Barnardos Australia, aims to keep mothers who have come into contact with the criminal justice system at home with their families.

The organization’s Beyond Barbed Wires program provides mothers coming out of prison with training, education and employment opportunities, including work in the coffee van.

“Getting out of prison is really tough. And getting started, looking for a job can be even tougher,” said program manager Shiree Talbot.

“There may be issues with not having worked before, not being confident and not having the self-confidence to engage in the community and find employment.”

Program manager Shiree Talbot works alongside the women in the mobile cafe.(Provided: Shire Talbot)

The coffee van, based in Wellington, in central west New South Wales, serves community events across the region.

Ms Talbot said building women’s confidence was a key part of the program.

“We go out in the coffee cart with our moms and help them build confidence around things like money management, confidence around customer service and all those skills.

The flexibility of the hospitality industry allows women to work around their family life.

“They have kids, ranging from babies all the way up, so [they have] that flexibility to be able to work in an industry where they can control their working hours,” Ms. Talbot said.

Benefits of social enterprises

It’s not just the hospitality industry that benefits from social enterprises like the Three Wise Women Mobile Cafe.

Prisoners Aid NSW runs a scheme which offers men released from prison employment in waste management.

A man in a labeled orange hoodie "friends on the move" carries two trash bags next to some trash cans.
Prisoners Aid NSW social enterprise Mates on the Move works with men leaving the criminal justice system.(Supplied: Prisoners Aid NSW)

Prisoners Aid director Craig Baird said the social enterprise ‘Mates on the Move’ was more than just a job for those involved.

“[It] gives them a bit of work history, if they want to move on to bigger and better things…but also gives them a bit of motivation and a sense of being part of the community.

“[They’re] contribute to the community by earning a salary and paying taxes and having the choices you get when you have a job. »

Mr Baird said many people leaving the criminal justice system felt isolated and that community engagement was key to reconnecting with their local communities.

Participants show the way

Baird praised other social enterprise initiatives like the Three Wise Women coffee van.

“Everyone is an individual, and they seek different types of work and different types of educational opportunities.

“It’s just a matter of having so many different opportunities to meet people’s needs.”

A black coffee van with the words "Cafe of the Three Sages" and paintings of two women holding coffee and cake.
The program allows women to develop their skills in a flexible working environment.(Provided: Shire Talbot)

Ms Talbot said listening to what those involved wanted was the most important part of the program.

“If we really want to support vulnerable groups of people, and they can’t be more vulnerable than women coming out of prison…we have to be guided by what women tell us.”

She said the training and confidence provided by the cafe was invaluable no matter what industry the women eventually settled into.

“They may not want to become baristas – that’s not a problem at all.

Job , updated

Casey J. Nelson