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The Graduate - Transcript

PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT: Monday, 8 November , 2010

CAROLINE JONES, PRESENTER: Hello I'm Caroline Jones. Our final program for the year is a rare
success story from inside a maximum security prison. Kerry Tucker transformed her five year jail
sentence into an opportunity for herself and for the women around her. Education was the key and
today she's recreated herself into an academic and a performer. This is her story.

VICKIE ROACH, FRIEND AND FMR PRISONER: She's the only woman I ever knew in prison to be up dressed,
full makeup, full hair, clothes pressed and ironed before muster at 7.30 in the morning.

KERRY TUCKER: I would psych myself up each morning. Today's another day. It's one day less and I
will get through this. I would apply my makeup because that's who Kerry was and I needed to, to be
able to keep my identity.

DR JASON BAINBRIDGE, SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: Well I think Kerry's is a particularly inspiring
story in that someone can actually make good and make what's a terrible experience into a positive
one. It's an amazing thing going from prisoner to PhD student to university lecturer. It's an
incredible journey.

BRENDAN MONEY, FMR HEAD VIC. WOMEN'S PRISON: Prisons will betray very negative stories and I think
this is one where Kerry to her absolute credit, accepted what happened to her and is now able to
lead a different type of life.

KERRY TUCKER: My life changed from the day I was arrested. I went from being a mother, a mother of
two, a suburban mother of two, to prisoner 171435 pretty much overnight. I remember thinking when I
was arrested 'the front lights on, the wine glasses in the sink, the kids electric blankets are on
and the only thing missing was me.'

DR CAROLYN BEASLEY, FRIEND AND SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: Kerry's certainly isn't the sort of woman
or person that you would see as the average candidate for prison. She's very much from a good
traditional family who have had no involvement in crime.

PAUL GALBALLY, SOLICITOR: What is perhaps slightly unusual is that she came before the criminal
justice system just before she was 40 years of age. Because normally you'd expect somebody to have
travelled through the criminal justice system before they sort of reached the heights that Kerry
did in terms of her offending.

KERRY TUCKER: Certainly on the surface we appeared to be the perfect family. Two lovely daughters,
a beautiful home and what not. Things aren't always what they appear. I was in a desperately
unhappy situation and a desperately unhappy marriage. People can make very huge mistakes very, very
easily out of the desire to be happy.

PAUL GALBALLY, SOLICITOR: Kerry's offending was particularly serious. It involved gross breaches of
trust involving two separate organisations.

KERRY TUCKER: At the time I was employed doing the books for a logging firm, they were friends of
mine. It was very easy, I suppose, to make the decision to get involved and transfer quite a lot of
money. $1.9 million I think it was that I went to trial for.

PAUL GALBALLY, SOLICITOR: Once somebody starts stealing from their employer, they end up often in a
treadmill where they're spending the money but always in the background they're thinking to
themselves 'look I'll be able to make amends, I'll be able to put the money back' but as night
follows day it never really does occur.

KERRY TUCKER: It becomes a way of doing things because if you can sort of cover things for quite
some time, it becomes a very easy thing to do. It becomes a nice little way of getting through this
black hole.

PAUL GALBALLY, SOLICITOR: Kerry was arrested in 2003. The property log in respect of the search
warrant listed really hundreds of items that really gave a picture of a bower bird sort of
obtaining trinkets along the way and depositing them in her home. Kerry's spending really made no
logical sense at all and really gave a picture of a person who was obviously very depressed and
really incapable of making the right decisions.

(Excerpt reads from newspaper reports)

A Victorian woman has pleaded guilty to stealing almost two million dollars from her employers,
friends and a childcare centre. The six and a half year scam was revealed when a series of business
cheques were dishonoured. 41-year-old Kerry Tucker was sentenced to seven years jail and will serve
a minimum of four and a half years.

(End of excerpt reads)

KERRY TUCKER: I didn't appeal my sentence because I didn't want to look like I was a crying poor or
get any leniency. I did my entire sentence by choice in maximum security.

PAUL GALBALLY, SOLICITOR: It's not something that you can constantly trot out and say 'Look I'm
sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry'. Sometimes it's very difficult to face the destruction that you alone
have brought upon other people.

KERRY TUCKER: I have enormous remorse for the people that I've hurt and affected but I can't change
that I can't change that I can only learn hopefully from the mistakes that I made.

BRENDAN MONEY, FMR HEAD VIC. WOMEN'S PRISON: Kerry was very open in saying 'You know I should be
here I should be in prison for what I've done'. And I think that was the first step in her making
use of the years she had ahead of her.

KERRY TUCKER: I remember when I first arrived here and I walked into that cell, I paced it out and
it was 15 of my feet long and if I out stretched my arms I could touch either side of the wall and
I remember thinking 'how am I going to last three or four days in such a small area?' And what I
didn't realise is that I would spend nearly fifteen months in that little cell, that tiny cell.

BRENDAN MONEY, FMR HEAD VIC. WOMEN'S PRISON: When Kerry first came in she was absolutely
devastated. She was just torn apart, you know, a physical and emotional mess.

KERRY TUCKER: When I went to prison Sarah was five and half and Shannon was seven. I pretty much
felt my world was over, that my life was over. I'd lost everything. My marriage had failed. I'd
lost my home, everything. I'd lost my children. I'd had no friends. I was at rock bottom. You
couldn't go any further. The only thing I had was the ability to record it.

DR CAROLYN BEASLEY, SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: Kerry always wrote prolifically in jail, she kept
diaries. Every day she recorded what happens to her, what happened around her.

(Excerpt, Kerry reading from the Diary she kept in Prison)

KERRY TUCKER: Nobody can even begin to fathom the degree of hurt and raw pain a mother confronts
when you have to say goodbye to your babies and cause them so much pain.

(End of excerpt)

BRENDAN MONEY, FMR HEAD VIC. WOMEN'S PRISON: One of the things I remember was the issue of her
daughters. They were clearly a significant part of her life and to be taken away from them, had a
massive impact on her just in terms of how did she let them down to this point.

(Excerpt, Kerry reading from the Diary she kept in Prison)

KERRY TUCKER: I realised that I had to make a decision as I teetered on the brink of a big black
abyss. Give in and live forever as a total failure to my children, or fight and endure the pain
until such a time as I can reclaim my life. I chose the fight. My children will be the pot at the
end of the rainbow no matter how long the rainbow was, they would be there on the other side of the
prison walls when it all ended.

(End of excerpt)

VICKIE ROACH, FRIEND AND FMR PRISONER: One of the worst things and I suffered with Kerry through
four years of this, was trying to get on a phone every day to ring her kids. You've got 200, 300
odd women trying to get on about six phones and there's only a few hours in each day when you can
get on the phone.

KERRY TUCKER: It's a very difficult situation when you're trying to see your children. So I decided
that I'd write a children's book and make it an education and informing the carer and the children
about what to expect when they visit somebody in prison.

BRENDAN MONEY, FMR HEAD VIC. WOMEN'S PRISON: The book was an amazing tale, a classic example of
Kerry talking to support staff within the prison about the massive concern about her maintaining
her contact with her two daughters.

KERRY TUCKER: I'm enormously proud that I was able to achieve that because the book is still in
circulation there now, it's in welfare agencies, some solicitors officers have them you know, so
that when women are aware that they are going to be going to prison they have the book and they can
sit down with carers and the children and be informed.

BRENDAN MONEY, FMR HEAD VIC. WOMEN'S PRISON: Kerry, over time, grew into a leadership role within
the facility so that she was one who people would go to.

KERRY TUCKER: When I was there I became a peer educator which involved greeting each woman when
they came into the prison. Some days there's five or six women that would arrive in the prison on
any given day.

DR CAROLYN BEASLEY, SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: She would greet them as part of her job and say 'Hi,
I'm Kerry. I'm here to give you some of the unwritten rules of how to survive in jail. Keep to
yourself, do your own time, don't worry about other people, maintain who you are by doing the
things you like. If you like reading, go to the library and you get some books and you read.'

KERRY TUCKER: This is the cell where I used to receive all the women to prison in. A lot of hearts
broken in this rooms. There is a lot of trauma in these rooms and then I would sit there and assure
her that she was going to be safe and explain what the prison was about and how it operated and
what was going to happen next and we'd be with them the whole way through.

BRENDAN MONEY, FMR HEAD VIC. WOMEN'S PRISON: It makes a big difference to how the prison runs
because if you get new women who settle in quickly, then you will avoid all sorts of problems.

PAUL GALBALLY, SOLICITOR: One of the most destructive aspects of prison life is the boredom and
waste of time prisoners serve and often it's described as dead time.

KERRY TUCKER: Initially I took up education in prison because I needed to stimulate my mind because
I have always had a very active mind. So I also saw it as this bright light in a really, really
dark place. I saw it as a huge opportunity.

PAUL GALBALLY, SOLICITOR: She was a highly intelligent person who perhaps hadn't had the
opportunity of further education, but when it was presented to her in prison, she grasped it with
both hands.

KERRY TUCKER: Education in prison is a privilege. It's not a right in there and as students we had
to pay for it the same as any students on the outside.

DR CAROLYN BEASLEY, SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: I started teaching in jail about the same time that
Kerry was incarcerated and she was quite a pivotal class member and my memories of going in are
quite distinct. The first time I met her, I could see that the other women in there were looking at
Kerry and waiting for Kerry to speak. They had complete confidence in her, that she would know the
right thing to say to me and she would be able to draw me out and make me feel at ease.

KERRY TUCKER: When Carolyn first started coming in and we decided we could trust her and we decided
that we liked her, before we realised that we actually adored her. Carolyn was very green about
anything to do with prison.

DR CAROLYN BEASLEY, SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: You'd be in a class with Kerry and you'd see her eyes
dart outside and she'd be watching what was going on the compound and she'd say 'Woo there's going
to be a rumble here. What are we going to do?' So she'd say to one of the other peer workers who
was in the class, 'Right, I want you to go over there and you intervene. You calm that person down.
I'll work on this one'. And Kerry would be standing in front of someone. 'Right no, this is not how
we do things. We are civilised, civilised women'. And then two minutes later back in class, 'Right
now homework, let's talk homework, Carolyn'. So she'd be just on it all the time.

KERRY TUCKER: I hadn't completed my undergraduate degree so taking on my masters on my masters was
a big leap for us.

VICKIE ROACH, FRIEND AND FMR PRISONER: You might think that you have a lot of time in prison to
study. You know, you're not doing anything for the next four years, why don't you do a course.
There's always something interrupting you, musters, officers walking in, dog squad searches, urine
analysis, you know you're always getting dragged off for one thing or another.

KERRY TUCKER: I did my Master of Arts in writing in prison. It took me three years to complete it
and as far as we know it's was the only graduation ceremony in an Australian prison.

DR CAROLYN BEASLEY, SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: Many officers attended on their day off to support the
women. And Kerry gave the keynote speech, She showed respect to who she had to show respect to, she
made jokes about everyone being able to take fluffy handcuffs away as a souvenir.

CATHY FARRELL, FRIEND AND SWINBURN UNI. LECTURER: I witnessed Kerry's magnificent speech and I
remember sitting there at the time thinking you know, this woman would make a really good lecturer.
She just had, she just had a certain presence about her.

KERRY TUCKER: The graduation ceremony really brought home the achievement. I was standing there
thinking I just can't believe it. I was in my full regalia and I'd received my Masters of Arts and
I was still in prison and it actually gave me a foot into the other side of the world that I was
living in.

VICKIE ROACH, FRIEND AND FMR PRISONER: When Kerry came up to her release time, Kerry was 'how hard
can it be I'm getting out'. But I've been in and out after a few times and I know that even after a
relatively short sentence, you are still institutionalised to a degree.

KERRY TUCKER: The girls threw a really big party the day before I left. I went and saw Brendan
Money and burst into tears.

BRENDAN MONEY, FMR HEAD VIC. WOMENS'S PRISON: You could see the anxiety on her face. It was almost
like she was saying to me 'You know, can you stop this? Can you do something to just delay it or
let me think about it you know is this really going to happen? Am I really going home after all
this time you know, I'm really quite scared'.

KERRY TUCKER: It was very, very difficult and all the girls that I'd lived with, you know, my
friends that I was leaving behind. It's sort of a routine, you walk up to the gate and they all
said goodbye and it was a very tearful day. This was my community and these are women that I adore
and still do.

BRENDAN MONEY, FMR HEAD VIC. WOMEN'S PRISON: She was someone who had done well and was well
regarded. And so to go back out to the real world where you're not going to be so well regarded.
Maybe you have to confront the ghosts of your past and some of the things you got wrong for so many
years before you went into prison.

KERRY TUCKER: When I was released I was released to quite different circumstances to most women you
know, I had a loving family waiting, a limousine and I was taken to the docklands and wined and
dined and we went shopping and I was with my sisters. I was much more privileged than most but
after everyone went home and I'd been out three days I wanted to go back. The only thing I didn't
know about prison was leaving it.

CATHY FARRELL, FRIEND AND SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: Kerry was released at the end of 2007 and at
that stage her daughters were ten and eleven and a half, and they were settled with their father
and she didn't want to disrupt that.

KERRY TUCKER: But I was able to see them whenever I wanted to, usually every weekend.

CATHY FARRELL, FRIEND AND SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: She was also an object of curiosity and I think
she felt that that could place her daughters in a really uncomfortable position. She was really
anxious about ensuring that her daughters could move around their community quite comfortably,
without having the mother who's been in prison.

KERRY TUCKER: These little girls, you know that I used to hold their hands when they crossed the
road when I left them were now young adults, you know, and I didn't even know who their friends
were, I didn't know when they played basketball, I knew nothing about these little lives that had
lived while I was away.

CATHY FARRELL, FRIEND AND SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: When Kerry was first released from prison she
was offered some casual teaching at Swinburne University.

KERRY TUCKER: I don't know what would have become of me had I not had that opportunity because
prisoners don't often get offered any jobs let along with a university. It was actually a lifeline.

CATHY FARRELL, FRIEND AND SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: I think that transition from you know big fish
in small pond into a big university. It's been quite a challenge for Kerry.

KERRY TUCKER: You would think that surviving that sort of environment, getting out of prison and
coming out to a lecturer's job or a job at a university was a fairy tale ending, but it certainly
wasn't. You're still trying to work out whether with the fifty dollars that you have got in your
pocket, 'do I buy that outfit so I can look good at work so people will think more of me or do I
buy the iron so I can actually iron the outfit to go to work'. You know you've got nothing. You
absolutely have nothing so every day is an absolute, absolute challenge.

CATHY FARRELL, FRIEND AND SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: Kerry's mother and father passed away and a lot
of her family members live in regional areas. They certainly don't live near Kerry, so that's
probably made it difficult for Kerry as well. She hasn't been able to come out and sort of move
back in with Mum for a little while or something like that.

KERRY TUCKER: I don't have contact with any the friends before I went to prison so coming to
Swinburne University, I had to establish myself in a new social group. And I've been very very
privileged and fortunate to have found some wonderfully supportive loyal friends. Swinburne is
probably my anchor in so many different ways.

DR JASON BAINBRIDGE, SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: I remember being told about Kerry and being told
about her history in prison and the fact that she just recently been teaching in media, so I was
quite keen to meet her. My first impression actually I'd seen her from a distance before I actually
heard this story and was that she was the mean looking one. We just clicked really from day one, I
mean I like to use a lot of humour in my lectures and she's a very funny person.

CATHY FARRELL, FRIEND AND SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: Kerry uses humour to get through the dark times
and I think she wants the people around her to feel comfortable. She doesn't want people to feel

DR JASON BAINBRIDGE, SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: Kerry started as a tutor and she was really
presenting material that was given to her and I was very keen to get her involved in the lecturing
quite early on. We've had students come up to her who find her story inspirational, and there's
nothing better if you're feeling low than to be told by someone 'You've helped change my life ,
you've made me realise what's important'. So I think the job had been a constant, but also a
powerful piece of reassurance during those of those difficult times.

CATHY FARRELL, FRIEND AND SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: After Kerry had been at Swinburne for a couple
of years, she was invited back to the prison to actually talk to some case managers and I do wonder
what it must have been like for her to enter those gates again, only this time she was entering as
an academic and not as a prisoner.

BRENDAN MONEY, FMR HEAD VIC. WOMEN'S PRISON: I think for Kerry to come back to the prison would be
a gutsy effort. I'm sure that it would bring back lots of sadness in her life and to walk back in
through the gate I think would in some ways make you feel like you were coming back in and could
you get out again.

DR CAROLYN BEASLEY, SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: She was invited back in to be a part of a special case
management event where she got to talk to people who were dealing with prisoners as a way of them
understanding the sort of difficulties that prisoners go through.

BRENDAN MONEY, FMR HEAD VIC. WOMEN'S PRISON: To listen to her speak you know it brought back
memories of Kerry, the Kerry Tucker here in prison. Brought back memories of her insight, of her
leadership and her determination I think, to do something better for herself. It brought back
memories of her, how she was prepared to give me some feedback about how the system ran.

DR JASON BAINBRIDGE, SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: I think Kerry has the potential to really become the
voice of a lot of these women who are still on their own journeys, whether they're still inside or
whether they've just recently been released, that she can actually articulate what it was like in
there and equally the struggles that she's faced since she came out.

KERRY TUCKER: Once I'd completed my Master of Arts, I felt I could do my PhD. Particularly on women
in prison and the community of women in prison because I have the ability to be able to see it from
both sides. And to be a credible academic, a PhD or a doctorate is pretty much a minimum standard
now, particularly in lecturing in universities.

DR JASON BAINBRIDGE, SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: There are a number of ways of doing PhDs now. I mean
the old idea of writing a thesis on the relevance of fish and Shakespeare is a thing of the past.
We have people that can produce creative documents and then reflections on them. We've had people
produce documentaries and actually then provide a written exegeses with them. The performance style
that Kerry's using is just an example of that.

KERRY TUCKER: My PhD has been turned into a stage play. I recorded every day in there, what it was
like and my thoughts and memories and what not, so that's now been adapted into a play. We have a
lot of different people coming. My children will be here, which will be lovely and we'll get a bit
of feedback at the end to see how we can adapt it and take it further. I'm hoping that the true
essence of the story comes through in that it's not too sad or too reflective and it's got a good
balance, because that's pretty much what the journey was. So I'm a little bit nervous. Nothing a
glass of wine won't fix on the day.

(Excerpt of Kerry Tucker on stage for a preview performance)

KERRY TUCKER: I was taken to a small office by a pleasant enough female officer, where I had my
photo taken. Heartbreak. I could only imagine what I looked like. Bed hair that hadn't been washed
or brushed for god knows how long.

(End of excerpt)

DR JASON BAINBRIDGE, SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: The PhD has actually helping her confront elements of
her time in prison and herself, that she perhaps wouldn't have been able to deal with in other
ways. It's also speaking a lot to the power of education.

(Excerpt of Kerry Tucker on stage for a preview performance)

KERRY TUCKER: Let me tell you a little about the custody centre. When you have to go to court and
you're in prison, once you've left the courtroom you're held in the cells underground, under the
court. If I died and went to hell I'd wake up in the custody centre.

(End of excerpt)

DR JASON BAINBRIDGE, SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: It's been a long journey for her. It's certainly one
that's still continuing but I think how far she has come is already inspiring in itself.

PAUL GALBALLY, SOLICITOR: One of the main purposes behind the criminal justice system is not only
to punish, but one of its great tenets is to be able to rehabilitate. To bring people back into the
community where they can start to contribute again as members of society. The community would like
that the Kerry Tucker story be repeated a hundred times over.

(Excerpt of Kerry Tucker on stage for a preview performance)

KERRY TUCKER: I miss my little girls. I can hear them laughing and giggling in the back recesses of
my mind. I can hear them playing back there. It makes me sad for a minute before I crawl on top of
it, but then happy that I still have these moving pictures in my mind.

DR CAROLYN BEASLEY, SWINBURNE UNI. LECTURER: What I remember quite distinctly from the performance
was that Kerry's children got to see her life played out in a way that they didn't really know
about. They got to see Kerry acting as Kerry and Kerry's life being played out as Kerry's life
instead of Mum's life. So they probably had no idea of the sort of things that she would have gone
through, what her journey consisted of from jail to coming out and some of the dramas that she had
to deal with. It so it was just lovely to see the girls realise that Kerry was being Kerry, not
being Mum.

KERRY TUCKER: I look at my girls and what they've been through. The taunting and the ribbing that
they got when their mother went to prison. They've gone through that with strength and resilience
and grace. But I did say to them when I first went to prison, 'One day girls you will be proud of
me again'. I just hope they are.


Kerry Tucker is expecting to finish her PhD in the next six months.

Melbourne's La Mama Courthouse Theatre will stage her 'performance memoir' next year.

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