Dowerin praises economic benefits of minimum security prisoners in town

The Shire of Dowerin is praising the benefits the town has seen as a result of the Wheatbelt Work Camp being part of the community over the past six-years. 

Officially opened in February 2012, the Wheatbelt Workcamp houses 20 low risk, minimum security prisoners who provide significant services to the town of Dowerin along with the Shires of Kellerberrin, Merredin, Tammin, Wyalkatchem, Goomalling, Wongan Hills and Cunderdin.

Organisations request assistance based on conservation, maintenance and construction projects, all of which afford prisoners the opportunity to undertake life and work skills development in an environment that reflects their low risk to the community.

Shire of Dowerin chief executive Rebecca McCall said there is no shortage of requests from community groups and the Shire alike.

“The work camp is an integral part of the Dowerin Community and is suitably self-contained in terms of its own resources and equipment to deliver its services throughout the Wheatbelt,” Ms McCall said.

“The projects undertaken by the work camp are immeasurable in their benefits to our community and you would expect that the skills and esteem gained by the prisoners to be key factors in their successful reintegration back into society.”

Ms McCall said the workcamp contributes to the economic development of the community through its purchases of food, vehicle maintenance and other equipment along with the weekly “spends” of the 20 workcamp residents at the local general store.

The Shire of Dowerin currently has three residents of the workcamp working alongside its own employees as unpaid static workers.

“Static workers drive our graders, collect our rubbish, trim our trees and patch the roads,” said the Shire of Dowerin works manager Glen Brigg. 

“Some static workers are given the opportunity to undertake paid work with the Shire in the six months prior to their release through the Prisoner Employment Program.” 

Currently the Shire has one worker participating in the PEP program, bringing to the community new skill sets whilst having the opportunity to live and work in regional Western Australia.

Ms McCall said strong connections with the local community is vital for the workcamp to succeed.

She said it relies on local groups and the Shire to engage prisoners in meaningful worthwhile projects to help prisoners re-connect with society through a structured work day in a public setting. 

“The community of Dowerin continues to be embrace the opportunities offered by the workcamp to better our region - not only does the community acknowledge their part in making a positive difference in the broader community, but in turn have their local amenities, environment and services enhanced,” Ms McCall said.