Unanderra inmates getting to work on the outside

Illawarra not-for-profit groups are collecting an estimated $30,000 in free labour each month from Unanderra prison inmates eager to spend time outside the jail walls. 

Last month approved inmates from the Illawarra Reintegration Centre carried out building, maintenance and groundskeeping work at 19 sites, including Bong Bong Racecourse, Bargo Dingo Sanctuary, Moss Vale Showground and a bird rehabilitation facility at Fitzroy Falls.

The men have built a retaining wall at the Corrimal Cougars Rugby League Football Club, installed bench seats at Mt Keira Scout Camp, painted the jumps at Stony Range Pony Club and built a deck at Tarrawanna Soccer Club. 

Centre governor Faith Slatcher said inmates were paid about $33 a week, for about 30 hours’ labour. The real reward was in the sense of achievement, she suggested. 

“They love it,” she said. “They particularly like it because they go out there in the community and contribute and feel like they’re doing something.” 

“Because it’s such a visible thing, they can step back and say, ‘I did that’. 

“A lot of them have never had that sense of pride or sense or having achieved something and given something to the community and it’s really special to them.” 

Sixty of the Lady Penrhyn Drive site’s 77 beds are currently occupied and about 25 inmates leave the prison for work as part of the centre’s Community Projects Team. 

The teams are lead by Corrective Services NSW overseers with trade qualifications, who provide the offenders with skills and training.

The centre opened in June last year. It is for minimum security inmates who are nearing the end of their sentences, and is touted as having a greater than usual focus on programs that will prepare the men for life after prison. 

The Unanderra teams have taken on work once done by Berrima Correctional Centre inmates. That site has transitioned from a male to female prison.   

Inmates spent a combined 1722 hours working on Illawarra and Southern Highlands jobs last month, according to Corrective Services NSW, which valued the work at about $30,000. 

Not-for-profit groups looking to form a partnership with the centre can email IllawarraRCAdmin@justice.nsw.gov.au or phone 4239 7700.