Education beats crime any day, says Simon. Over the past few years he has seen some wonderful changes in his students at the Correctional Centre. “They’ve been in and out of the system for a number of years and have fallen through the cracks but the education they get here gives those who hadn’t attended school when they were young a chance to improve their reading, writing and numeracy skills and get a qualification. I really enjoy my job here.”
Because the work is rewarding Simon encourages school and TAFE teachers to consider teaching at a correctional centre. “Despite all the locks and gates it is a very interesting location to work in,” he says.
The work is challenging and Simon needs to keep a cool head – and a sense of humour. “I am often asked, ‘How do you work in such an environment?’, and I reply, ‘I treat every day as a brand new day and you have to let it go by like water falling off a duck’s back.’ You let everything you hear or see just fall off you and don’t take it home. And trust me, I have heard everything!”
The Cooma centre is small and Simon’s four-member team is well-knit. The Senior Correctional Education Officer, like the other centre managers, has an open-door policy so that most matters can be easily resolved. “We can discuss issues or any concerns and nine times out ten the matters are dealt with straight away.”
Simon’s proudest moment as Fed Rep at Cooma was to sign up a teacher to the Federation, crowning four years of solid effort. “Next step — to have the last non-financial member signed up this year!”
He values the union for the protection and information it provides. Although he is out of the school system while at the correctional centre, being part of the Federation keeps him in the loop with what teachers in TAFE and schools are going through.
Teaching came as a welcome relief to Simon, who used to work in the hospitality industry. “I’ll be honest: I was tired of working the hospitality shifts and needed a change, but if you had told me when I entered James Cook University in 2000 that in February 2008 I would be walking into a Correctional Centre to teach male adult offenders I would have told you that you were dreaming!”
He moved to the Snowy Mountains to indulge his love for skiing and snowboarding, enjoys spending time with his family and last year combined both loves by securing family passes at Thredbo for this year’s season. He has recently started a new hobby – home brewing, which has proved to be a hit with family and friends.