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​Wellington inmates move back onside with refereeing program

Published date: Monday, 29 July 2019

[PDF version of this media release]

A Wellington Correctional Centre program training inmates to become nationally accredited footy referees has reached a new milestone, with inmates being employed to referee local weekend games.

In a state-wide first, carefully selected minimum-security inmates have been given work release to referee rugby league games under the supervision of Corrective Services NSW staff.

Governor Louise Smith said the inmates gained the vital work experience after completing the National Rugby League Level 1 Refereeing Course in prison.

“This program has been a great success, helping hundreds of inmates gain nationally recognised refereeing accreditation in the few years it has been running,” Ms Smith said.

“It not only boosts their chances of rehabilitation and employment, it allows them to use those skills to gain paid experience ahead of their release.

“Many inmates have a passion for rugby league, so a refereeing qualification is something that they’re prepared to engage with, work hard for and more likely continue with when they return to the community.”

Under the National Refereeing Accreditation Scheme, Level 1 referees can adjudicate junior rugby league games and touch judge senior games. 

Inmates are also qualified for Level 1 touch football refereeing, which allows them to earn an income throughout the year.

Inmates are screened for suitability before being admitted to the course and must be able to pass a working with children check.

Correctional Officer and veteran NRL referee Tom Peet said the program enables inmates to have immediate access to paid employment upon their release.

“We have been escorting inmates to games in the Group 11 region every weekend this season,” Mr Peet said. 

“Once they’re released they can expect to earn around $250 a weekend if they refereed both days and an additional $150 if they refereed touch football games two evenings a week."

The successful referee training program is offered to inmates at 25 centres across the state, including men at Ivanhoe, Kirkconnell and Oberon and women at Wellington and Dillwynia. 

It provides entry level qualifications for up to 500 inmates each year.