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Col Austen

Manager of Industries, Shortland Correctional Centre
Almost 30 years with Corrective Services NSW

Leading a team of staff and inmates to build the media village for the 2000 Sydney Olympics has been one of the highlights for Col Austen.

It’s one of many projects the 55-year-old has worked on in the nearly three decades with Corrective Services NSW as a Senior Overseer and Manager of Industries at both Cessnock and Shortland correctional centres in the Hunter region.

“It was a big job and not only was it hugely educational for everyone, but something that was about lifting community spirit,” Mr Austen says.

“Through the process, I was able to assist an inmate – who couldn’t read or write before entering custody – to gain a forklift licence, which he was very grateful for.”

Mr Austen is among the more than 9,000 Corrective Services NSW staff being celebrated for their commitment to community safety on National Corrections Day, Friday 18 January. CSNSW staff includes custodial officers, inmate services and programs staff, psychologists and parole officers.

Before joining CSNSW, the only connection Mr Austen had with prisons was undertaking repair works at Grafton and Maitland gaols as an apprentice carpenter and builder.

“Working at CSNSW has ensured a stable career and has allowed me to utilise my previous trade skills as a carpenter and joiner in the workplace,” Mr Austen says.

The team of more than 50 overseers at Cessnock and Shortland supervise around 300 inmates in a variety of industries including timber furniture, print, food services, laundry, ground maintenance, community projects and engineering.

“It’s very important that we give offenders an opportunity to learn new skills and have time out of cells,” Mr Austen says.

“They need to turn up to work on time, be clean, have their ID card, achieve an income, learn a routine and develop responsibility and if we don’t assist them before they’re released, we’re just adding to the problem.

“The job has its real highs and lows but every inmate we can stop coming back is a step in the right direction.”

The 2019 National Corrections Day theme is Working Corrections, focussing on inmate industries and the work of Community Corrections officers, who supervise offenders on court-ordered community work.

Across the state, there are about 650 Corrective Services Industries’ staff, who oversee inmates undertaking work, training and other qualifications to help reintegrate them into the community and reduce reoffending.