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Inmate-led classes teaching valuable lessons at Macquarie

Published date: Thursday 3 October 2019

[PDF version of this media release]

Macquarie Correctional Centre inmates are learning art, music, woodwork and other practical skills through an innovative program where inmates lead the classroom.

Minister for Counter Terrorism and Corrections Anthony Roberts said the initiative will eventually allow inmate teachers to gain training and assessment qualifications.

“We know that having inmates engaged in education and work opportunities inside prison drastically decreases their chances of reoffending post-release,” Mr Roberts said.

“Learning new skills is not only a pro-social activity; it’s a step towards rehabilitation.”

Each week around 65 Macquarie inmates participate in music and arts programs delivered by Orana Arts as part of their structured day.

The idea of inmate teachers was developed after the centre realised a large number of other inmates wanted to learn music and art but couldn’t due to their full-time work and education commitments.

Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders said the program involves a comprehensive 10-week lesson plan, where around 120 inmates spend their weekends learning skills from inmate teachers.

“Macquarie is running four inmate-taught classes on Saturdays and Sundays over 10 weeks, allowing inmates to learn how to paint, play guitar or craft woodwork from some highly skilled inmate artists and musicians,” Mr Saunders said.

Inmate teachers include Richard, 32, and Bob, 57, who have both entered paintings in the Corrective Services NSW 2020 Archibald Prize. George, 59, is teaching fine woodwork to other inmates and has made a replica of the HMS Endeavour ship entirely from paddle pop sticks and timber off-cuts.

Corrective Services NSW Assistant Commissioner Corrections Policy and Strategy Luke Grant said the program is just one of several work and education opportunities at the 400-bed centre.

“Inmates’ days are carefully structured for 100 per cent employment and engagement in programs and education, spread over a 15-hour day,” Mr Grant said.

“This intense focus on work, programs, education and case management is just one of the many strategies we’re using to boost inmate rehabilitation and reduce the risk of inmates reoffending.”