MELBOURNE NEWS

Community

Painting new pathways from prison to employment

Three people standing in front of a mural

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 450 offenders and ex-offenders through arts and cultural learning, creating 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 rather than offenders, 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
Djirra: ending violence against Aboriginal Women

Djirra: ending violence against Aboriginal Women

Share your support to end violence against Aboriginal women alongside Kuku Yalanji woman Antoinette Braybrook, this year’s outstanding Melburnian of the Year.  Antoinette leads an organisation called Djirra, which provides practical support in a culturally safe...

12 ways we’re helping people experienc­ing homeless­ness

12 ways we’re helping people experienc­ing homeless­ness

Homelessness is a complex and confronting issue that can affect anyone at any point in their lives. The pandemic, and increases in the cost of the living, have made many people even more vulnerable. COVID-19 has also seen local demand for food relief increase by...

The Community Grocer returns to Carlton

The Community Grocer returns to Carlton

Stock up on low-cost fresh fruit and vegetables at a weekly affordable produce market in Carlton.  We’ve backed social enterprise The Community Grocer with $45,000 to relaunch its beloved Friday-morning market at the Carlton Public Housing Estate.  Dr...

Library-on-wheels drives joy across Melbourne

Library-on-wheels drives joy across Melbourne

Look out for our Mel-van mobile library at public housing, community hubs and festivals, bringing books, workshops and Wi-Fi in a suitcase. The colourful van visits people who may find it difficult to access our six library branches, including school children, older...

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!