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Making the journey from a crime statistic to a positive member of society isn’t easy. But with the help of an intensive treatment program and a prison advisory network, BIANCA AMORANTO tells how she turned her life around and hopes to help others do the same.

For a long time I was 450190. Here’s how and why I became, and moved on from being, just a six-digit number.

I grew up in a normal, single-parent household and was raised by my mother along with my younger brother. I wasn’t an A-grade student, but I was a good student. I played sport, went on holidays and lived the typical life of a young girl growing up in Sydney’s south-west in the ’80s. But when I was 13, I was abused by a trusted family member. The shame, guilt and anger I felt changed my life forever. I eventually ran away from home and, like most runaways looking for an escape, I didn’t meet the best people. At 14, I crossed paths with a drug dealer who, in his clever way, made me believe he was my saviour.

We spent more than a decade together, married when I was 18 and had two children. The picture was right, but in truth my saviour was actually my oppressor. He was physically abusive. Worse than that, he was emotionally and mentally abusive, using my love for drugs to his advantage. I endured 14 years of this violent and co-dependent relationship.

In 2006, I finally got the courage to leave the situation. At the time, I had been clean for more than two years so I was optimistic about my childrens’ and my own future. Leaving wasn’t easy, but it was the right thing to do.

Going solo, I soon became financially crippled but I refused to put my hand up and ask for help. I had an administration job at a Sydney agriculture firm and, in 2007, I started taking money from the company accounts, with every intention of repaying it. However, before long I had taken more than I could repay and I resigned from my job.

I was charged with obtaining money by deception and sentenced to a penalty of 12 months, with nine months of weekend detention. This was the beginning of my spiral out of control.

Weekend detention was a feeding ground for criminals, drug users and drug dealers. It wasn’t too long before I was back on the drugs – and without it being measured out by my controlling husband. Inevitably, I became the kind of ice addict that the media have you fear – I was every stereotype that just entered your mind when I wrote “ice addict”. Over the next eight years, I became all of them – and more.

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