A Central West woman who manages rehabilitation programs for inmates was motivated to begin her career after seeing her own brother’s battle with drug addiction and brushes with the law.
Kylie McKelvie works at Lithgow and Oberon correctional centres and is passionate about providing the prisons’ young inmates with the opportunities and skills to improve their lives.
The 37-year-old is among 10,000 Corrective Services NSW staff being celebrated on National Corrections Day for her commitment to community safety and reducing reoffending.
“My brother’s experiences really motivated me to make some meaningful change in young offenders’ lives,” Kylie says.
“A lot of young offenders need assistance because they’ve got chaos in their life and they really need to unpack that chaos. It becomes very overwhelming for them because they don’t know how to break the cycle.
“Sometimes young people get themselves into silly situations. But we give them the skills and tools to fight for a second chance. We believe in change, in assisting people so that they can change.”
An area where Kylie has seen success is with the specialised 16-week Young Adult Offender’s Program at Oberon, which provides a unique combination of adventure-based training – such as hikes and high-ropes – and intensive therapeutic programs.
“One young man recalls when he was seven at the park with his brother and another child punched his brother so they went home,” she says.
“When he told his father and uncle, they took him back to the park and forced him to bash the five-year-old kid. He didn’t want to do that but he was brought up believing you defend your family no matter what.
“He didn’t realise that this incident as a child informed his whole belief system and outlook on life. Now he understands that in future when he feels the need to defend someone he really needs to think twice.
“We’re really challenging them and their beliefs, so it’s very intense for them but you do see those light-bulb moments.”
The 2021 National Corrections Day theme is Working together to reduce reoffending, focusing on the ways our staff assist offenders through programs, education, promoting a good workplace culture and positive interactions.
CSNSW includes about 5,000 custodial officers, 1,800 Community Corrections staff, 750 industries workers, 720 psychologists and programs officers and 1,170 Security and Intelligence staff.