Constructing a new life

An inmate who has recently been released from Broken Hill Correctional Centre has started driving earthmoving equipment in Sydney after completing a Certificate III in Civil Construction Plant Operations. Two other inmates who did the course have since been offered work release with a local construction company after also completing a course.

They were part of a group of eight female and male inmates who successfully completed the course delivered by TAFE Western Connect.  TAFE Western Connect provides flexible study options for students. It falls under the NSW Government's Smart and Skilled program to help people get the skills they need to find a job and advance their careers.

The inmates attended the course at the prison every day for four weeks. They learnt skills in operating a loader, excavator and skid steer. They also gained skills in using pumps, generators, power tools and hand tools.

As part of the course, the group laid concrete pavers, installed two park benches and built a retaining wall at the facility. By the end of the four weeks they were loading and unloading plant equipment onto a truck.

TAFE teacher Marty Havercroft said it was the first time that he had taught a group with a 100 per cent attendance rate. "The women were dedicated workers who demonstrated great leadership qualities throughout the course," he said.

Corrective Services NSW staff supported the inmates and Mr Havercroft from beginning to end. Senior Overseer Gary Dickson transformed a shed into a classroom for the course to be held at the centre. He helped the inmates with problem solving and encouraged them throughout the four weeks.

Overseer Dickson said he noticed a marked change in the inmates. "They arrived at work each day with a new enthusiasm," he said.

Senior CSNSW education officer Nicki Levi and literacy/numeracy teacher Kim Vodic, who supported Mr Havercroft in delivering the theoretical components, said some students were apprehensive at the start.

"On the first day one told me: "I'm not sure how I'll do in the course. This will probably be my last day". By the end of the course, he was a proficient machine operator," Ms Vodic said. "After four weeks, each of them has developed a new sense of themselves as capable learners and competent workers."

Image: A shed was transformed into a classroom for the course to be held at the centre