Foundation for Indigenous Sustainable Health (FISH) has teamed up with Telstra Business Technology Centre (TBTC) Perth North to create a holistic justice rehabilitation centre in Western Australia’s South West.

After three years of negotiations, Myalup, a small town 140 kilometres south of Perth, was selected as the place to set up a national prototype for a holistic justice centre. In December 2019, 11 hectares were secured for the site build.

FISH and TBTC Perth North signed a Memorandum of Understanding last week, demonstrating each party’s commitment to the Myalup Karla Waanginy Justice Initiative. The name means a place of different people, coming together to light the fire within each other.

Once complete, the Myalup Karla Waanginy Justice Initiative will cater to people at all stages of their interaction with the justice system and include a range of activities and programs centred around healing.

“The focus of the site is to [help] people who are at risk of being engaged in the justice system to have another pathway, for those who are engaged in the justice system to have an ability to transition successfully out of prison back into community, and also to work with community to change their view on giving people a second option,” said FISH CEO, Mark Anderson.

“[It’s about] the healing of the spirit … wellness.”

Anderson described the project as a “very large social enterprise development” that would include aquaculture, agriculture, aquaponics, research into traditional food and medicine, and tourism outlets including an on-site café. The employment capacity of the centre would be 60 people on an ongoing basis, with room to fluctuate each side as needed.

Some of the programs will involve skills development on-site through agriculture, horticulture, general construction, hospitality, building maintenance, and traineeships and apprenticeships.

“All of our programs are linked to healing and connection to Country.”

The centre will also act as an added solution in many instances, including giving magistrates an option to send offenders to the justice centre instead of prison or giving ex-prisoners somewhere to live as they exit the system and find their feet.

Although construction is set to take four years, FISH already has partnerships with a number of different companies for the project. TBTC Perth North is in charge of the site’s technology.

Their role in building the justice centre is crucial in ensuring connectivity and technological competence while ensuring its presence is streamlined within its surroundings.

“The whole concept is [that] this has to be part of the environment, complement the environment … we want [the technology] to be secondary,” said TBTC Perth North’s Enterprise Group Manager, John O’Driscoll.

“We’ll have the latest technology there, but we don’t want it to be overbearing from a visual point of view as well.”

Quoting Noongar Elder Koodah Cornwall, Anderson said FISH’s partnership with Telstra is “critical” in being able to share old ways in an innovative and new way.

“Our Aboriginal Elder and cultural advisor, Koodah Cornwall says, ‘The old way is the new way, the new way is the old way’. And so, the integration of technology is following that comment,” said Anderson.

“It’s using technology as a tool to share the old way in the new way.”

To assist with technology installation and other tasks during construction, TBTC Perth North has engaged a number of Aboriginal businesses to help. O’Driscoll said they aim to have 70 per cent Aboriginal business engagement for the duration of the job.

“[We want to] celebrate this as a great Aboriginal project, so we’re not going to go the traditional way where the larger companies usually get the [contract],” O’Driscoll said.

“First and foremost, it’s on Noongar land, so we want to try and get as many Noongar companies involved as possible. If not, we’ll branch out … to other language groups.”

Anderson said he’s excited about the potential of this new partnership with TBTC Perth North and the broader Telstra network.

“It’s not just about the work in WA, it’s about the work we’ll do nationally,” he said.

“Our aim is to journey with Telstra across Australia in everything that we’re doing.”

By Hannah Cross