Job scheme to help prisoners  -  The West Australian Phoebe Wearne


Fortescue Metals Group chairman Andrew Forrest hopes a new deal that guarantees minimum-security Aboriginal prisoners jobs in the mining industry after they are released will help hundreds of people find work.

The memorandum of understanding between the Department of Corrective Services and FMG, signed yesterday, will give selected inmates the chance to complete vocational training while they are incarcerated.

Over the next year, an initial intake of eight male prisoners from Roebourne Work Camp will take part in the Vocational, Training and Employment Centre Fresh Start program, which aims to change the lives of Aboriginal offenders for the better and keep them out of jail.

If the prisoners complete the six-month program, they will earn mining industry-related qualifications and are guaranteed a full-time job with FMG.

Mr Forrest said the jobs that would be offered to prisoners would all be in the mining industry, but could range from hospitality to heavy vehicle maintenance.

He said he wanted to see the private sector engage with State governments across Australia to help stop the "revolving doors" in Australia's jails.

"The best way to stop it is giving people home and self-sustainability, and you do that with employment," Mr Forrest said. Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis said Aboriginals made up about 40 per cent of the 5400 people in WA's prisons - a situation he described as a "heartbreaking waste of human capital".

The initiative is an extension of the Federal Government's VTEC program, which has offered training, support and employment to 1500 Aboriginal people since it started in 2006.

VTEC graduate Desmond Mippi, 32, said he was in prison for four years before he completed the VTEC program and now that he had a job, things were looking up for him and his family.

"It's made a big difference to my life," he said.

"I've come a long way."