Delivering positive outcomes for First Nations prisoners

Published: 12 Nov 2020

Aboriginal Liaison Officer at the Adelaide Remand Centre (ARC), Angela Newchurch has dedicated her life to working with the community to which she proudly belongs, with the primary aim of closing the gap.

“From an early age, I wanted to work with Indigenous people to help close the gap. As an Indigenous person myself, I was fortunate enough to complete my schooling but not everyone in my community is that lucky or has the appropriate supports available to do so,” Ms Newchurch said.

“In my role at ARC, I help connect prisoners to the appropriate services and support for their individual and cultural needs in order to achieve the best outcomes.”

After a long career working with Indigenous organisations and communities, Angela has attained a wealth of knowledge as well as lived experience and is accustomed to differing cultural nuances.

Angela’s mother was a part of the Ngarrindjeri clan and her father, part of the Narrunga (Kaurna, Garna) nation. Proud of her own heritage, Angela seeks to connect with Indigenous prisoners as they enter the ARC, recognising that Aboriginal customs can require differing approaches.

“Family is typically the most important thing in Aboriginal culture. I find that a lot of the time, Indigenous prisoners are more comfortable speaking to another Indigenous person who may be more aware of and open to their needs,” Ms Newchurch said.

The ARC offers a diverse range of programs, initiatives and community partnerships that go beyond activities traditionally undertaken in remand. Serco’s remand strategy ensures reintegration support services are available to all prisoners, including additional services to support Indigenous prisoners.

ARC General Manager Steve Duncan said the team works with a variety of local community organisations to deliver services such as relapse prevention, court advocacy, treatment services and holistic family support.

“Everything we do is focused on supporting the people in our care, their wellbeing and reducing reoffending. We will continue developing our programs and strong community partnerships to deliver positive outcomes for prisoners and the local community.”

Tailored specifically to Indigenous prisoners, the team works with the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement to provide legal aid and assist with obtaining phone numbers and details for family members when this information is unknown. Additionally, the Aboriginal Elder program enables senior members of the aboriginal community to visit the centre monthly and speak to Indigenous prisoners.

“Having support from your elders is important in Aboriginal culture. The elders share stories and encourage the prisoners to make the necessary changes in their lives to avoid coming back into the criminal justice system. The men always look forward to the visits,” Ms Newchurch said.

Through her experience at the ARC, Angela has found that referrals to Indigenous health services and programs have been more successful than mainstream services, with Indigenous prisoners more likely to attend their appointments and continue with the services beyond release.

“The organisations that come into the ARC allow the men to begin their rehabilitative journeys now, which I have also found to be more successful, rather than giving them a phone number that they likely won’t call themselves.”

This week being NAIDOC week, Angela is looking forward to running educational activities at the ARC around Indigenous Australian culture.

“NAIDOC week is a time to be proud to be an Indigenous Australian. An opportunity to listen, share stories, educate ourselves and show our respects to the First Nations people and traditional owners of our land,” Ms Newchurch said.

Serco Australia employs Aboriginal Liaison Officers across all justice contracts to ensure inclusive, supportive and culturally safe environments for the people in our care.

ENDS

Media contact: Tim Evans, +61 409 389 358
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