A fine ride for some

Andy Tayler

Rail, light rail, housing - NSW government's infrastructure priorities leave out those in gaol who want a new life

Those of you travelling through the City of Sydney may have noted the signage devoted to the government’s work on building the Sydney light rail. This amazing piece of engineering joins the WestConnex Stages 1A, 1B, and not one but two Stage 2s as well as Stage 3. The Pacific Highway gets essential millions as does NorthConnex. After that, there are rail and road projects in other parts of Greater Sydney and even one (light rail) in Newcastle.

Infrastructure in NSW seems to be something you drive on, ride in or live in. For proof, check “State Priorities” on the NSW Making It Happen web page. It boldly proclaims that infrastructure priorities are, firstly, improving road travel reliability so that 90 per cent of peak travel on key routes is on time. Secondly, the government will increase housing.

Magnificent! Unless you are in gaol, which is where some 13,000 of us will be by the end of this year.

For gaol education, “infrastructure” would include the people, buildings and organisation that enable teaching and related duties. Sadly, in the name of efficiency, the number of people working in the system has been reduced in relative terms. For education, the reductions are in absolute terms following the government’s decision to sack 138 current gaol educators — all bar 20 of us.

Perhaps it is just as well. After all, if you go to the expense of recruiting staff it is reasonable to expect that you have the buildings to house them. Sadly, your expectations would be ill-founded.

Take the new buildings that were to house the Education unit, the Intensive Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program (IDATP) as well as psychology and welfare services at the Outer Metropolitan Multi-Purpose Correctional Centre (OMMPCC – why limit your acronym to three letters?) which is in the same complex as John Morony 1, the centre that is to be “market-tested” for sale this year.

One of the government’s election promises in 2011 was to establish a “drug treatment prison” that started at JM1 and then transferred to OMMPCC. The move meant that new, purpose-built structures were needed to house all of these programs. The buildings were started but never finished. In fact, the skeletons are in place but work stopped quite some time ago.

What do we learn from all of this? If you can’t ride on or live in the infrastructure then you won’t see a sign about it. If you are in gaol, you won’t have it.

Andy Tayler is Secretary of Corrective Services TA and a Correctional Education Officer at Long Bay CC