In a first for Bunbury Regional Prison, 10 Vocational Support Officers (VSOs) have completed the Essential Training Program (ETP) at the prison instead of having to spend three weeks studying in Perth at the Corrective Services Training Academy.
The ETP was delivered by local experienced staff from Bunbury Regional Prison, with help and oversight from the Corrective Services Academy.
Superintendent Kerri Bishop said the new VSOs, some of whom had worked at the prison for a while before completing the ETP, would staff the prison's video link facility and paint and spray shops as well as work in COVID cleaning and maintenance.
Ms Bishop said it was important to attract, train and retaining staff in the regions.
"Retaining people in their jobs in their communities helps provide an equitable distribution of work opportunities throughout the State," she said.
"Local recruits have an understanding of the issues in their communities and a network of neighbourly support."
One of the VSOs, paint shop instructor Steve Tomlinson is making a big impact on the prison already.
With a team of four prisoners he is re-painting the whole facility, outside and in. He is supervising another two prisoners in the spray shop where they paint what is produced in the metal shop, such as trailers.
"As a qualified painter and decorator I always enjoyed teaching apprentices new skills," he said.
"I've also always been interested in getting into the Prison Officer field and this job combines my skills and interests.
"I've found the prisoners to be more appreciative of learning than apprentices. If I can teach them something, then when they get out they might be able to paint their own house.
"They enjoy getting positive feedback and the more experienced ones like being given a bit of responsibility, such as stepping up to show a less experienced one how to do something.
"When I was at the training I got one of the prisoners to paint the floor of the paint shop. He did a fantastic job and I told him so. Perhaps for some of the prisoners, with their backgrounds, it's rare for them to get a pat on the back but I always give them credit when credit's due."
Mr Tomlinson said his prisoners were currently working on Unit Three, the self-care unit, smartening up the exterior from peach and green to a fresh blend of cream and white.
"They enjoy standing back and saying, 'I did that'," he said.
On rainy days Mr Tomlinson ensures the prisoners keep learning. The construction shop built him a 'decorating booth' complete with a door, ceiling, three walls and skirting boards where they can hone their skills including wallpapering.
Mr Tomlinson said he learnt a lot at his own VSO training, particularly from other staff members who gave presentations.
When asked when he and his prisoners would finish painting the prison, he said it was a bit like Sydney Harbour Bridge: when you reach the end it's time to start all over again.