Painting new pathways from prison to employment

27 July 2022

Purchase stunning artwork by First Nations creatives who’ve taken part in The Torch’s powerful Indigenous Arts in Prisons and Community program.

Each year, this Melbourne Award winning program supports around 600 First Nations people who have been impacted by incarceration in Victoria. This creates new pathways for participants’ lives beyond the prison system.

The program supports Indigenous people to reconnect with their culture and earn income from art sales and licensing while developing self-esteem, cultural pride, and resilience.

The Torch also helps participants integrate back into the community after they leave prison by fostering networks and opening doors for educational and vocational pursuits and creative skills development.

By embracing participants as artists, The Torch aims to provide an avenue for change, reduce the rate of reoffending, and ultimately address Indigenous incarceration rates in Victoria.

Christopher Austin started as a participant in The Torch program when he was in prison in 2014. Now he is on staff as Indigenous Program Mentor.

‘With The Torch program, with the art, it shows us a new pathway,’ Chris said.

‘A lot of people when they get out of jail, they go back to where they came from and that’s what put them in jail the first time. A lot of them go back in because there’s low self-esteem, there’s no money, there’s homelessness and all that.

‘If The Torch program didn’t come along, I don’t know where I’d be at to this day.’

To browse an incredible showcase of artwork created by program participants, visit The Torch. When you buy an artwork, 100 per cent of the price goes to the artist.

A artist painting a vibrant blue mural

Barkindji artist Trevor Mitchell at work

A little love for The Torch

‘The Torch program is one of the best things that’s happened in prison since sliced bread. That’s to my certain knowledge.’
Uncle Jack Charles
Boonwurrung/Dja Dja Wurrung people

‘I love the idea that someone has seen my painting and loved what I’ve done, and paid their money, and has it on display in their home. It gives me so much pride.’
Flick Chafer-Smith
Ngarrindjeri people

‘In the past I was a crook, you know, a jail bird, but now I am an artist. My daughter is so proud of that. I never used to think of myself that way.’
Christopher Austin
Keerray Woorroong Gunditjmara people

Honouring community champions

We celebrated The Torch with a Melbourne Award last year. The awards are the City of Melbourne’s highest accolade, recognising inspirational leaders creating positive change.

Share this story

You may also like
Celebrating our extraordinary Melburnians

Celebrating our extraordinary Melburnians

Entries are now open for the City of Melbourne's prestigious Melbourne Awards. For more than 20 years, we have celebrated inspirational individuals and organisations who have made a positive and valuable contribution to our city through the Melbourne Awards.Each year,...

Big win for beloved Kensington Neighbourhood House

Big win for beloved Kensington Neighbourhood House

Pop into Kensington Neighbourhood House for a warm welcome and take your pick from more than 99 inclusive events every week. The packed program brings together more than 1000 people from 70 countries each year to connect, learn and create. It relieves social isolation...

Passionate volunteers spread joy in Melbourne

Passionate volunteers spread joy in Melbourne

Celebrate the changemaking volunteers who help make Melbourne tick this National Volunteer Week. Then browse volunteer opportunities to enrich your life with friendship and purpose year-round. Whether you love sharing dining and entertainment tips with city visitors,...

The universal language of dance

The universal language of dance

As he takes his partner for a spin on the dance floor, Feng Yong Chang imagines he is still young and dancing in a Shanghai ballroom. Around him, older people dance in pairs. A little bit of rumba. Some cha-cha-cha. A waltz or two. The foxtrot. A tango. “How old I am...

Subscribe to our newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the City of Melbourne by subscribing to the Melbourne newsletter.

You have successfully subscribed!