Skilled inmate employment helps address timber supply crisis

A Mannus Correctional Centre works release program is providing inmates with employment opportunities, while helping meet an unprecedented demand for timber by filling a labour shortage in the state’s largest sawmill.
Photo: Inmate working at Hyne Timber's Tumbarumba Mill.
Photo: Inmate working at Hyne Timber's Tumbarumba Mill.
Photo: Inmate working at Hyne Timber's Tumbarumba Mill.

Media Release issued by Correctional Services NSW

Hyne Timber Tumbarumba Sawmill, which has a long-standing relationship with Corrective Services NSW, expanded its employment of minimum-security inmates after bushfire and housing shortages left the mill unable to fill workforce vacancies or operate at capacity.

Mannus Correctional Centre classification and placement officer Anna Hjelmroth said inmates nearing the end of their sentence are allowed to apply for the coveted positions, which provide them with paid employment and work experience prior to their release.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity because they get to feel normal, reintegrate and take on that responsibility before leaving prison with a bit of money in their account to set up for a law-abiding life,” Ms Hjelmroth said.

“Inmates take really valuable skills to Hyne that they’ve gained here at Mannus by working in our onsite timber processing unit or gaining qualifications like a forklift ticket through our programs with TAFE NSW.”

So far, 11 inmates are working at the sawmill, including John* who earnt his place on the team 18 months ago.

“At Mannus I’ve learned how to operate machines and be part of a normal workplace,” he said.

“This job is giving me a good work ethic, confidence to go back into the working world and financial stability for when I get out.

“You feel good about yourself and I think it helps you progress back to a normal way of life.”

Hyne Timber Tumbarumba Sawmill site manager, Darren Wright, said inmate employees are proving essential to the sawmill, which produces a volume of structural framing onsite every day that could almost stretch from Tumbarumba to Sydney.

“We have a fit and able workforce just five minutes down the road, helping us fill many vacancies in spite of current recruitment challenges and our experience has been very positive,” Mr Wright said.

“Our Mannus Correctional Centre team members are hard-working, appreciative of the opportunity and paid equitably.”

CSNSW Commissioner Kevin Corcoran said empowering inmates through education and employment pathways is paramount to rehabilitation.

“Training and education for inmates empowers them to gain employable skills for when they are released and offers a better chance at successfully re-integrating into communities,” Mr Corcoran said.

Mannus Correctional Centre is an all-male, minimum-security facility, housing up to 160 inmates, who work in areas like the sheep and cattle yards, apple orchard and timber yard across the centre’s 4,000 acres.

*Not his real name

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140 years of Hyne

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