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NAIDOC Week innovations at Serco’s Clarence Correctional Centre

Clarence Correctional Centre (CLA) celebrated its inaugural NAIDOC Week, taking an innovative approach to addressing the culturally specific needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates.

Last week’s NAIDOC activities were aimed at bringing together inmates from all different areas, as well as involving friends, family and the local community in cultural celebrations.

Lisa Laurie, a Gumbaynggirr/Yaegl woman and one of the centre’s two Aboriginal Religious and Cultural Advisors said this year has posed some unusual challenges and the team needed to find innovative ways to bring everyone together.

“These culturally specific celebrations are an important part of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmate rehabilitation and are something we all look forward to,” Ms Laurie said.

“We engaged our Aboriginal Inmate Delegate Committee throughout planning, and they came up with the idea of delivering NAIDOC events via the secure inmate tablets, ensuring all inmates had the opportunity to spiritually and culturally connect to country.”

Aboriginal Religious and Cultural Advisor Shayne Rawson, a Wiradjuri man, said one of the most important parts of NAIDOC Week to the Aboriginal inmate delegates was ensuring celebrations involved all inmates across the centre, not just Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

“The centre’s official NAIDOC ceremony featuring performances by the male dancing groups and the female choir was attended by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates and local Elders to conclude the week, which was also streamed via the inmate tablets so the whole centre was involved,” Mr Rawson said.

Other events that were shared virtually for NAIDOC Week included an exhibition of the NAIDOC Week Art Competition, NAIDOC storytelling, yarning circles and video messages sent in by members of the Aboriginal community.

“When we knew the inmates wanted to use technology to share NAIDOC Week, we decided to surprise them with a video of our own,” Ms Laurie said.

“We reached out to the community requesting messages for inmates reminding them that no matter where they are right now that they are spiritually and culturally connected to this country.”

Lisa and Shayne have been overwhelmed by the response including videos from sports stars Adam Elliot, Anthony Mundine, Rhys Wesser, Daine Laurie, David Liddiard, Owen Cragie and George Rose.

CLA also offered a traditional smoking ceremony, an ancient custom that involves smouldering various native plants to produce cleansing smoke.

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