Last year while I was working as a locum chaplain at a Sydney correctional centre, I began to assist some of the indigenous inmates. There was one man who I helped to connect with his aboriginal ancestry and linked with his local Aboriginal Land Council.
I also helped a number of men upon their release from custody by picking them up from prison and after getting them some personal items and something to eat, I then took them to Central Station to get the train or coach back to their hometown.
It was then that I met Brad* who had been in and out of prison a number of times in his life. However, during his last prison sentence, Brad made a supreme effort to turn his life around. He even shared with me that in a way, he was glad for this last time in prison because it really brought home that his life had to change. He participated in a number of programs to both improve his work skills as well as addressing some of his other personal issues.
While in prison, Brad was baptized as a Christian and took part in chapel services regularly. He learnt to play the guitar and was taught art and became a wonderful indigenous artist. I obtained permission from the Manager of Security to take some of his artwork back up to his family who lived in Northern NSW.
I saw a genuine quality in Brad that I don’t see very often. So much so that when he was eventually released from prison in early April this year, my wife Fay and I drove him back up to his hometown. It was during the COVID-19 lockdown, so I had to check with the police department to ensure we could do so.
Brad had lost a lot of weight while in prison so we needed to purchase some clothes that would fit him, and because his accommodation was just a single room in a hostel, we also needed to purchase bed linen, a pillow, and a doona.
By the time we arrived and settled Brad into his accommodation, it was getting late, so we said goodbye. I then returned the next day to take him to all of his pre-arranged appointments such as his first meeting with his parole officer, his first psychologist appointment, reporting to the police, visit the Dept. of Housing, take him to the real estate agent to sign a rental agreement, register at Centrelink, get a photo ID and a mobile phone.
Since his release, Brad has kept up with all of his obligations. He has registered with an employment agency and is earnestly seeking work; he has obtained his drivers and forklift licenses. He is looking for more suitable accommodation. Brad has also linked with an Indigenous organization called “Rekindling of the Spirit” where young men gather together with Elders to talk about their lives and ways to prevent from re-offending. We have maintained regular contact with Brad since then and thankfully he is doing exceptionally well.
*Name has been changed
– Barry Dalton, Prison Fellowship volunteer
Through his volunteering with Prison Fellowship, Barry Dalton secured a locum chaplaincy role at a nearby prison.