When Tamworth Correctional Centre senior case management officer Sara Abberton started her job two years ago, she felt like she’d finally found her calling.
Coming into the role with a wealth of experience working with various Aboriginal support services in the community, the Gomeroi woman saw it as an opportunity to affect change where it really mattered – behind prison walls.
“When I came to Corrective Services NSW I was thinking of the bigger picture,” the 35-year-old says.
“I’ve worked with offenders in early intervention roles, in the courts and when they’ve been released from prison, so I wanted to use that knowledge and experience to inform policy and projects for Aboriginal offenders in custody.”
Sara is among 10,000 Corrective Services NSW staff celebrated on National Corrections Day, Friday 15 January, for her commitment to community safety and reducing reoffending.
Since joining CSNSW in 2018, she has helped establish an Aboriginal steering committee at the prison and pushed for a yarning circle to be built as a supportive space for inmates to engage in programs and services.
Sara, who paints artworks in her spare time, takes great satisfaction in providing Aboriginal inmates opportunities to connect with their culture and believes it’s the key to helping them make positive changes to their lives.
“It’s important for them to have that connection to culture and sense of belonging,” she says.
“The inmates really latch onto anything we do that has a cultural component, which in turn provides an opportunity for accidental learning and behaviour change.
“To me reducing reoffending means our men can be at home with their families, be on country, be strong dads, pops and brothers, and be sharing their culture and knowledge with the younger generations.
“It’s about people being together and I hope the work we do in prison contributes to that, because we’re not just locking people up and leaving it at that.”
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.