Peter Moncrieff is a Yamatji man from the south-west of Western Australia. He joined VACRO’s Time to Work Employment Service program as an engagement officer working in Dhurringile Prison and Beechworth Correctional Centre in 2019. Here, he shares how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the previously in-person, in-prison meetings he had with participants.

COVID-19 has made it harder to engage. If you’re on the phone, you ask them how their day’s been, what they’ve been doing; engage in general conversation to get them a bit more comfortable. To let us into what we need to know to get them the most help. It depends on their interests. Football; a lot of them like painting. 

We get them signed up to a job service provider, which includes getting them on Centrelink, so they’ve got money when they’re released and they don’t have to wait five or six weeks for their benefit. They don’t have to go back to bad habits to try and get money. 

One hundred per cent of my participants have the highest help stream from the job service provider. It can be overwhelming for people when they’re first released. Work might not be their first priority. A lot have drug problems or family issues or relationship breakdowns. It’s hard being pushed for a job when you’re trying to recover and get back on your feet. Time to Work Employment Service helps to support our people in the way they should be supported. Without it, people might reoffend. They might go back inside not long after release. 

A lot of people, they don’t have a home to go to once they’re released. There’s only one way to feed yourself if you don’t have money, if you don’t have a job, if you don’t have a car, if you don’t have opportunities. They’re going to go back into the old cycle of doing drugs or selling drugs or stealing. It’s a great program. If I were in jail I’d be jumping on the ship.

This article is extracted from our 2020 Annual Report. You can read the report in full below.

VACRO 2020 Annual Report