Elders Visiting Program supports safer communities

Department of the Attorney-General and Justice

Northern Territory Correctional Services is working closely withAboriginal Elders from around the Territory on programs aimed at supportingsafer communities by reducing the high rates of Aboriginal imprisonment and re-offending.

Members of the Correctional Services Elders Visiting Programare meeting in Darwin this week for the groups annual forum, and will discussprogress on programs as well as introducing new initiatives including the CommunitySupport Program on Groote Eylandt.

The Elders Visiting Program is an innovative NT initiativethat involves Aboriginal Elders from regional and remote communities workingwith community based offenders and those in prison to learn new skills andmaintain their important family and cultural relationships.

Correctional Services Commissioner Scott McNairn saysmembers of the Elders Visiting Program provide important support, liaison andcultural links between residents in remote and regional communities and thework of our custodial and community corrections teams.

All Territorians share a common desire to live incommunities that are safe and to know our families, neighbours and friends can growup and thrive in a positive and supportive environment, Commissioner McNairnsays.

Building closer working relationships with organisationsand elders in Aboriginal communities is a vital part of the major Prison ReformProject that Correctional Services is undertaking to reduce the high rates ofAboriginal imprisonment and rising reoffending rates.

Supporting safer communities is a priority and by refocusingour efforts and resources for Aboriginal offenders on more culturallyappropriate programs will help them to have the understandings and skills tomake better choices when they are released back into the community.

Chair of the Elders Visiting Program May Rosas, an Elder withthe local Wardaman/Dagoman people from the Katherine region, says the Elders inthe program have an important role in mediating between Correctional Servicesand offenders, their families and communities.

They make a significant contribution to the successful re-integrationof prisoners back into their communities and ensuring offenders on communitybased orders understand their obligations and responsibilities so they do notbreach their orders, Mrs Rosas says.

Director of the Aboriginal Strategy and Coordination Unit,Margeret Friel, says it is important that offenders, their families andcommunities can be supported to lead change at an individual as well ascommunity level.

The Elders Visiting Program continues to grow and is a nationalleader in programs based on supporting communities to lead positive change fromwithin in a culturally appropriate framework, Ms Friel says.

Delegates to the two day forum will also hear presentationsfrom the NT Legal Aid Commission, the YWCAs Women of Worth program and theDepartment of Healths Primary Health Care team.

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