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​Indigenous inmates learn skills via tools exchange

Published date: Monday 1 April 2019

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Staff at an outback NSW correctional centre are supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates to reconnect with their culture by encouraging them to create didgeridoos and clapping sticks to sell at the Corrective Services NSW Museum.

Museum Manager Andrew Weglarz forged the working partnership with inmates from Brewarrina Correctional Centre, who are learning to craft the instruments from machinery and decorate them in traditional patterns.

“The centre, in the state’s north west, was established to not only teach inmates new skills but foster a connection between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates and their culture, and this partnership is a great opportunity to tick both boxes,” Mr Weglarz said.

“The inmates are using lathes, presses, hand tools and other machinery donated by the museum to create didgeridoos, clapping sticks and other indigenous artefacts, which are displayed and sold through the museum.

“The inmates have been very enthusiastic about the program; in the 12 months since the partnership was formed they have sent the museum more than 50 artefacts.”

The Brewarrina Yetta Dinnakkal centre, in North West NSW, was established to restore cultural links between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates and their land and history through protection and interpretation of Aboriginal sites on the property.

Services and Programs Officer Paul West said the group of carefully selected minimum-security inmates also have the opportunity to learn a lot of practical skills and undertake vocational training.

“Yetta Dinnakkal in the traditional land owners’ language means ‘right pathway’ and our staff here work very hard to steer these inmates in the right direction by giving them the skills and confidence they need to be successful when they leave prison,” Mr West said.

“This is a 26,000-acre working property so it gives the inmates opportunities to gain qualifications in agriculture, conservation and land management, animal husbandry and more while strengthening their connection to the land.”

The centre houses up to 30 primarily Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates who are within the last two years of their sentence.

The working property was commissioned in 2000 and includes 500 goats and 100 head of cattle.