Reconnecting Indigenous inmates and their children through art

‘Colourful Dreaming’ is an arts program involving the inmates at Junee Correctional Centre and their children. The program aims to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in rural NSW who have an incarcerated parent to participate in artistic and cultural activities.

Under the tutelage and wise eye of Wiradjuri Elder Aunty Kath Withers, the program uses art to help reconnect imprisoned fathers with their children while expanding their view of themselves and the possibilities in their lives.

Creating art for ‘Colourful Dreaming’ has greatly lifted the self-confidence of the men involved. Some are now employed in various roles by their correctional centre.

When the program is undertaken in the school holidays, it creates a real highlight for the children. In creating their own artwork in different media, they renew their connection to community as they learn about their rich culture.


  1. This program supports at-risk Aboriginal children aged 10–15 years who have a parent in prison. It encourages these children to explore their personal challenges through artwork and increase their sense of cultural identity. Cultural knowledge is transmitted between Aboriginal Elders and children, and contact is promoted between the children and their imprisoned fathers.
  2. The program increases public awareness of Wiradjuri culture within the prison system and the wider community through a travelling exhibition of artworks created by the participating children. Each location for the exhibition has featured an opening night with invitations circulated to the organisation’s network of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community groups, prison staff and members of the public. The program is also promoted to the organisation’s volunteers and supporters.
  3. Group cultural workshops focus on Wiradjuri clan totems; bush tucker; breathing techniques for playing the didgeridoo; traditional stories; and art.
  4. The children are encouraged to:
    • build positive family relationships
    • develop awareness of their emotions
    • communicate with their incarcerated parents
    • develop increased self esteem in a supportive environment.

The program aims to significantly improve the life chances of participants and reduce the risk of their future involvement in crime by strengthening social support and cultural connections.