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Prison cottage garden growing skills, health and produce

Last published on 24 Feb 2021 in Media Releases

Inmates at a Central West NSW prison are gaining horticultural qualifications while also donating their fruit, vegetable and flower harvests to charity.

The one-hectare cottage garden at Kirkconnell Correctional Centre provides inmates with learning and work opportunities with 13 men currently undertaking a Certificate II in Horticulture through Orange TAFE.

Corrective Services Industries trade overseer Michael Copeland said the garden also had positive impacts on offenders’ mental health and mood.

“The inmate gardeners find relief from issues related to daily prison life, and they are motivated to keep their job,” Mr Copeland said.

“One of the most positive outcomes of the working garden is that inmates receive a qualification, which can help them gain employment upon their release.

“The biggest challenge of the garden is the fact that it is housed on the grounds of an operational prison where safety and security are over-riding concerns.”

Mr Copeland said produce and flowers, including dahlias, are harvested to donate to a Bathurst soup kitchen and Daffodil Cottage, a cancer clinic at Bathurst Base Hospital.

“The garden is at its peak right now and the inmates will be harvesting peas, broadbeans, strawberries, Asian greens and Russian garlic,” Mr Copeland said.

“The productive garden also features apple, peach and pear trees.”

Member for Bathurst Paul Toole MP said the garden was a win-win for all.

“Inmates can gain qualifications to equip them with the skills to find employment on their release, meaning they’re less likely to reoffend,” Mr Toole said.

“The garden also allows them to give back to the community through the donation of fresh produce, bringing cheer to people undergoing cancer treatment or those doing it tough.”

The key features of the garden are the walkway pergola, rotunda, decorative bridge over a landscaped dry creek-bed, greenhouses and raised garden beds, which were built by inmates using scrap metal and timber pallets found on site.

Kirkconnell Correctional Centre is a minimum-security prison, housing about 200 male inmates, and is located in the Central West between Lithgow and Bathurst.

The majority of the centre’s inmates are employed in a number of industries, including engineering, where they gain skills and training to help them reintegrate back into the community when they’re released from prison.

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