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23 years at Corrective Services NSW
When Liolasa Tago came to Corrective Services NSW in 1988 – fresh from a career in banking – he met an inmate at Long Bay Correctional Centre.
In a satisfying twist of fate Mr Tago was there 28 years later when the man was released.
"I first met this inmate when I started and now here I am again – and he is getting out," he says.
"Over the years you build a rapport with the inmates so when I spoke to him last he said 'Thank you for all you have done'.
"He has promised not to come back again – and I think he will hold his promise."
Working with the inmates, encouraging them to do programs and helping them plan for life after their release are just some of things Mr Tago enjoys about his work.
The 48-year-old also loves the camaraderie among staff and the flexibility the job gives him to work in different centres.
During his career Mr Tago, an Assistant Superintendent, has worked in various prisons across NSW.
He says each experience brings something new to his work.
"While on secondment at Ivanhoe, in north western NSW, I was speaking to an Aboriginal elder and it was interesting how many similarities there were between what she was saying and my own Polynesian upbringing," Mr Tago says.
"It was the small things, like the similar way they cook their food on ashes and hot coals or that they are respectful of their elders as well as kinship and how we help each other in raising our children – my grandparents helped raise me.
"It gave me both an appreciation of Aboriginal culture and the tools I need to help Aboriginal inmates on the inside."
Over the years there have also been difficult moments for Mr Tago who once witnessed an inmate break a senior correctional officer's jaw because he was not allowed to go to activities.
"I had to take hold of the inmate and pace him around the ground – and that has stayed with me," he says.
"We can't live our lives in fear, though. We just have to turn up and hope for a good day."
Work for CSNSW