Senior Overseer, Broken Hill Correctional Centre
17 years with Corrective Services NSW
When Gary Dickson joined Corrective Services NSW 17 years ago, he thought nothing of wearing a green tracksuit to his first day of training at Long Bay Correctional Centre.
Almost two-decades on and the 61-year-old still looks back and laughs at the situation.
“I had no idea what the Australian prison uniform looked like – I’m lucky I didn’t get shot down by the officers,” Mr Dickson says.
Gary 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.
Now the Senior Overseer of Building Maintenance at Broken Hill Correctional Centre, Mr Dickson manages four overseers and about 22 inmates, who work in the kitchen and laundry or complete community projects and grounds maintenance.
“Inmates are nothing like I thought they’d be when I started the job – they confide in you and tell you their stories. This job really improves your empathy towards others and reminds you that in the end we’re all human, we all make mistakes,” Mr Dickson says.
“A lot of inmates have never had a father figure to learn from and it’s rewarding to teach them important skills and give them the opportunity to build something they can be proud of.”
Mr Dickson said working at a centre that is 126-years-old means there’s always plenty of work maintenance to be done with many inmates going on to use their newfound trades skills upon release.
“Inmates get hands-on experience and leave with certificates, qualifications and tickets that give them the best chance of succeeding when they leave custody,” Mr Dickson says.
A qualified painter and decorator, Mr Dickson worked at a steelworks prior to joining CSNSW in 1988. After a stint working in disability services, he returned to the prison system in 2002.
He’s worked at Brewarrina, Ivanhoe, Wellington and Broken Hill correctional centres in the state’s central and far west and been involved in many community projects.
Outside of work Mr Dickson enjoys spending time with his family, as well as his road bikes and hot cars. He also delights in seeing some of his handiwork flash across the TV screen from time-to-time – he made the flagpole that sits atop Canberra’s Parliament House.
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.