Supporting First Nations people experiencing incarceration to explore their cultural identity through the visual arts, as a pathway to a more positive future.

Grant Type
Community
Focus
Economic Empowerment
Date
2023
Partner

Melbourne-based not-for-profit The Torch is using the power of art and culture to reduce the rate of reoffending for First Nations people in Victoria.

Since 2011, the organisation has been operating the Statewide Indigenous Arts in Prison and Community (SIAPC) program in all 14 adult correctional facilities. Set within the context of the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement, it focuses on the role of art, culture and cultural identity in the rehabilitative process. It directly addresses the alarming statistic that First Nations people make up around 1% of the Victorian population yet represent 13% of the Victorian prison population.

The program involves Indigenous Arts Officers (IAOs) supporting First Nations people in prisons to learn more about their language group, culture and Country through art mentoring. Selected artworks created by the participants are then sold through The Torch’s online shop, at its Carlton gallery and at annual exhibitions.

“100% of the sale price of the art goes directly to the artist,” says Susannah Day, CEO at The Torch.

“There have also been significant licensing opportunities for Torch artists, including the Metro Tunnel Project, Toyota Australia, a fleet of Amtrak’s vans, and on many organisations’ Reconciliation Action Plans.”

The benefits of the SAIPC program are long-lasting. Participants not only gain financially from the sale and licensing of their artworks but get opportunities to develop arts industry based skills which also provide significant boosts in self-esteem and confidence.

“We see their personal pride in their abilities as an artist when they share their experiences with their family and the wider community,” Susannah says.

“From the development of their art skills, they feel stronger as an Aboriginal person, and feel hope for a different and more positive future, away from prison.”

The Bennelong Foundation supported the Torch with funding towards its female Indigenous Arts Officers (IAOs) who work with First Nations women in the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, Tarrengower prison, and those in the community who had been released from incarceration.

“The IAOs provided art, cultural and art industry support to more than 60 women,” Susannah says.

“They support the women to explore their identity and culture through art, develop their confidence, resilience, and self-esteem, and define new and different pathways for themselves on release from prison.”

Find out more about The Torch here.

Impactful results

Making positive change

The Torch has enabled incarcerated First Nations people participate in learning and connecting with others.

Outcome

Better access to education that opens pathways to future income opportunities.

Outcome

More opportunities to have a voice.

From the development of their art skills, they feel stronger as an Aboriginal person, and feel hope for a different and more positive future, away from prison.

Sophie Waincymer

Fundraising and Development Manager, The Torch.

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