Department of Justice is now the Department of Communities and Justice. Find out more >
30 years with Corrective Services NSW
When someone told Lesley Stewart she wouldn't be able to become a prison officer because she wasn't tough enough, she was more determined than ever to prove people wrong.
The 52-year-old has since moved through the ranks, becoming an Assistant Superintendent after spending around 18 years at Tamworth Correctional Centre in the state's north west and more than a decade at Silverwater Women's Correctional Centre.
"You don't necessarily have all the skills going into the job but you build the experience along the way," Ms Stewart says.
"You've got to be level-headed, have the willingness and initiative to learn, plus a bit of bravery and confidence.
"You don't need to be the biggest person. It's sometimes about force but largely communication. Women can do the job. You just need to be fair and honest."
Ms Stewart has worked with both male and female offenders.
"All these experiences help you become smarter and learn to deal with different types of people. You learn to negotiate and work with volatile offenders," she says.
"Being spat at, threatened, or seeing a fight unfold is all part of the job. It's a training ground every day."
Ms Stewart says the impact of the work that officers undertook went beyond the walls of the prison.
"We monitor activities, phone calls, visits and everything the inmates are involved in."
"There are instances where inmates are breaching their AVOs while in custody by contacting their victim and we have to report that, which could see inmates get further charges.
"It's our duty to keep the community safe."
Outside of work, Ms Stewart breeds and shows horses. She's also enjoyed the move to Tamworth.
"There's not one traffic light on the way to work so it's great that there are regional opportunities for staff."
Work for CSNSW