Cessnock couple Kristy and Craig Gray are among 10,000 Corrective Services NSW staff being celebrated on National Corrections Day, Friday 15 January, for their commitment to community safety and reducing reoffending.
The pair are based at Cessnock Correctional Complex and believe their Aboriginal heritage helps them improve relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders.
“Being Aboriginal I can build a better connection with Aboriginal inmates, through art and telling their stories,” Kristy, an officer at Hunter Correctional Centre says.
“I love the feeling that I’m in a position to make a difference. It can only take a small interaction to change someone’s life - a small gesture of kindness can go a long way.”
This year’s theme is Working together to reduce reoffending, focusing on the ways corrections staff assist offenders through programs, education, promoting a good workplace culture and positive interactions.
Neither of the Grays were aware of the other’s Aboriginal heritage when they met and married: Craig was raised not to mention it and Kristy had never even known.
“Cultural heritage wasn’t really spoken about because that’s how it was at that time,” Craig says.
“But it was always there and the more I learn about my culture, the more light-bulb moments I have that relate back to my childhood and family.”
Kristy was born in Kamilaroi country near Tamworth, while Craig’s mob is from Worranua country in the Hunter. The couple proudly share their heritage with their four children and also hope to inspire other Aboriginal peoples to join Corrective Services NSW.
“My husband always told me how much he felt he could make an impact in the job, as an Aboriginal person leading by example,” Kristy says.
To that end Craig, who works with the Northern Transport Unit taking inmates between prisons and courts, is undertaking the Corrections Aboriginal Mentor Program.
“I’m interested in leadership and to be able to help. There aren’t enough Aboriginal staff in the job, so it would be good to gain more but to also keep the ones that we have,” he says.
“I don’t feel there is a lot of understanding about Aboriginal culture, but I don’t think that’s deliberate. I just think it’s the way a lot of people grew up and their perception of Aboriginal people.”
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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