They're often labelled the "forgotten victims of crime" but an Auckland researcher has now penned a book dedicated to children whose parents are behind bars.

Ivana Mlinac, who works out of the University of Auckland, published her findings on parental incarceration last year.

During her research she discovered children of prisoners' struggled at school and were often bullied, while the family unit took a financial hit with a loss in income.

In New Zealand, one in nine children whose parent is behind bars also goes on to became tangled in the justice system.


An estimated 23,000 children in New Zealand are affected by a parent in prison.

Upon finishing her research, Mlinac said she wanted to do more with what she had discovered so decided to write a book for children titled Stardust.

"I was thinking what else can I do with that research ... and put it into something that's more practical, that's going to have more of a direct impact on the children that I was talking about, so I came up with an idea to write a childrens' book."

After ringing around various book shops she discovered there was a need for locally written books that Kiwi kids could identify with.

Her story follows a daughter whose mother is in prison, and details her experiences along the way.

"It's taking the facts and taking the research that I have done and writing the creative story from that ... it talks a bit about her experiences with having her mum so far away and her maybe not being able to visit her often and how she deals with that."

Auckland woman Ivana Mlinac will next month launch a Kickstart campaign to raise enough money to get her book, Stardust, to the printers. Image / Ivana Mlinac.
Auckland woman Ivana Mlinac will next month launch a Kickstart campaign to raise enough money to get her book, Stardust, to the printers. Image / Ivana Mlinac.

Mlinac is a solo mother and said although she did not have a partner in prison she could sympathise with them as a parent.

She is in the production and promotion stage of the book and will next month launch a Kickstart appeal to help raise about $12,000 to get the book to the printers.


A North Island mother, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said she was blown away with Mlinac's idea to write a book for children, as prisoners' families were often forgotten about.

She has four children, aged 10, 9, 5 and a 4-month-old. Their father has been in and out of prison their whole lives.

"It made me cry to be honest because being in prison, there's nothing positive around it. Not that i want my kids to think of it as normality, because I don't. I've expressed to them that when people make bad choices this is what can happen.

"It was cool to see that there's something for the children and yes, their dad is going through a journey, but we're going through a journey too."

She often struggled with what to say to them about their father but she did her best, she said.

"I know there's agencies and stuff out there but I've felt with our journey there hasn't been enough to support my children but this is something especially for them. It wasn't about the 'bad' person, it's about them, which was really nice."

She urged agencies involved in the justice system to remember that prisoners had partners and children, too, as they were often released without any support structures in place.

"It's like he's in there and they let him out and they're supposed to stick it out and the kids are meant to adjust.

"Just think about the processes and how they can include families and children because I think that would help."

Anyone wishing to help fund the book' can head to the Stardust Facebook page;