David Berry, Chair of the Central Advisory Council, shares his reflections on the great importance of Prison Fellowship’s ministry in the Northern Territory.
The Central Advisory Committee
The Prison Fellowship Central Advisory Council (CAC) was established through the vision of the State Manager for South Australia and the Northern Territory, with a goal of strategic support for the ministry across two very diverse states.
David Berry, in his role as Chair of the CAC for the past three years, brings a unique perspective of working in the corporate world before his retirement, coupled with a strong faith and deep commitment to the vision and ministry of Prison Fellowship Australia.
Adelaide to the Alice
David, who lives in Adelaide, recently had the opportunity to travel through the NT, directly engaging with Prison Fellowship staff and volunteers. He has kindly agreed to share some of his experiences and insights from the trip.
This journey through the NT was part of a three-month driving holiday which David and his wife Di undertook, beginning in Adelaide, travelling north to Darwin via Alice Springs, and then on to Western Australia.
The first stop was Alice Springs, where David met up with Prison Fellowship volunteer Enid Harland. During his visit, David gained a small window of insight into the significant investment Enid makes to fulfil her role.
David explains, “We caught up with Enid early in the morning, at the place where she can be found every Saturday – the Visitor’s Centre located at the Alice Springs Correctional Centre.”
“Enid has been faithfully volunteering for PFA for nearly 30 years. Her compassion and concern for all those visiting the prison to see an incarcerated family member is evident, as she talks and engages with them in such a beautiful and caring way.”
All this becomes even more profound in knowing that Enid has just celebrated her 90th birthday.
Visiting a loved one in the Correctional Centre can be very stressful. Enid brings the assurance of a caring presence to those hoping to be allowed to visit. That care includes helping family and friends to fill in the required forms correctly, and even extends to ensuring there is a supply of thongs, as forms filled out incorrectly or children having no shoes means entry will be refused.
David continues, “At Tennant Creek we met with Grant Butler, another long-time PFA volunteer. Grant is currently based in Tennant Creek on an employment related 3 month contract, but still remains focused on his PFA volunteering role in Alice Springs. Part of this is working alongside Enid, orchestrating all the logistics that will give the best possible option of ensuring that the families of prisoners will be able to visit at the weekend.”
The Saturday Bus
The round trip of 50km from Alice Springs town centre to the prison can be a major obstacle for the families to even begin to negotiate. Enid and Grant organise a weekly roster of volunteers to drive the Prison Fellowship bus each Saturday, which transports the families of inmates to the prison, where they are met at the Visitor Centre by Enid. After the visits are completed, the volunteers drive the family members back to town.
In chatting with Grant it becomes evident to David that he has a deep concern for the ever increasing number of people finding themselves in prison in Alice Springs. This sad reality highlights the importance of both Enid’s and Grant’s roles, and how vital these are in bridging the great divide which occurs when a relative is incarcerated.
Children are marginalised and ostracised, and feel a deep sense of being let down when a parent is absent due to imprisonment. Prisoners often live with a sense of regret and remorse for letting their loved ones down. The value of helping to foster an ongoing relationship by ensuring visits can take place is of paramount importance.
From Alice Springs to Darwin
“I had an enjoyable afternoon sharing vanilla slices and iced coffees with Daniel Tetteh, Victor Rao, and Phil Meehan at a café in Darwin. All three provide leadership and support to the many volunteers going into the Darwin Correctional Centre.”
“Daniel works part-time and is responsible for coordinating the volunteers visiting the Darwin prison in various roles, including the running of church services, as well as occasionally facilitating the running of PFA programs himself in the prison.”
Phil and Victor are Central Advisory Council Members, and also serve as volunteer assistant chaplains in the prison. Their deep commitment to bringing the Good News of Christ to those in the prison is clearly evident to David as he engages with them. They regularly present The Prisoner’s Journey, a course based on the book of Mark, to those desperately seeking hope in what often feels like utter hopelessness.
Their passion and ongoing faithfulness have opened the doors for many to come to know Christ, and to receive ongoing mentoring.
As David reflects on this time of engagement, he is grateful for the opportunity to have gained a ‘tangible insight’ into Prison Fellowship activities in the Northern Territory.
His motivation for continuing to serve as Chair of the Central Advisory Council SA/NT is reinforced, having experienced in a very real way how Christ – central to the Gospel of Freedom – continues to be brought to those on the margins, through the ministry of Prison Fellowship Australia.