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Officers and inmates are blooming winners at Cooma

Publication date: 22 March 2018

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Dahlias, sunflowers, lettuce and pickles grown and made by inmates at Cooma Correctional Centre have taken out a bunch of first prizes at the 143rd Annual Cooma Show this month.

The minimum-security inmates, who are earning horticultural qualifications at the prison in the Snowy Mountains, won a total of 15 places across the flower, vegetable and condiment divisions, including all-class champion for their dahlias.

Cooma Correctional Centre's Manager of Security Kevin Parry said competing in the annual show had become a bit of a 'rehabilitation tradition' at the prison because it provided inmates with a goal and a sense of achievement.

"A lot of work went into getting everything ready – fertilising, watering, weeding – and everyone's efforts paid off with a number of gongs," Mr Parry said.

There was also a lot of research done and for some, the years of study to gain their horticulture qualifications really paid off. It was great to see the inmates working hard to achieve their best."

The inmates hone their agriculture skills by growing produce all year round: snow peas, sweet corn, beans, silver beet, lettuce, beetroot, asparagus, carrots, potatoes, zucchinis, cucumbers and pumpkin.

Ground Maintenance Overseer Julie Green, who teaches and guides the inmates in the trade said she was proud to see them win so many prizes.

"Throughout the year these inmates are also involved in community works and beautification projects around Cooma and surrounding areas," Ms Green said.

They clean up churches, parks, courthouse, showgrounds to not only help them gain qualifications in horticulture but also to give something back to the community and show they can be positive contributors to society.

"While winning at the Cooma Show has given us all a sense of pride, the inmates won't be resting on their laurels: they will be showing that with a lot of hard work and direction they can integrate and be valuable members of the community.

The minimum-security inmates also won prizes in the origami section and even took on entrants from the Country Women's Association in the scone-baking competition, with their baking failing to raise the prize – for this year at least.