Communities throughout the Pilbara are expected to benefit from an innovative program teaching prisoners at Roebourne Regional Prison valuable horticulture skills.
Assisting Justice and Mines Minister Kevin Minson officially launched the prison's native plant propagation program at a ceremony today.
The program, which started from humble beginnings in July 1995, has quickly developed into the prison's major industry with the support of Robe River Iron Associates and the Roebourne Shire.
Mr Minson said many of the Roebourne prisoners were now busy helping propagate 3,000 seedling which will be purchased by Robe River Iron.
"The program evolved from a horticulture skills course run in the prison by Karratha College last year," he said.
"The program's success took everyone by surprise and 10 prisoners form the original group successfully gained horticultural accreditation at different levels."
"This year the project really took off, with Roebourne Shire donating metal for the construction of hardening benches for the plants and a major contribution by Robe River Iron, which donated materials from its closed nursery including a shade house, sorting benches and thousands of plant pots."
Mr Minson said the company had been instrumental in launching the prison's propagation program with a further donation of seeds and an order for 3,000 seedlings.
"During the lead-up to today's launch, 16 prisoners were involved in dismantling the company nursery and constructing the new shade house at the prison," he said.
"The prison's vocational skills officer used the exercise to teach valuable building skills such as welding, concreting, brickwork and cladding.
"A further 18 prisoners gained horticultural accreditation at various levels."
Mr Minson said that while individual prisoners were learning valuable new skills, it was their home communities that would eventually benefit.
"Many of the Pilbara's outlying communities and stations - particularly Aboriginal communities - suffer from problems associated with the dry arid conditions of the northern climate," he said.
"The revegetation of these communities is acknowledged as a major factor in improving the quality of life and health of residents. Already some prisoners have said they will use their newly-acquired skills at home and expressed a wish to continue more advanced horticultural studies."
Mr Minson said the propagation program would operate a permanent horticulture crew of six to eight prisoners, a further eight to 10 involved in a gardening crew and another prisoner devoted full time to the care for the oval.
The Minister praised the efforts of Roebourne Regional Prison superintendent Daryl Lawler and his staff for their efforts in ensuring the program's success.
"Mr Lawler has played a leading role in the program from the beginning and has recently focussed on developing new markets for the prison's seedlings, with the development of prisoner skills uppermost in his mind," he said.
The prison has already supplied seedlings to the Cheeditha Aboriginal community, to Roebourne Shire for the redevelopment of a local park and to the local community corrections office for use on a new property.
Media contact: Caroline Lacy 222 9595