From remote outback stations to a tiny Czech village, Kylie Fitowski has lived and worked all over the world. Today, she's back in Victoria's high country, joining Vacro at Beechworth Correctional Centre to support people to make plans for good lives post-release. Here, she tells us more about her motivation, her stories, and why she sees herself as a garden stake.

Hi, Kylie! Can you tell us a bit about your background and experience?

In one word, eclectic.

I grew up on a property in rural Queensland before moving to Brisbane for uni. I spent some time studying psychology, while simultaneously volunteering with an organisation called Drug Arm, which gave me newfound insight into homelessness and many associated issues.

I really enjoyed both my study and my involvement with Drug Arm, but I ended up answering a stronger call at the time – to get back to country. I spent the next few years working in central and northern Australia as a jillaroo. Something I always wanted to do.

I had always felt drawn to the remote north of Australia, both the country and people, and I was lucky enough to spend many years living and working in remote East Arnhem Land. Most of my work involved community development and enterprise, along with working closely with school-aged and adults in training and education.

Throw in a year living and working in a small Czech village, just to keep life interesting, and then hubby’s health dictated a move back down to the beautiful high country of Victoria’s north-east. We’ve been back for nearly two years.

You’ve got an appetite for new things and you don’t back down from a challenge. What motivates you to do the work you do?

I’m not going to lie; working within actual prisons is a whole new experience for me! I’m finding the role really humbling and exiting. This is certainly one of my passions!

Through my adult life, I find myself in circumstances that involve working with offenders or the myriad issues that offenders tend to face. This experience under my belt means I feel comfortable engaging in practical, frank, unjudgmental conversations, which are often a catalyst for change. ReLink as a program facilitates those practical conversations.

In your new role at Vacro you facilitate the ReLink program at Beechworth Correctional Centre. What drew you to that role?

Being witness to the process of positive change in the lives of others has, and hopefully will always be, both an honour and a privilege.

I’ve done a lot of work with guys who face complex issues. My role in their journey usually isn’t long term. It’s not my job, nor am I interested in changing anybody. The way I see myself is as tool for others to help change themselves – that of an inconspicuous seedling stake. I find myself quite unceremoniously tethered to individuals seeking that little bit of extra support. They can uitlise my skills and experience to help move in a strong healthy direction. Once on their feet and no longer in need of support I am happily turfed up and placed somewhere else, never thought of again. My greatest sense of professional achievement has been to look at those same individuals who once struggled with direction, who have become strong and inspiring in their own right, often going on to support others.

You’re a keen gardener and birdwatcher – but what else won’t we learn about you from reading your resume?

I’ve had remarkable encounters with nature, I can drive a truck, I’m a Christian, I write poetry, I sing badly but with gusto while driving my car, and I’ve driven a 12-mentre-long boat along the entire remote coastline of the Northern Territory.

What matters to you at the moment?

There are a few things bubbling in the background. I am tentatively working towards another lifelong dream of mine, which is songwriting. I’m loving living less remote, with the ability to access that world like live music, and trips to Bunnings! I’m also finishing a graduate diploma and making memories as a family before the kids get too old to hang out with us.

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