Last night I attended the 2018 Prison Education Forum at Parliament House, Sydney. The forum is organised by the good people at the Community Justice Coalition (CJC), who also organised the 2016 Prison Education Forum, following the government’s announced plan to reduce the numbers of teachers working in NSW prison from 152 to 20. This was done ostensibly on the grounds that external providers (who would only be required to have a CIV in Training and Assessment as opposed to the university degree required by teachers) would somehow be able to more effectively deliver programs. But Greens MP David Shoebridge said it best: “This isn’t about better focusing of services, this is about a savaging of services … It looks very much like [Minister for Corrections David Elliot] is desperately keen for budget cuts, because his failed law and order auction has driven the prison population to such heights that they are looking for savings anywhere.”
Over 14,000 people signed a petition against the cuts, however, the government went ahead with the plan, even though they had not yet organised external education providers when the teachers were made redundant. For several months, prisons in NSW were largely without education programs as contracts were still being negotiated. In May 2017 it was announced the contract had gone to BSI Learning. Representatives from BSI Learning RSVP’d to attend this years forum, though were nowhere to be seen. Naturally David Elliot declined to attend.
At the forum we heard from speakers Dr Jedidiah Evans from Australian Catholic University, Stephen Seymour from the University of Southern Queensland’s ‘Making the Connection‘ program, Shadow Minister for Corrections Guy Zangari (pictured with me), Greens MLC David Shoebridge, Deputy Secretary of the NSW Teachers Federation Maxine Sharkey and Assistant Commissioner for Offender Management and Programs at Corrective Services NSW Dr. Anne Marie Martin. A full video of the forum can be viewed here on Youtube.