Community News

Grafton RSL Sub-Branch member Denis Benfield and Serco Trade Instructor Darren Ford.

Serco partner with RSL NSW to honour local service men and women

To commemorate ANZAC Day, inmates at Clarence Correctional Centre created a wreath of poppies for the Clarence Valley community using their newly acquired metal working skills.

Serco has partnered with RSL NSW to deliver this unique community-based project aimed at supporting rehabilitation opportunities for inmates through skills-based training and qualifications.

The ANZAC Day wreath created by the inmates from protected carbon steel is designed to withstand the elements and be on permanent display in Memorial Park Grafton.

Trade Instructor Darren Ford said 20 inmates were highly engaged in the project, actively giving their time outside work and study commitments to create the one metre piece.

“When we first introduced the concept, many inmates seemed perplexed by the idea of making a wreath from metal. It quickly became apparent that these inmates who come from diverse backgrounds did not understand the significance of laying a wreath on ANZAC Day,” Mr Ford said.

“In the workshop I started to share stories of the ANZACs as we worked, and virtually overnight we went from two active project participants to a workshop full of inmates wanting to contribute. They loved learning about the significance of the red poppy and how it has become the emblem to honor those lost in military service.”

With more than 35 years’ experience in metal fabrication, Mr Ford has seen first-hand the difference learning on the job and giving back to the community can make.

“This project has given inmates the opportunity to be part of something they are really proud of. As a group they put into practice the skills they are developing through a Certificate II in Engineering and came up with innovative solutions as the project became more complex. No matter what, they were determined to work together and create a significant piece to gift to the community.”

Close-up of the metal wreath.

With more than 10 per cent of staff at the centre registered as current and ex-service men and women, inmates also took the time to learn more about the traditions of military service from Mr Ford who has a rich personal and family history in the Australian Defence Force.

“Partnering with RSL NSW created the opportunity to learn about the experiences of others and helped inmates to share their own life experiences, which supports an increased level of empathy when working together to achieve an individual’s rehabilitation and reintegration milestones.”

Grafton RSL Sub-Branch member Denis Benfield said that he and his fellow veteran volunteers are overjoyed by the time and consideration the inmates have dedicated to making the wreath to pay their respects.

“Grafton RSL Sub-Branch is looking forward to an ongoing relationship with Serco and supporting veteran inmates and staff at the Clarence Correctional Centre,” Mr Benfield said.

On Sunday Clarence Correctional Centre staff presented the metal poppy wreath on behalf of the inmates during the Grafton Commemoration Service at the Cenotaph, Memorial Park.