Angela Newchurch believes cultural understanding is the key to making connections with ARC's Indigenous prison population.
Closing the Gap
As Australia celebrates its Indigenous communities during NAIDOC Week, Serco is highlighting the tireless dedication of Angela Newchurch, its Aboriginal Liaison Officer at the Adelaide Remand Centre (ARC).
After a long career working with Indigenous organisations and communities, Angela has attained a wealth of knowledge as well as lived experience and is accustomed to differing cultural nuances. Her mother belonged to the Ngarrindjeri clan and her father, the Narrunga (Kaurna, Garna) nation. Proud of her own heritage, Angela seeks to connect with Indigenous prisoners as they enter the ARC, recognising that Aboriginal customs can require differing approaches.
Serco Australia employs Aboriginal Liaison Officers across its justice contracts to ensure inclusive, supportive and culturally safe environments for people in care.
Explaining her attraction to her work, Angla says: "From an early age, I wanted to work with Indigenous people to help close the gap. As an Indigenous person myself, I was fortunate enough to complete my schooling but not everyone in my community is that lucky or has the appropriate supports available to do so.
"In my role at ARC, I help connect prisoners to the appropriate services and support for their individual and cultural needs in order to achieve the best outcomes.
"Family is typically the most important thing in Aboriginal culture. I find that a lot of the time, Indigenous prisoners are more comfortable speaking to another Indigenous person who may be more aware of and open to their needs."
Of the requirements of Indigenous prisoners, Angela adds: "Having support from your elders is important in Aboriginal culture. The elders share stories and encourage the prisoners to make the necessary changes in their lives to avoid coming back into the criminal justice system. The men always look forward to their visits
"The organisations that come into the ARC allow the men to begin their rehabilitative journeys now, which I have also found to be more successful, rather than giving them a phone number that they likely won’t call themselves."
The Serco team also works with the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement to provide legal aid and assist with obtaining phone numbers and details for family members when this information is unknown.
Through her experience at the ARC, Angela has found that referrals to Indigenous health services and programs have been more successful than mainstream services, with Indigenous prisoners more likely to attend their appointments and continue with the services beyond release.
The ARC offers a diverse range of programs, initiatives and community partnerships that go beyond activities traditionally undertaken in remand. Serco’s remand strategy ensures reintegration support services are available to all prisoners, including additional services to support Indigenous prisoners. General Manager, Steve Duncan, adds: "Everything we do is focused on supporting the people in our care, their wellbeing and reducing reoffending. We will continue developing our programs and strong community partnerships to deliver positive outcomes for prisoners and the local community."
NAIDOC Week celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and represents a great opportunity for Australians from every background and walk of life to participate in a range of activities designed to support the country's Indigenous population.
NAIDOC was originally an acronym for "National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee" but now refers to the full week of celebrations.
Angela who has been busy running educational activities at the ARC around Indigenous Australian culture, refers to this week as "a time to be proud to be an Indigenous Australian", and "an opportunity to listen, share stories, educate ourselves and show our respects to the First Nations people and traditional owners of our land".