Gallery helps Indigenous inmates paint a brighter future

Featuring works created by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates at the Alexander Maconochie Center as part of their arts program, the Dream Gallery opening at Flex by ISPT coincided with International Indigenous Peoples Day, Tuesday 9 august.

The works on display in the gallery, lobby and scattered throughout the building are for sale with proceeds going to the inmates. A deposit account will allow prisoners to have a nest egg upon their release; they can access a small amount while incarcerated. Of the sale, 95% will go to the inmate’s account while 5% is held to cover administration costs.

ACT Corrections Minister Mick Gentleman said the program allows artists to express themselves, showcase their skills and take steps towards their future, while the exhibition is a chance for the community at broad sense of joining Indigenous Australians on a journey of reconciliation. .

“We offer a number of programs at CMA to enhance the cultural well-being of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates with a view to reducing recidivism, strengthening families and improving cultural connectedness,” said said Mr. Gentleman.

ISPT, a property management giant in Canberra, leases space to retailers, community organizations and government departments. The exhibition at Flex is an extension of the Dream Gallery at 2 Constitution Avenue, which opened in 2019.

ISPT Partnerships Specialist Letitia Hope says the company feels privileged to exhibit the artwork and hopes it will encourage artists to continue in the future.

“The artwork is amazing, but the stories behind it and what it means for people to be able to have activity, to find that meaningful pursuit, is so important when they’re in the situation in where they are,” Ms Hope said.

In 2020-21, it was estimated that approximately 25% of the inmate population at the AMC identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. David Witham, manager of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services unit at AMC, said the popular program offers more than an activity for inmates; it’s ‘stealth’.

“It’s very important to us that people use their time wisely. It is good for people who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander to be involved in cultural activities that connect them to the culture, keep them in touch with their family and elders. It gives them a sense of pride,” Mr Witham said.

He said inmates with the ability to generate income that they can use for things like toiletries, tobacco and art supplies help their families on the outside.

“By giving them the ability to sell art while in custody and have access to some of that money, it reduces the pressure on their families to send them money. Their families who do tougher than them, it’s a key to removing this pressure on families.

While there is no simple method to help inmates stay out of incarceration after release, Mr. Witham said the AMC team is always ready to support them when they are ready. to work hard.

“A lot of people we work with have been in the system for a very long time; they are very entrenched in the system. There is no easy solution to reduce the rate of return to detention, but we are content to reduce it and support them as best we can.

The Dream Galleries at Flex and 2 Constitution Avenue are open to the public in the concourses.

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