A first-hand account from a participant of NACC’s NRM Capacity Building for Indigenous Prison Inmates Project.
For privacy reasons, his name has been omitted from this story.
“Participating in this project has changed my outlook on life. That’s the honest truth, for myself and my kids.
“I feel more appreciative of myself, my life, my family and the bush. I mean, we are all Aboriginal blokes; we care, and love living in the bush.”
“And that’s all after just three months in the project,” he said.
The capacity-building prison project aims to train Aboriginal men and women with origins from across Western Australia, through on-ground NRM works on Aboriginal Heritage and community sites, which address Strategic National Landcare Programme guidelines.
The activities all involve real-world training delivered by Durack Institute of Technology (TAFE) staff – which contributes towards achieving a Certificate in Land and Conservation Management over three-and-a-half years. The training is also delivered in conjunction with a local Aboriginal NRM company.
The project also provides inmates with some employability skills in the NRM field, and provides an opportunity for Aboriginal people to return and work in their own communities, upon release.
“Once you see what you are doing and when you get out (of prison), you come back a few years later and you can see what you have accomplished in yourself and for yourself,” the participant said.
“It’s not just, ‘we’re in jail and we’re going out for the day’. A lot of us look forward to doing something like this [environmental restoration works], because it is all positive out here while in there (in prison), it’s all negative.
“This is a welcome break from the daily prison life. It’s about being positive about what we are doing. It makes me want to do something when I get out.
“I want to take my kids, my boys, my wife, daughters to Waggrakine nursery (City of Geraldton Community Nursery) and help.”
He said the program has offered him a new perspective on caring for the environment, and on life in general.
“If you don’t care about the land, and look after it, what are they going to have, really? It’s an old saying: ‘what is the future generation going to have? Nothing’
“There is a lot of environmental work that needs to be done, from what we’ve seen. We hear about it in the news, but out here we see firsthand how much the environment is affected.
“Be it chemicals in the water, erosion, run-off, top soils degrading and all that. I like doing something about it. There is nothing better, (and) the more people that can be involved, the more positive it can be for everyone in general, the whole community.
“If everyone can see what is really happening, along the coastline, out in the river systems and the like … I’m sure they will want to do something too. To make a difference.
“I am hoping there will be future employment for me in the environmental sector as I am from this area myself.
“It’s all positive. There is nothing negative about doing this. The lecturers are positive, the boys (fellow prisoners) are positive. We’re all happy to go out and do something. At least we know within ourselves that we are making a difference, a little bit at a time, during the time that we’re in prison.”
The activities and projects that the prisoners were involved in are a NRM collaboration between NACC, Department of Parks and Wildlife, the City of Greater Geraldton, Department of Water, private Aboriginal NRM business Western Mulga, Chapman River Friends volunteer group, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Greenough Regional Prison through the Department of Corrective Services.