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Support in prison

Information about the roles of the Aboriginal Wellbeing and Aboriginal Liaison Officers and how they help Aboriginal prisoners.

Special officers work within the prison system to support Aboriginal people while they are in prison. The Aboriginal Wellbeing Officers (AWOs) work within public prisons and Aboriginal Liaison Officers fill similar roles in the private prisons. Aboriginal Wellbeing Officers are drawn from the Aboriginal community whereas ALOs are not.

These officers meet with the Aboriginal person within 24 hours of arriving in the prison system. They provide individual support, informing the newly arrived prisoner about the prison system and helping them to settle in. They work with the person as necessary including:

  • helping them to make appointments with medical staff
  • telling them about pre-release programs that they may need to undertake while they are in prison
  • informing them about parole helping them to apply for parole
  • connecting them to post release supports
  • organising specific cultural programs for Aboriginal prisoners
  • acting as a conduit between other prison staff and the Aboriginal prisoner
  • liaising between the Aboriginal person and family members
  • advocating for the Aboriginal person
  • referring the Aboriginal person to other services that can assist, such as lawyers
  • assisting the Aboriginal person to get compassionate leave if there is a family funeral
  • strengthening their cultural identity and connections.

Cultural programs

An important aspect of the role of Aboriginal Wellbeing Officers is the organisation of culturally specific programs for Aboriginal people who are in prison. These include:

  • cultural strengthening programs
  • Aboriginal history programs
  • men's anger management programs
  • parenting programs

These help Aboriginal people to maintain and strengthen their cultural understanding and ties while they are in the prison system.

More information

  • Taking instructions from Aboriginal people
  • Being taken into custody
  • Getting ID

Reference

Aboriginal Wellbeing and Liaison Officers

To For the list of officers, current on 20 September 2021:

See Prison Aboriginal Welfare and Aboriginal Liaison officers (doc, 171 KB)(opens in a new window).

Corrections Victoria

Many thanks to Sam Nolan, Program Officer, Aboriginal Programs Unit, Corrections Victoria, for assistance drafting this page.

Updated