By Cathrine Muston
10 September 2022
Leaving prison can be an uncertain and difficult time. Returning to the community is not always the positive experience many hope it will be, especially when housing is in short supply. As a result, often the relative security of prison can seem more attractive to people leaving the corrections system than trying to navigate life on the “outside” alone. While various agencies and services provide basic supports, what people often need alongside this is someone who will spend time with them over a cuppa.
Anglicare Victoria’s Get out for Good is a mentor program where volunteer community members can meet informally with people leaving prison and help them find their way back into the community. This can take the form of meeting for a coffee in a cafe or park, going with the former prisoner to appointments or catching up on the phone. It is in informal conversations that we are often able to encourage people to make the change they seek.
One volunteer who has had a particular impact is Brian. Having retired, Brian wanted to contribute to the local community. He has now met with several men who had been in prison. Brian can chat to anyone about any topic, from fishing and machinery to parenting and the meaning of life, in a non-judgmental way. Through these casual interactions, people can make the small changes that are often necessary to adapt to living in the community after time spent in prison. Brian’s commitment to the program has made these people feel as though they have someone who will both support and encourage them to live differently.
The impact is not one way though. Brian has found that in mentoring others, he has learned a lot about himself, and his Christian faith has grown and strengthened. For him, being able to spend time with those who are at the margins of our community is living the faith he has in Jesus who calls us to get alongside the “last, the least and the lost”.
Finding people like Brian, who are willing to engage with those, the rest of the community deem too difficult or too dangerous, is not easy. And yet it is in this space where our faith is built as we see God at work in the lives of the participants and ourselves.
If you, or someone you know, is interested in joining the Get Out for Good program as a volunteer in Melbourne, please contact Cathrine Muston on 0458 450 370 or by email at email@example.com.
Maybe God will bless you, like Brian and our other mentors, with “the foolishness to think that you can make a difference in the world … so that you will do things which others tell you cannot be done”.