Working as a tutor at a Kirikiriroa/Hamilton-based education provider, Rhiannon supported young people to improve their education, training and employment prospects. This gave her a good grounding and the skills needed for her role at Ara Poutama Aotearoa.
After returning from her OE, Rhiannon spotted an ad for corrections officers at Waikeria Prison. With an interest in the justice sector, she saw this as a step in the right direction.
Four-and-a-half-years later, Rhiannon is still loving the job. She’s beaming with energy, intelligence and ambition.
Rhiannon says the job involves a lot more than just shutting doors and turning keys. It’s about rehabilitation and reintegration, and helping people to make positive changes in their lives.
“We’re here to be role models. Just through our day-to-day interactions we have the ability to influence positive change.”
“You support people in prison through their rehabilitation programmes and help them gain new skills. You give them a chance to do things they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to do in terms of education, training and employment.”
Rhiannon embodies Ara Poutama Aotearoa’s five values – whānau, kaitiaki, rangatira, manaaki and wairua – when working with her colleagues and people in prison.
“Our values guide how we treat each other as colleagues and what we role model to those in prison.”
“At times, the job can be tough. We manage some of New Zealand’s most challenging people but being polite and respectful gets you a long way. If you give respect, you’ll get it back.”
In the relatively short time Rhiannon has been with Ara Poutama Aotearoa, she’s taken on a number of opportunities for professional growth and development.
Rhiannon is part of a highly trained group of national prison negotiators; she’s a site prosecutor, overseeing hearings for offender misconduct and non-compliance; and has worked in the prison’s receiving office and Site Emergency Response Team. She has now taken up a secondment as a Senior Corrections Officer in a residential unit.
“This is the first leadership role I’ve had. While I still work to support the rehabilitation and reintegration needs of people in prison, a big part of my role is to motivate and coach staff in the unit.”
“I look back on the last few years and I’m proud of what I’ve done and grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given. It proves you don’t need to be a long-serving staff member to do new and exciting things within your role, you just need drive and a solid work ethic.”
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