Jail ‘Rite of Passage’ for Aboriginal Youths

Anne-Louise Brown, WA Today, May 25, 2012

Peter Sirr is determined to make a difference in the lives of WA’s young indigenous men, who he says, see jail time as a “rite of passage”.

Mr Sirr is the CEO of Outcare, a non-government organisation offering a unique training and rehabilitation strategy called Live Works.

The program, which is designed to keep young Aboriginal men out of prison and improve their job prospects, has been allocated $7.5million state government funding over four years, giving almost 500 youths the chance of gaining vocational skills.

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He said the program, which has been running out of Bayswater for three years, had been on the verge of being cancelled due to a lack of funding before the state intervened.

He said the program catered for Aboriginal boys aged 12 to 18 who have spent time in juvenile detention and are at risk of becoming imprisoned as adults.

“The number of Aboriginal youths in detention is so disproportionate, and while juvenile detention centres do serve a purpose, for the most they just perpetuate the cycle of crime to some extent,” he said.

“Most of the boys that come through the program have an expectation that at some point while they’re growing up they’re going to end up in detention. They think it’s a rite of passage.”

Mr Sirr said the program empowered attendees, giving them a “hand up, not a hand out”.

“We physically get the boys to the program, whether that means teachers collecting them or our bus collecting them,” he said.

“This is about exposing them to success, telling them they’re doing a good job and getting them into a workday routine, things many of these kids have never experienced generationally.”

The program will be delivered in three high-demand locations – Swan, Armadale and Kwinana.

Corrections Minister Terry Redman said additional funding would also be provided to upgrade the Corrective Services’ community work centre Riverbank site in Caversham.

“This facility, once dilapidated but now being restored mainly through the use of offender labour, provides important rehabilitation programs by allowing offenders to engage in community work activities,” Mr Redman said.

“There will also be a significant increase in skills training in areas including welding and painting, and the provision of courses in decorating and catering.”

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