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Steel wreath partnership honours Northern Rivers service men and women

The Grafton RSL sub-Branch has formed a promising relationship with the staff and inmates at the Clarence Correctional Centre in the state’s north after partnering with them to honour local service men and women.

Grafton RSL sub-Branch Honorary Secretary Denis Benfield said they were contacted earlier in the year by the operator of Clarence Correctional Centre, Serco, about a project aimed at supporting rehabilitation opportunities for inmates through skills-based training and qualifications.

The project saw a one-metre-wide steel poppy wreath designed and created by inmates, which was presented on their behalf by Clarence Correctional Centre staff during the Grafton ANZAC Day Commemoration Service at the Cenotaph in Memorial Park.

Mr Benfield remarked: “We were very happy to be involved in the wreath-making project, welcoming its presentation on ANZAC Day and we are now seeking to have it permanently installed along with an eternal flame that we are working on with the local Council.”

Trade Instructor Darren Ford said 20 inmates were highly engaged in the project, actively giving their time outside work and study commitments to create the one metre piece.

The ANZAC Wreath

“When we first introduced the concept, many inmates seemed perplexed by the idea of making a wreath from metal and quickly became apparent that these inmates who come from diverse backgrounds did not understand the significance of laying a wreath on ANZAC Day,” Mr Ford said.

“I started to share stories of the ANZACs as we worked, and virtually overnight we went from two active project participants to a workshop full of inmates wanting to contribute.

“They loved learning about the significance of the red poppy and how it has become the emblem to honour those lost in military service.”

With more than 10 per cent of staff at the centre registered as current and ex-service men and women, inmates also took the time to learn more about the traditions of military service from Mr Ford who has a rich personal and family history affiliation with the Australian Defence Force.

“Partnering with RSL NSW created the opportunity to learn about the experiences of others and helped inmates to share their own life experiences, which supports an increased level of empathy when working together to achieve an individual’s rehabilitation and reintegration milestones.”

Mr Benfield noted that the Grafton RSL sub-Branch will have an ongoing relationship with the Clarence Correctional Centre, including sub-Branch members visiting the centre to provide veteran services and support to staff, inmates and their families.

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