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Traditional walking track reconnects Aboriginal inmates to culture and community

Issued: Thursday 27 July 2017

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A team of Aboriginal inmates and Corrective Services NSW staff have been busy restoring walkways, painting picnic tables and clearing overgrown bush along a traditional trading route on the state’s south coast.

The week-long work camps along the Bundian Way walking track around Eden included 10 male inmates and a separate group of five female inmates from across the state.

Minister for Corrections David Elliott said the program helped prepare inmates for employment after their release.

“The inmates work on clearing the 360-km track at numerous sites while gaining skills in areas such as horticulture and land clearing,” Mr Elliott said.

CSNSW Aboriginal Strategy and Policy Unit Project Officer Jermaine Haymond joined one of the camps, which provide inmates with knowledge and experience to assist with their rehabilitation.

“The inmates gain a sense of accomplishment, knowing that the work they do, such as painting picnic tables, will be appreciated by visitors in the future,” Mr Haymond said.

“The Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council has been a key driver of the program and assists with arranging local Elders and community members for the cultural activities, such as weaving, beading and skinning raw didgeridoos.

Female inmates painting a picnic table

Wellington Correctional Centre Governor Brad Peebles said it was a first for many of the inmates, who were happy with the cultural experience and opportunity to work.

“They gain an increased sense of identity and kinship as well as self-esteem and self-worth, in addition to the many work-related skills,” Mr Peebles said.

“It’s a great opportunity for them to contribute to an important Aboriginal project, learn new skills and sample the culture of a different tribal group. Staff involved also felt a sense of satisfaction in participating.”

The Bundian Way restoration is a project of the Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council. The track connects the highest peak of Australia at Mount Kosciuszko to the coast.

The route brought together the peoples of the greater region, most notably for whaling ceremonies at Twofold Bay in spring and moth-hunting in the high country during summer.

The male inmates were from Wellington, Brewarrina and St Heliers correctional centres while the women were from Dillwynia Correctional and Bolwara Transitional centres.