Australian News

AUSTRALIA REPORT: Community to benefit from prison dairy program supplying milk to WA jails

Two cow calves stand in a paddock next to each other
The prisoners help look after the calves.(ABC South West WA: Amelia Searson)

AceNewsDesk – Steve (not his real name) carefully kneels down and scratches the head of Googly Eyes, an eight-week-old calf, as the morning sun shines down on the Western Australian farm where he works.


Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Sept.23: 2023: ABC News: TELEGRAM Ace Daily News Link

“I look out for the calves when they’re born and the welfare of the cows, and medication for them and all that,” he says.

Both the farm and Steve’s status as a farm worker are unusual.

He’s currently serving a custodial sentence at Karnet Prison Farm, where the animals he’s looking after are housed.

Two cow calves stand in a paddock next to each other
The prisoners help look after the calves.(ABC South West WA: Amelia Searson)

The prison has been teaching dairy farming to minimum-security male prisoners since the early 1980s.

A herd of about 430 cows lives on the prison farm, located 80 kilometres south of Perth, with nearly 30 inmates involved in the milking and packaging process.

The cows produce 5,000 litres of milk a day, which is enough to supply all of the prisons across WA: from Broome in the Kimberley to Albany in the Great Southern.

Steve hopes a future in the dairy industry will be on the cards once he’s released.

“I’m reliable. I can work unsupervised. I can take orders well,” he said.

“[We’ve] learnt all this from the prison … there are more people out there [to hire]. If you’re willing to give them a try, give them a try.”

A cow sticks her tongue out.
Juice Box the cow sticks her tongue out in the hope she will be given an apple.(ABC South West WA: Amelia Searson)

Prisoner Joe (not his real name) says the skills taught on the farm are transferable to other industries.

“There are quite a few fellas who found employment with warehousing companies or mine sites, just employing the skills they’ve picked up here,” he said.

“I know fellas previously who’ve completed the dairy operations that are now working in Harvey, doing what they did here.

“They haven’t come back to jail, so it must have helped them.”

Upskilling inmates

A smiling female police officer stands in front of a paddock with cow calves.
Alli Small says the program equips prisoners with skills to help give them a fresh start when they’re released.(ABC South West WA: Amelia Searson)

Corrective services officer Alli Small said giving prisoners the opportunity to gain qualifications helped to reduce the potential for recidivism.

“We build and enhance their skill set and get them to believe in themselves and that they are capable of doing the work,” she said.

“If we can give them the tools to be employed on the outside, it definitely reduces the percentage rate of them coming [back].”

A herd of cows hanging out in a green paddock.
A herd of about 430 cows lives on the farm.(ABC South West WA: Amelia Searson)

Karnet Prison Farm dairy officer Adam Gregory said the program also helped with prisoners’ personal development.

“You can see the passion and the compassion that they have for the cows that they’re working with,” he said.

“The way that they interact with the cows and the calves, it’s just amazing how well these hardened guys come in. They get turned soft by a cow.”

A smiling male police officer stands inbetween two cows with his arms around them.
Adam Gregory teaches inmates how to milk and care for the cows.(ABC South West WA: Amelia Searson)

Industry shortages crippling

Earlier this year, Dairy Australia released a report that found half of dairy farmers across the country were grappling with worker shortages.

Nearly 80 per cent of dairy businesses across the state have been affected.

Two cow calves.
Calves are integral to the Karnet Prison Farm.(ABC South West WA: Amelia Searson)

WA Farmers Dairy Council president Ian Noakes said the industry had not stabilised after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The labour issues are pretty severe,” he said.

“It’s even got to the stage where it’s probably forcing a couple of people to give up and say, ‘I’m not going to be a dairy farmer anymore because I can’t find suitable labour.'”

An older man has a big smile towards the camera
Ian Noakes says the current worker shortage is severe.(ABC South West WA: Amelia Searson)

Mr Noakes has previously employed former prisoners at his farm and encourages other dairy operators to do the same.

“It’s a double win really. If we can provide employees for farms and then prisoners, when they leave that institution, can get a job, well, they’re less likely to offend I would’ve thought,” he said.

“I think everybody deserves second chances, rather than be cast aside … or marked forever.”

Hopes for expansion

Ms Small said Karnet hoped to boost its production over the coming 12 months.

“We will be looking at most likely expanding [from five] to seven days processing as well because, obviously, the prisons are growing and [will] be increasing their milk intake,” she said.

A female police officer feeds a cow some apples
Alli Small says a number of ex-prisoners have moved into the dairy industry after finishing the program.(ABC South West WA: Amelia Searson)

“ You’re giving back to society in a way too,” she said.

“To be able to give [the prisoners] hope, that’s it at the end of the day — to give them something to build on and make them feel like they are worth something.”

Ms Small said she would like to see other prisons around the country set up similar programs.

Editor says …Sterling Publishing & Media Service Agency is not responsible for the content of external sites or from any reports, posts or links thanks for following as always appreciate every like, reblog retweet and comment thank you