Awards reflect hard work and commitment
21 July 2011
Judging Arts Access Aotearoa's Big 'A' Awards 2011 was "good fun" and an "eye-opener", says David Wales, one of the five judges who selected the five award recipients.
David Wales, Assistant General Manger of Rehabilitation and Reintegration Services at the Department of Corrections, attended the Big ‘A’ Awards 2011 ceremony in the Banquet Hall of Parliament on 20 July.
“For Corrections to be involved in two of the five awards is a reflection of the hard work and commitment that our people are putting in,” David says.
“Working at the coal face is demanding and I hold in high regard those people who choose to work there. Mark Lynds, for instance, is our champion of the arts and culture within prisons, and keeps this area of work vibrant and progressive.
“And the work The Learning Connexion is doing in providing qualifications and skills for prisoner students is valuable.”
The Hon Christopher Finlayson, the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, presented the Big ‘A’ Community Partnership Award 2011 to Mark Lynds of the Northland Region Corrections Facility and Ellie Drummond of Mairangi Arts Centre for their presentation and promotion of art by prisoners in community settings. This included two exhibitions and carving installations that have benefited both the prisoners and the North Shore community.
Mark, the 2009 recipient of the Big ‘A’ Prison Arts Leadership Award, presented this year’s award to Sharon Hall of The Learning Connexion to recognise her outstanding contribution in supporting the rehabilitation of prisoners through the arts.
“As a judge, I was really impressed by all the things that individuals and organisations around New Zealand are doing,” David says. “There is a community of people willing to put time and effort into helping others and enhancing their lives. The nominees were of a high standard and some of the decisions weren’t easy to make. Both the recipients and finalists thoroughly deserved the recognition.”
The Department’s Rehabilitation and Reintegration Services has been operating for a year.
“It’s an amalgamation of all the parts of the Department that contribute to the rehabilitation of offenders in prison and the community. We’re focused on reducing re-offending,” David explains.
The new services are responsible for providing intensive programmes such as violence prevention programmes, drug treatment units, Māori focus units, psychological services, inmate employment, educational activities and reintegration services. It has implemented a new end-to-end case management approach for prisoners.
It also manages contracts for other rehabilitative services such as arts activities and programmes, including the Department’s contract with Arts Access Aotearoa to develop and implement the New Zealand Prison Arts Strategy.
What rehabilitation means
So how does David define the term “rehabilitation”? “In the broadest sense, it’s everything that contributes to people changing their lives so they move away from crime and adopt a positive, contributing role in their community.”
Rehabilitation and Reintegration Services has close to one thousand staff – a reflection of the Department’s commitment to reducing re-offending, David says.
“Results from our programmes suggest we’re doing a world-class job in reducing re-offending but of course, we want to do better.
“We’re in the business of helping people change. We need people to address very thoroughly the things that contribute to offending and also help them gain a sense of momentum and positive purpose in their lives.
“But it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. We provide a range of opportunities that are about giving focus beyond a life of crime. This includes the arts and cultural activities, education and employment activities. They can all offer a sense of purpose, achievement and new skills.
“The arts can contribute to rehabilitation and can be a means of promoting change. The challenge for us is to get all the services – all the things we do – facing the same way so they add value to each other.”