Book aims to empower children of prisoners

University of Auckland researcher and solo mother, Ivana Mlinac, was inspired to write children’s book Stardust after completing her research into parental incarceration.

Sadly, as many as 23,000 children living in New Zealand experience the negative impacts of their parent being in prison, including financial hardship, bullying and separation anxiety. Mlinac wrote Stardust with them in mind and for those working on the front line with their families. She hopes that her book will connect with the children of prisoners and offer them hope.

Mlinac also wants to break the stigma about parental incarceration and give voice to the ‘silent victims’ who suffer its negative impacts. She believes that through the power of self-belief, these children can break the cycle of despair and achieve their dreams, despite the challenges they face.

Stardust is a powerful, magical book that gives children ‘permission’ to explore their feelings about not being able to see their parent on a regular basis. While the girl and her mum in Stardust cannot see each other, they find a unique way to feel connected through the sky and stars. This creates a sense of safety, love and continuity that allows the girl to focus on positive memories she has of her mum.

A girl whose mum lives far away sends her a letter with a magic gift inside.
But the true magic was inside the girl – all she had to do was believe.

Mlinac is now sharing her research findings with educators and policy makers at national and international conferences. With the publication of Stardust, she hopes to reach out to and encourage the children of prisoners all over the world.

Ivana Mlinac was born in Croatia and lives in Auckland. She went to Mount Albert Grammar School. Educated at the University of Auckland, where she now works as a Research Programme Coordinator, Mlinac has an MA in Criminology and is passionate about restorative justice and the power of literature to change lives. As a youth worker, she is tireless about empowering youth to make positive life choices that enable them to maximize their potential.

Editorial Note: The Wright Family Foundation funded the production of the book. CEO Chloe Wright says she loves that the book gives children the tools to start thinking about their goals and dreams; that it teaches them that they can fight the odds, and sparks passion inside of them for their own pathways in life.

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