Once a week a group of Indigenous inmates are given an opportunity to break from routine and show their artistic talents

Matthew, participant: I come up here, spend the day up here, you know … the program up here takes my mind off being in jail.

Matthew says the ‘Colourful Dreaming’ program has helped him open up.

Mathew: I just do whatever comes into my head really, and put it down on paper and canvas.

Participants are rewarded for their endeavours with works displayed at the Wagga Art Gallery during NAIDOC Week before being auctioned off to help fund art materials for the program, which is in its fifth year. It’s an initiative of SHINE for Kids, which helps inmates continue to bond with their children on family days throughout the year.

Aunty Kath Withers, Wiradjuri Elder: They’ll do paintings, and activities and games and have lunch which they would normally make them back home. We also do workshops with children outside the jail to keep that contact going.

Inviting children to participate helps inmates reintegrate back into family life prior to release.

Trevor Coles, Junee Correctional Centre: Getting them to understand the impact their imprisonment has had on their children, and how to connect and try to turn their life around so they can be home, and be parenting.

With 24 per cent of the correctional centre’s population identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, the program is just as much about participants connecting with their culture as it is about re-establishing relationships with family members.

Aunty Kath: We do basket weaving as well – they’ll sit round, they’ll weave, they’ll paint, reconnecting with themselves as well. And I’m talking about culture all the time so it helps them to reconnect to their country.

So far $3000 has been raised but more funding is needed to keep the program running. To purchase a painting visit the website.

Sarah Navin, WIN News.