Arohata Prison learning expo gives inmates a taste of what's on offer after release
The path towards becoming a hairdresser, beauty therapist or interior designer has never been clearer for Wellington woman Jess – but before she can start, she'll have to wait for her release date from prison.
Jess is an inmate at Arohata in Tawa, which, for the first time, has held a learning expo with a number of education providers in attendance.
The hour-long expo came as a result of prisoners asking for more information about education and training.
Deputy prison director Viv Whelan said it was exciting to see the women thinking about their future outside jail.
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"This is helping them with their self-belief and seeing that others believe in them and that there are support systems out there to help them better themselves.
"It's about empowerment ... we're building wahine toa – strong women."
For many of the women who attended the learning expo, it was a chance to see the array of tertiary options available to them.
"Prior to the expo I wanted to become an interior designer, but now I know about the hair and beauty programmes, I'm pretty keen to go into that now," Jess said.
"I love fashion, makeup and hairdressing."
While her favourite stall had been the Hair and Beauty Industry Training Organisation one, she said it was hard to pick one thing when there were so many career options.
"I love education, so I just wanted to jump on everything really.
"You're limited in here with educational resources and stuff like that. You can only do so much."
Whelan touted the expo as a success, with the prisoners helping themselves by taking part.
"When you're educated and gain employment, that stops the likelihood of coming back to prison, and helps build better communities and families."
Representatives from several education and industry training providers attended, including Whitireia and Massey University.
While a lot of them had never been a prison environment before, Whelan said they all engaged well with the women.
"They were really emotional. They came to give out information, but a lot of them have come away empowered by the women. It's been two-fold."
She said the expo certainly wouldn't be the last.
"We're always looking to engage with other providers to give more opportunities for our women. It's about sharing the process so when they get out into the community, they can keep going.
"It's never too late."