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Publication date: Friday, 3 August 2018
What started as a cost-effective way of planting correctional centre gardens has ended up raising thousands of dollars for charity.
For nearly 20 years, staff and inmates at Glen Innes Correctional Centre in the Northern Tablelands have been raising and selling pot plants at local community events and donating tens of thousands of dollars in profits to deserving local charities and community groups.
Now-retired Corrective Services Industries Senior Overseer John McPhee began bringing in cuttings from his own garden in 1998 to help offset landscaping costs across Corrective Services NSW properties around the state.
"I thought helping to propagate the cuttings might be another way for inmates to be productive and learn useful new skills," Mr McPhee said.
From those little saplings big things grew, with the centre's nursery boasting over 4,000 pot plants, of which around 1,000 are sold by staff at local fundraising events like fetes, fairs or festivals, with all the proceeds donated. At $5 a pot, the average donation is around $1,000.
Mr McPhee's successor, Senior Overseer Andrew Berry, said that everything is grown from local cuttings or locally collected seeds, with an emphasis on Australian natives and plants that were suited to the area's often frosty conditions.
"It doesn't cost the centre or CSNSW a thing," Mr Berry said. "Which means we can donate everything to eligible schools, hospitals, charities and other community groups.
"It's also a fantastic way of raising awareness that the centre is in the community and allows members of the public to meet staff, helping them get a better idea of some of the things we do here at the centre."
"Seeing a new roof on a church or new equipment in a playground, or knowing that our donations helped the local hospital buy an item of life-saving equipment is a great feeling," Mr Berry said.
"Inmates also get a great sense of satisfaction, knowing that their work is doing good, and that they're giving back to the community while paying their debt to society."
What advice do these green thumbs have for people who kill everything they plant?
"Keep killing them because we love selling them to you, and raising money for good causes!" Mr Berry laughed.