Bunbury Regional Prison inmates put their skills to the test to build Bunbury's Migrant Memorial

Inmates at the Bunbury Regional Prison have been keeping themselves busy, helping to build stainless steel structures for the new South West Migrant Memorial.

Prisoners have already manufactured and buffed more than half of the stainless steel leaves that form part of the design of the new memorial, set to be handed over to the City of Bunbury and placed in Queen Gardens within the next 12 months.

The idea for a migrant memorial in the South West dates back to 2008 when an interested party formed and approached the Shire of Donnybrook-Balingup for some land but the proposal fell through.

South West Migrant Memorial chairman Lui Tuia said the City of Bunbury had been very accommodating throughout the development of the project.

“The prison has really embraced it as well, we’ve had no troubles whatsoever. They fellas have been so enthusiastic,” Mr Tuia said.

“By having all the work done here at the prison, it’s a great help for our project. Without the free labour, I can’t imagine how much more it would cost.”

The memorial is designed to show the contribution of early settlers and migrants, with a modern interpretation of a tree, combining a trunk, branches and cascading leaves.

The bronze trunk has been outsourced to India for construction, but the rest of the memorial will be completed by the inmates.

Superintendent Kerry Bishop said she’s proud of the efforts of the prisoners so far in regards to their latest project.

“The boys recently made 64 hospital beds that we sent off to Bentley Medical Centre and Fiona Stanley Hospital, and they do all sorts of work for both government and non profit organisations,” she said.

“They’re not paid like in our world but they are paid in gratuities for their work and they work very hard.

“They’re good boys. They’re in here doing things to contribute to the community, things they probably wouldn’t have done on the outside.”

The inmates are working under the watchful eye of Kevin Innes, a boiler maker by trade, who is supervising the completion of the impressive design.

“There are between 40 and 50 prisoners in this area, all working on different projects at different skill levels and some are tradies and some aren’t. Some have even completed their apprenticeships here,” Mr Innes said.

“But there are four working on the Memorial project and since the materials came in last Monday, the boys have been churning out about five or six a day and there’s 29 to do.

“It’s an open question in the prison how long this will take to finish because some days, all the boys will rock up and some days we have none. But it will probably be a few months – there’s still the vertical leaves and the brass pipes to do.”

Several hundred plaques honouring the migrants that have been a part of the South West between the 1880’s and the 1960’s will form an integral part of the memorial and residents and citizens that fit this description, or have family that do, are invited to apply for and purchase a plaque to publicly recognise and honour their sacrifice to their family.

For more information, contact Lui Tuia on 0428318434 or Charlie Martella on 0419915853.