Police Minister and NSW Nationals Member for Dubbo Troy Grant has praised a program that sees inmates at Wellington Correctional Centre lending a hand to farmers on drought-affected properties.

A group of specially selected low-risk inmates from the centre had been repairing or replacing hundreds of metres of fences to ease the pressure for struggling farmers. The group had begun vital fence repairs at one farm to the north of Wellington, including replacing a 300 metre fence line.

The work will form part of the average 580 hours each month the team spends clearing rubbish and performing maintenance and groundskeeping at community sites including Mount Arthur Reserve, Geurie Showground and several Wellington churches.

“This program serves many terrific purposes for both the farmers and the inmates,” Mr Grant said. “For the property owners it reduces some of their essential maintenance costs at a time where things are at their toughest, and it allows them to focus on other things to help their farms. For the inmates at Wellington, it helps with their rehabilitation and gives them a sense of doing something positive and contributing to society. That can only help when these people get released back into the community.”

Corrective Services Industries Operations Manager Marcus Mastrone said the work gave offenders the opportunity to develop a social conscience while helping severely drought-affected farmers in the region.

“The drought has hit our community very hard – particularly our farmers, whose resources are stretched to the limits,” Mr Mastrone said. “Wellington Correctional Centre staff and inmates wanted to support farmers who are doing it tough and we discovered that something as simple as fence maintenance can have a major impact. By repairing or replacing fencing, our Community Projects Team is helping farmers maximise the number of paddocks they can use to feed their livestock while contributing positively to the community, which is an important part of their rehabilitation.”

Community Projects Senior Overseer Tim Parker said the work not only benefited the community, it gave offenders practical skills that could help them find meaningful employment upon their release.

“Projects like these give inmates practical experience in painting, carpentry and landscaping while fostering a sense of social responsibility,” Mr Parker said. “Helping with repairs or maintenance work not only has a really positive impact at a local level, it means these inmates have a better chance of finding a job when they return to the community.”

Earlier this year the team designed, built and replaced a run-down picnic shelter at the Mount Arthur Reserve.