FISH Myalup Karla Waangkiny

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Nationally, First Nations Australians are 13 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous Australians. WA Department of Justice Statistics (March 2020) demonstrate how over-represented First Nations people are in the justice system (see below). Additionally, 40% return to prison within two years of release. 

Since 2017, FISH has worked with First Nations people from across Australia to co-design a place and program where First Nations people aged 16-35 can heal and receive holistic support to break intergenerational cycles of trauma, avoid (re)engagement in the justice system and contribute positively to society.

A Place to Heal

FISH has acquired an 11ha site in Myalup, South West WA. After many visits to the site by cultural elders, the site and program have been named “FISH Myalup Karla Waangkiny”. Traditionally, Myalup was a meeting place where the Bindjareb and Widandi people would come together. In local language, “karla” means “fire” and “waangkiny” means “talking/yarning”. Fire yarning has always been a powerful practice for healing the spirit, strengthening group bonds and forming a deep connection to land. The site will be developed as a national prototype, and will include:

  • Rehabilitation, mentoring & healing for First Nations people at risk or in justice system.
  • Agri-innovation: aquaponics, horticulture, traditional food & medicine, & research.
  • Education & training.
  • Manufacturing sustainable housing panels.
  • Construction & maintenance.
  • Landscaping, grounds maintenance, and nursery.
  • Hospitality, retail, & tourism.

FISH Myalup Karla Waangkiny will be a multipurpose site with a focus on healing, education, justice rehabilitation and Aboriginal social enterprise, making the program economically self-sustaining. The site will be developed as a national prototype to bring change throughout Australia.

People at Site

Once the program is operational, the FISH Myalup Karla Waangkiny will accommodate the following:

  • 36 resident participants and 9 residential peer mentors.
  • 20 low risk participants on community work release.
  • 20 participants on community service orders.
  • Qualified staff team to support program participants onsite and in the community.
Aboriginal Co-Design

For decades, governments have funded justice programs designed by non-Indigenous people to bring about change for First Nations people. Real change is yet to occur. Co-design by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people has a much higher probability of success. True co-design means allowing time for yarning and deep listening. Through this, we share and value each other’s hearts, spirits, knowledge, and wisdom.

The FISH program draws on more than 30 years’ experience in the justice system, as well as conversations with Aboriginal Elders, community leaders, and participants of FISH’s Cultural Healing pilot programs in Casuarina Prison.

In July 2020, FISH created an Aboriginal Co-Design Group of 23 First Nations people to design core programs and provide site design input. Most members have lived experience with the justice system, including:

  • running programs or services in prison; or
  • experience of incarceration; or
  • a family member who was/is incarcerated.

Group members discussed and agreed upon:

  • program objectives & name.
  • program principles & participants’ healing pathways.
  • site design, including architectural & landscaping features.
  • site social enterprises.
  • facilities & required level of support.

“When I was incarcerated, on remand, I was at the lowest point in my life. What I needed was compassion, connection and a place to heal. Prison was not that place and only served to compound my trauma. Together we have designed a place of hope, cultural reconnection and healing for people like me; to bring real, lasting change.” Renna Gayde Co-design Member

We look forward to providing updates on this initiative as it unfolds!

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