Prison officer brothers says culture runs deep
BUILDING a connection to country and culture can help reduce the number of Aboriginal people in prisons, according to two Corrective Services NSW officers who are part of staff celebrated on National Corrections Day this Friday.
Corrective Services NSW's Balund-a residential facility is where proud Bundjalung men Joe and Jordan Walker work, and the place holds special significance for them, as it is on their traditional lands and they can share their indigenous culture with the residents.
The pair is among 10,000 Corrective Services NSW staff celebrated on National Corrections Day, Friday January 17, for their dedication in rehabilitating offenders and keeping the community safe.
This year's 2020 National Corrections Day theme is We Are Family, focusing on the camaraderie of CSNSW staff who work together like one big family. Many Corrective Services NSW staff, such as the Walker family, are also related.
Located at Tabulam, within the Bundjalung Nation in the Northern Rivers region, Balund-a is a court ordered diversionary program aimed at reducing reoffending and enhancing people's skills within a cultural and supportive environment.
Joe, 28, was the youngest employee to be recruited for the new Balund-a program 10 years ago and is now the longest serving senior program support officer.
Brother Jordan, 27, joined three years ago as a program support officer, after working as a security guard at health facilities and in civil construction on the Pacific Highway Upgrade.
The brothers have five extended family members working at Balund-a. Jordan says CSNSW encapsulates the theme of family through the program's connection to culture and identity.
"We have community Elders who are highly respected, and our staff and residents feel they are part of that kinship or connection to country," Jordan said.
"When you find a family connection, and a connection back to country, stability is not far behind."
Joe says he joined CSNSW after seeing many school friends and young family members being sent to prison.
"I saw an ad in the Koori Mail newspaper and I thought maybe this can be a way to try and stop our mob and friends going to prison," Joe said.
"When a resident completes the program it gives us all a sense of accomplishment, like we are here for a reason."
Jordan says many of the residents at Balund-a have never had the care the facility provides.
"We get a lot of people at their worst, but it's great to see the change in them physically, mentally and culturally within the six-month program."
CSNSW includes about 5600 custodial officers, 1100 Community Corrections officers, 650 industries workers, 700 psychologists and programs officers and 680 administration people.