Released from a highly regimented world behind bars, a small group of Canberra Indigenous men are making important steps toward forging a new, meaningful life.
It's a much tougher journey than they expected.
As grown adults they've stepped into freedom uncertain about the everyday things that most of us simply take for granted: how to shop on a budget for the right food, how to cook a nutritious meal, when to get up in the morning, plan and pack a lunch for work and at the end of the day, when to go to bed.
These are tough blokes who have lived rough and spent too much of their lives inside prison walls. They don't ever want to go back. What they've found toughest of all is breaking the cycle of recidivism.
The latest available data has revealed that 90.9 per cent of the 110 Indigenous men and women behind bars at the Alexander Maconochie Centre have been incarcerated before.
It's a shocking statistic that should make a caring Canberra community hang its collective head in shame.
Young people are also dealt a poor hand by the justice system, with a recent four-year review finding that Indigenous young people were 26 times more likely to be held in detention than non-Indigenous.
Albert Barker, 38, readily admits he's made mistakes in his life, mostly because of substance abuse. But now for the first time in a long time he's drug-free and feeling healthy, he has his own place to live, a good job with a steady income, and is keen to study horticulture. Nearly three months out of prison and he has an organisation called the Worldview Foundation to thank for his fresh start.
Worldview Technologies is a national company that specialises in the recycling of computers and data-handling devices, and in providing technical equipment and services. It chose Canberra as the location to run its intensive pilot re-integration program aimed at giving men like Albert a fresh start.
Behind this corporate commitment is the support of Westpac, the ACT Justice and Community Safety directorate and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Putting the ex-detainees straight into paid work generates revenue for the sponsor company. It's a commercially-focussed model that benefits both parties but there's a high degree of risk, effort and expense involved for Worldview as the venture's underwriter.
Making the program work requires a significant level of commitment not just from the detainees but those who guide, mentor and support them.
Anthony Longbottom and Doug Logan spent 13 weeks in prison working with their first group of detainees, five days a week. The mentors are excited and enthusiastic about this particular program because they believe the support structure is right, and there's a high degree of personal accountability from those who have signed on.
Two more detainees will come into the program within days, and 11 more will join in January. There is also a plan to extend the program to include female detainees.
"This is different to a government-run program because it starts with us, within the prison, and then our support carries all the way through. We ask people to make a huge, personal commitment to change their future," Mr Longbottom said.
"We promise them if they fully commit to this program and to us, we will commit to them."
Four key elements have been identified in easing the path to rehabilitation: good health and nutrition; regular, worthwhile employment; quality housing, and the right level of support.
"When people first come out of a prison, they will make mistakes because they've come out of a really controlled environment. But it's important that those little mistakes, like smoking on the job or not presenting to work properly, don't cost them too dearly," Mr Longbottom said.
"We help them reset their life and ease them into the type of structures that everyone else takes for granted: things like setting up bank accounts, budgets, cooking, cleaning and staying healthy. I'm taking our group off to the gym three days a week before work and they're enjoying it."
Tracey Whetnall, who has been visiting Indigenous inmates in an official capacity at the Alexander Maconichie Centre for seven years, said the Worldview Foundation's pilot program appeared very promising.
"The biggest problem for ex-detainees is getting a job, finding somewhere to live, and staying healthy. It's very easy for them to fall back into old habits, return to hanging out with a bad crowd, and then ending back inside. I've seen it time and again," she said.
"But this program gives people those essential building blocks to start again. It's very hands-on and I think that's why it works so well."
Meanwhile Albert says he wants to build his interpersonal skills so he, in turn, can mentor others. He's enjoying the simple pleasures of an ordinary, free life.
"I'm making a wage, exercising, paying rent, managing my own money and cooking my own meals. It feels good to do all that," he said.
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