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Inmates create toys for local children during lockdown

Many people turned their hand to something new during last year’s four-month Covid lockdown and inmates at Parklea Correctional Centre were no exception.

Unable to do volunteer work in the community due to Covid restrictions, they needed something constructive to pass the time while not interacting with people from the outside.

Parklea Community Overseer Donna Smith came up with the perfect solution, embarking on a woodwork project with donated pallets.

The collaborative project saw Ms Smith and the inmates plan, design and create wooden toys and child-size furniture, which have today been handed over to Blacktown City Council’s Kids Early Learning at Blackett.

“The inmates wanted to make things they could donate to the community,” Ms Smith said.

“Their first job was to make a deck chair, so they had to make plans, do the sizing and organise the work.

“They ended up making about 30 to 40 pieces, which included coffee tables, child-size tables and chairs, wooden aeroplanes and a Thomas the Tank Engine bookshelf.”

Ms Smith said the project was an important part of the inmate’s rehabilitation and provided them with new skills, and their work went towards a building and construction traineeship.

“To begin with, some thought they were useless and didn’t realise what they were capable of, but they created great things and got their self-esteem back,” Ms Smith said.

“One inmate said he felt like a normal person again in a regular job, and working together teaches them how to behave in the workplace.”

Ms Smith said she enjoyed working with the inmates and giving them new opportunities.

“Everyone deserves a second chance and helping them is rewarding when they better themselves.”

Parklea Correctional Centre Governor Paul Baker said he was pleased inmates had again donated the fruits of their labour to the council’s childcare centre after an Indigenous inmate donated his artworks last year.

“Our mission at Parklea Correctional Centre is to run a safe, decent and secure prison that reduces reoffending and takes care of staff,” Mr Baker said.

“It’s our duty here to support men of every background, and it’s important we provide meaningful work to keep them occupied and to teach them new skills so they have a better chance of employment when they leave.

“Creative industries are an integral part of our education and reducing reoffending strategies here at Parklea, and the work they have produced is of a very high quality.”

Blacktown City Mayor Tony Bleasdale OAM said the council was honoured to receive the wooden toys and furniture created by the inmates.

“Blacktown City Council has been proud to work alongside Governor Paul Baker as well as the staff and inmates at Parklea Correctional Centre on some fantastic causes over many years,” Mayor Bleasdale said.

“This donation of wooden toys to Council’s early learning centre at Blackett is an example of the wonderful work Parklea does in the areas of inmate rehabilitation and upskilling for life beyond prison.

“As Mayor, I thank the inmates for their kind gesture and hope they enjoyed creating the toys as much as I’m sure our children will enjoy playing with them.”

MTC Australia has managed Parklea Correctional Centre on behalf of Corrective Services NSW since 2019.