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Second chances, second helpings – feeding the community from Acacia Prison

Read the full Serco People Report 2021 (9mb)

Peter Tischhauser is an internationally respected chef. He trained in one of the finest hotels in Switzerland's Italian region and managed a kitchen as a sergeant in the Swiss Armed Forces. After emigrating to Australia, he led a successful career in the hospitality industry and dedicated himself to teaching and inspiring future generations of culinary talent.

In 2003 he discovered a new purpose, entering a very different world of work in which he still serves today with pride, energy and creative flair.

As Catering and Stores Manager for Acacia Prison, Peter and his team prepare nearly 100,000 meals every month for the prisoners and our colleagues onsite. They are closely involved in our rehabilitation of prisoners, providing work and accredited training and striving for Serco to be a valued member of the local community. Peter brought all of this together in 2020, leading a collaboration of colleagues, prisoners and charity groups in support of the local elderly and infirm.

Peter’s passion for preparing complex and challenging cuisine, and his commitment to changing lives through education and training, help to explain the immense satisfaction he finds in his role at Acacia.

“I haven’t worked a day in the last 18 years. If you enjoy what you do, how can you call it ‘work’? Every day is different here and every day we make a difference.”

Peter is a firm believer in rehabilitation through meaningful work that speaks to the soul. The kitchen has always employed prisoners in a range of roles, but Peter seized an opportunity in 2013 to create a Hospitality Training Facility, where they can gain qualifications and apprenticeships as well as basic life skills.

To date, nearly 200 ex-offenders have left Acacia ready for a promising career in hospitality. Peter gladly uses his industry connections to give them yet another helping hand.

We see tears of joy and gratitude, smiles of confidence and pride, and moments of life-changing epiphany – there is nothing better.

Peter Tischhauser
Catering and Stores Manager for Acacia Prison

“You get back what you put in. Whether they go on to open their own café or simply reconnect with family through love of cooking, we’re not just teaching the technical dimensions of a new profession, we’re transforming lives. We see tears of joy and gratitude, smiles of confidence and pride, and moments of life-changing epiphany – there is nothing better.”

In March 2020, as Covid-19 restrictions fell heavily across Australia, Peter seized another opportunity to make a difference to those in need, initiating what became known as the Swan Hills Meals Project.

Inspired by a similar Serco-sponsored scheme in nearby Perth, Peter and his team led local government and community organisations to collaborate in delivering meals to vulnerable citizens in the rural Swan Hills district neighbouring the prison.

The prisoners enthusiastically took on the challenge, happily volunteering to support in their own time.

“These are men who care deeply for their own elderly relatives. They were very keen to help these people they knew would otherwise be suffering in isolation, giving back to the community in the process.”

Four different menus were created, offering hearty and nutritious meals and using only top-quality ingredients – designed to be a daily highlight during the gloom of lockdown. For six months, in addition to feeding the prison, Peter and his extended team served 200 meals every week to people in need throughout their local community.

“Our ‘customers’ were all extremely grateful. Now that we are back to normal – hopefully for good – we have paused the project, but we’re ready to recommence if needed. The prisoners are all looking forward to our next big initiative – they gain as much from making a difference every day as we do.”

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