John Stanton and I visited Casuarina Prison for our fourth annual visit for NAIDOC week. We have always enjoyed our visits and this year was no exception. In fact, for me personally, this was the most enjoyable and moving visit so far.
On Wednesday, both John and I gave talks about the story of Carrolup, whilst John also showed a related ABC film. At the end of our talks, all the guys came up and thanked us and shook our hands.
In the middle of the day, we spent time in the Education Department art room. This is always such a wonderful time. The atmosphere in the room is always so tranquil and the connection is palpable. I feel at peace in the room.
The guys work away on their art, interacting with each other in a helpful way. The quality of the artworks is something to behold. A number of the artists are outstanding, and everyone is doing high quality work. The influence of the Carrolup child artists is so evident.
On Thursday, John attended Noelene White’s funeral, so he couldn’t be at Casuarina.
I gave two talks, one on trauma and, after a break, another one on resilience and the healing of trauma. I could tell that the boys were totally engaged with the talks. I then showed two short films, the first being Step Inside the Circle by Fritzi Horstman, Founder and Executive Director of the Compassion Prison Project.
The second film, How to Transform Pain Into Power, comes from a conversation between Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey about their book What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing. This book contributed significantly to my two talks.
Again, I was moved by the kind words thanks and firm handshakes I received after the two talks. I also enjoyed sitting down and talking with the guys, sometimes at length.
I then spent an hour in the art room, moving around and admiring artworks and having more conversations, sometimes about trauma experienced and healing. There is doubt in my mind that the vast majority, if not all, the prisoners had experienced trauma in their lives, before they came to Casuarina. A number of the guys talked about intergenerational trauma in their family.
I was totally inspired and deeply moved by my time in that room. I wish others could see the beautiful artworks and meet the artists.
As ever, my sincere thanks to Mathew for organising our visits, creating such an amazing atmosphere in the art room, and helping the prisoners develop their artistic talents.
I was completely drained emotionally by the time I got home, and so thrilled to have experienced all I had over those two days.
Here are links to pdf documents of my three talks. Please note, the files take some time to download.