Having positive communication with offenders is one of the first steps to getting their lives back on track according to Dominic van Gestel.
The 46-year-old provides training to Community Corrections officers across the state including Bankstown, Fairfield, other parts of south west Sydney and Broken Hill, to enhance their interactions with parolees and other people serving community-based orders.
“If we want to change someone’s behaviour, we need to make a shift in our language so it’s non-judgemental and inclusive,” he says.
“Once you build that rapport and positive engagement, we can then start to challenge their beliefs and thoughts that are leading to their offending behaviour.”
Dominic is among 10,000 Corrective Services NSW staff celebrated on National Corrections Day, Friday 15 January, for his commitment to reducing reoffending.
He previously worked in Juvenile Justice for 18 years, initially as a counsellor with juvenile sex offenders and later as a manager, before joining CSNSW as a Practice Manager three years ago. He is also a casual academic, teaching social work at the University of New South Wales.
“I’m passionate about the work we do because in our roles we get the chance to sow the seeds to change these men and women’s anti-social behaviour, giving them the opportunity to avoid reoffending,” he says.
As part of his role, Dominic observes interviews between Community Corrections officers and offenders and reviews case management plans, providing feedback to staff on their communication and writing styles to improve the intervention outcomes they are achieving with offenders.
“My focus is to work on the officers’ strengths so they feel validated because building a positive work culture is just as important to reduce reoffending,” he says.
“I have worked with officers who have at times struggled with changing their practice but it’s about patience and it is rewarding when they get that light-bulb moment and understand why we’re enhancing our interactions with the offenders.”
The 2021 National Corrections Day theme is Working together to reduce reoffending, focusing on the ways corrections staff work hard to assist offenders through programs, education, promoting a good workplace culture and positive interactions.
CSNSW includes about 5,000 custodial officers, 1,800 Community Corrections staff, 750 industries workers, 720 psychologists and programs officers and 1,170 Security and Intelligence staff.
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