Prison program protecting our environment continues to grow

Since 2013, the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council (NACC) has collaborated with multiple organisations to provide prisoners at Greenough Regional Prison with a life changing opportunity.

Thanks to a longstanding collaboration with Central Regional TAFE, Greenough Regional Prison and the City of Greater Geraldton, through NACC’s ‘Capacity Building for Prison Inmates’ project, prison inmates can  study and get accredited towards Conservation and Land Management training courses.

The has involved the prisoners in caring for the local environment, and as about 70 percent of inmates in Greenough Regional Prison are Aboriginal, this project also helps these people to reconnect with country.

The program involves predominantly Aboriginal participants classed as minimum security and pending release. The participants work at various sites doing a range of activities that benefit  natural resource management, including; weed control, fencing, planting natural vegetation, seed collection, water/erosion management and heritage site maintenance.

This project entails caring for country activities in the Northern Agricultural Region, but also helps inmates gain education, training and experience in the field to help boost their employability once they have left prison.

A little progress snapshot

The project partners with local Shires and other State Government agencies such as the Department of Water and Department of Parks & Wildlife. The labour component allows these agencies labour savings that can otherwise be spent on other existing NRM programs.

All participants are enrolled in a Certificate II in Conservation and Land Management. Depending on their times of incarceration, participants can complete components or the entire course through workplace assessment. Some past participants have even gone on to do further studies by enrolling in the Certificate III course!

Over the last three years, the program has had over 50 participants! All of whom have completed either a certificate or a component of a certificate.

During 2015-16, through this project 20 inmates completed units towards a Certificate II in Conservation and Land Management while two inmates successfully obtained a Certificate II and will continue on units towards a Certificate III.

“Many participants told us about their life-changing moments from being involved in ‘working on country’ programs. The agency staff involved also expressed positive feedback on the program,” said NACC’s Aboriginal Participation Program Manager, Greg Burrows.

Here’s a recent video of the team out in the field.

Past activities

Some of the work completed by participants include erosion management and invasive species control, for example; spraying Lantana, Boxthorn and Tamarisk as well as emerging weeds such as Verbesina & Agave.

Participants have also been involved in rabbit control with the Shire of Chapman Valley as well as assisting in the Tilapia Project and Greenough River Restoration with Department of Water and the City of Greater Geraldton.

The program group has built a strong following in the community with their services in high demand due to an admirable work ethic. There are high hopes for those taking part in this life-changing program as it continues to benefit not only the individuals involved but also the local communities and surrounding environment.

This project is supported by the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

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