The thought of Valentine’s Day generally conjures up images of chocolates, roses, and love hearts. But Valentine’s Day 2016 has a different association for Gareth, it was the beginning of his relationship with Vacro. In fact, it was Gareth’s first day working as a ReLink Reintegration Coordinator at Port Phillip Prison, and the start of a meaningful career. 

Meet Gareth, ReLink Community Reintegration Support Worker, who found himself inadvertently doing case work as a Student Rights Officer at RMIT’s Student’s Association. While advocating for students who had been struggling, to remain at university, Gareth was coming up with plans for the types of support his fellow students needed, and that was when he decided to study social work. With one of Gareth’s lecturers being Peter Norden, former Catholic chaplain at Pentridge, Gareth knew that criminal justice would be a focus of his social work practice.  

Over the years, Gareth has worked across men’s homelessness, accommodation, and with young people exiting residential care. 

Reflecting on how the ReLink program has changed over the years, Gareth says that the program has expanded, there are more referrals, and the team itself has grown. Gareth’s current role is to support the ReLink team with resources and sharing best practices. “The team is amazing. They’re a group of brilliant, creative, passionate people,” he says. 

What hasn’t changed for Gareth is his commitment to showing up and helping people find a new path. “Many of the people we work with have had intensely marginalised experiences. By building a participant’s trust, they can become really invested in the opportunities we present and make positive choices. The work we do is never about a prisoner, it’s about a person.  

Outside of Vacro, reading, music and family are three key themes in Gareth’s life.