Written by James Donnell

Katie begins her story by describing her 2 year and 3 months sentence in prison in Melbourne, Australia as extremely tough despite the fairly adequate conditions of the prison. Furthermore, she describes her lifestyle prior to her arrest as ‘chaotic.’ Nevertheless, she expressed that prison changed her for the better and she was determined not to waste any more years of life upon her release.

Luckily for Katie, the prison she was held in was also home to a theatre company called Somebody’s Daughter. This particular company sponsored drama and art classes for prisoners which ran twice a week 11 months of the year. Ironically, Katie had trained as an actress over 20 years ago and this provided her the opportunity to reconnect with a lost passion. Through this opportunity she was able to express her creativity by writing plays, poetry, and songs which she used in her annual performance for the show. This free-flowing form of expression provided her much needed strength and confidence to get through the very long days and difficult nights.

The annual exhibition attracted the attention of policy makers, politicians, and members of the public. While describing what this event meant to her Katie said,

“Through theatre and our art we were given the chance to have a voice and be heard by people who had the power to change things. This I believe gave me a long term purpose, and was huge part of the reason I was able to stay on track when I returned home.”

Upon her release, Katie worked with several charitable art organizations, which helped rebuild her confidence.  Although she struggled finding a job that would hire her, she stumbled upon an advertisement which read, ‘Looking for Ex-offender Exhibition Hosts.’ After filling out the application she was notified that she had been granted the job on a 13 week contract to lead tours for the general public. This exhibition was organized by Benjamin Zephaniah, who is a poet, writer, musician, and ex-offender as well.

The Koestler awards celebrate a wide-range of mediums including visual art, poetry, sculpture, performance, music, fashion, soap sculpture, and many more. This event was masterfully entitled, ‘We Are All Human.’

Katie made an exceptional effort to highlight the difficulties for prisoners to create imaginative art with limited resources. For example, she accentuated these difficulties by emphasising that some prisoners would use compliant forms, toilet paper, cardboard, and matchsticks as canvas to express their art.

She concluded her inspiring story by adding that, “I felt passionately that I owed it to the artists to make their voices heard too and I studied the notes on every piece in the exhibition and memorized the stories behind them.”

Katie is the epitome of the notion that we are all human and everyone deserves a second chance.