Since 2018, Commit2Change in Alice Springs in the remote desert of Central Australia has offered the Peace Education Program to parolees and community corrections clients. Commit2Change’s goal is to help people stay out of correctional facilities, and to be drug and alcohol free.
Commit2Change’s stated vision is: ‘A healthy and safe community in Central Australia without the harmful effects of substance misuse.’ It is for ‘high needs offenders who are assessed as suitable for community sentencing but need addiction-focused support to remain in the community’. (DASA).
Connecting to culture, to family, to self-esteem and to inner strength are anchors to help prevent disempowered addictive behaviours that may lead to further incarceration.
The Peace Education Program, with its focus on inner resources and self-empowerment, helps break this cycle, with its high attendance and completion rates, word of mouth recommendation and positive feedback.
Background to Commit2Change
Attendees at the Peace Education Program range from 17 to 55 years and 75% are Indigenous. The imprisonment rate for Indigenous people in the Northern Territory is disproportionate: 26.8% of the total population is Indigenous while 88% of the prison population is Indigenous. The alienation left by 230 years of colonisation and forced removal from family and country may be fuelled with addictions and violence often leading to imprisonment as an accepted rite of passage.
For Indigenous people of Australia, connection to country and knowledge of their culture is fundamental and was passed down through generations.
“To not know your country causes a painful disconnection, the impact of which is well documented in studies relating to health, wellbeing and life outcomes.” (Catherine Liddle, Arrernte and Luritja woman from Central Australia).
The Facilitator Perspective
The Program is facilitated by Craig Thorogood and Lyndsey Lloyd with outstanding results. They say the Program is their most successful. The drop-out rate is low and participants have at times brought friends and family to the program with positive feedback.
The facilitators have both found inspiration and encouragement in the Program to keep them motivated in a very tough area of work. The participants have been engaged, the Program is well attended and 150 people have completed all ten workshops. This Program is based on presentations by Prem Rawat and allows time for reflection and expression on ten themes: Peace, Appreciation, Inner Strength, Self-Awareness, Clarity, Understanding, Dignity, Choice, Hope, and Contentment. The Program is secular, that is, non-religious and non-sectarian.
Reconnecting People to Their Culture
Connecting back to traditional culture and land is healing, and Peace Education Program attendees have said that when they feel peace they are motivated to connect to their culture. If the Program can re-open this door for Indigenous participants, it potentially provides a pathway to the most effective recovery from drug and alcohol issues by rebuilding a sense of identity and dignity through connection to culture.
Participants have said: “Listening to this makes me want to practice my culture,” and “Doing this program makes me want to not reoffend and stay out of jail”. Another remarked: “This has completely changed my life, and for the first time ever I feel that it is possible for me to have a happy life.” Life, lateral violence, deprivation, and poverty often separate one from this “inner sense”. Craig sums it up: “Without inner peace in our lives, the darkness remains. Keeping our mindsets simple will create inner wisdom.”
To learn more about the Peace Education Program and how to start a course, visit www.tprf.org/pep