South Coast Writers Centre, in collaboration with the Black Wallaby Writers Group and Junee Correctional Centre, is proud to announce that the fourth book in a unique initiative for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates has just been released.
Dreaming Inside: Voices from Junee Correctional Centre Volume 4 is part of a project that began in 2012, steered by leading Wadi Wadi elder, activist and teacher, Aunty Barbara Nicholson and other mentors from the South Coast Writers Centre. The book comprises the largest collection of visual and written works to-date, all of which were created by the centre’s Indigenous inmates over 2015.
The volume comprises heart-felt poems and stories from inmates on a range of thought-provoking topics including: inmates’ families, life in prison and disassociation from culture and community.
“The Dreaming Inside project represents a long-held dream,” says Aunty Barbara Nicholson. “The books provide a valuable space for inmates to share and reflect on their very troubled lives; to gain agency for themselves as men with worth; a space where they can see themselves not as worthless criminals but as worthwhile human beings who have a contribution to make to society and importantly to their culture. The works in Dreaming Inside shine a bright light on their humanity. It is for me an absolute joy to have the privilege of working with these writers.”
The program commenced in 2009 when Aunty Barbara Nicholson, along with associates of South Coast Writers Centre, visited Junee Correctional Centre on a writing tour to do a day of reading with Koori inmates. A subsequent trip resulted in the initiation of a poetry writing workshop with Aboriginal and Torres Strait inmates. This initial workshop produced Volume 1 of the Dreaming Inside book series in 2012, which is now in its fifth year of production.
The aims of the program include:
- Encouraging a healing of the spirit
- Developing writing skills as a form of expression
- Improving self-esteem
- Providing an avenue for inmates to exercise a form of agency
- Giving inmates a voice
- Allowing inmates to explore connections with culture
- Providing inmates with the skills to continue to write once they are released
- Making Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander literature more prominent in the public mindset
As one inmate wrote on the project’s completion: “I learnt heaps about expressing our values, culture and ideas about every day living, as well as how to express your feelings in writing.” Another summed up the experience by simply saying: “Thank you for appreciating our hearts.”
Junee Correctional Centre is part of GEO Group Australia, the country’s leading provider of outsourced correctional services which manages more than 3800 inmates. Aside from Dreaming Inside, GEO also supports a host of other educational programs which aims to reduce the likelihood of inmates reoffending which helps to create safer, more positive communities for all.
Another program Colourful Dreaming, is an arts-based program under the tutelage of Wiradjuri Elder Aunty Kath Withers. This program uses art to help reconnect imprisoned fathers with their children whilst expanding their views of themselves and the possibilities of life. It has been extremely popular and has greatly improved the self-confidence of the men. Other classes offered include language, literacy and numeracy which encourages inmates through music, art, cultural speakers, story-telling, reading and writing to identify and set goals and connect with TAFE staff to access further training courses. Also available is tech lit, skills for work and study, driver education.
Dreaming Inside: Voices from Junee Correctional Centre Volume 4 can be purchased for $20 through South Coast Writers Centre. All proceeds from the book go to the continuation of the Indigenous Literary program.
More about South Coast Writers Centre: The centre provides professional development, information and networks for writers and readers on the South Coast and Southern Highlands of NSW. It supports the creation and enjoyment of Australian literature through the provision of creative and professional development, as well as audience growth, for writers and readers. The development of existing and new audiences for writers and writing is strongly supported. The Centre strives for the inclusion of South Coast writers in Australian literary culture, and endeavours to maintain social inclusion, access, equity in all aspects of the Centre. The Centre’s premises are located in the University of Wollongong and is a not-for-profit organisation supported by Arts NSW, Wollongong City Council, Wollongong Art Gallery and the University of Wollongong.