Finding pathways home
For seven years, Juanita Jones has managed the Elders Visiting Program (EVP). Her team of three staff works with elders across 20 NT communities to help people in prison maintain connection with family, country and culture while they're incarcerated.
In her role, Juanita also provides cultural input to government’s policy development and runs cultural awareness training with elders and custodial staff. An important part of her role is in community engagement across government, NGOs, communities and other stakeholders that work in the criminal justice area.
When COVID-19 hit, Juanita was tasked with helping establish a pathway for prisoners to return to country while biosecurity measures were in place for remote communities.
"We worked with our EVP elders, Larrakia Nation, prison staff, Community Corrections teams, Police, Health, land councils, legal services and travel providers to get people back to their communities safely," she said.
"An important part of that was working with community elders and police to ensure there were no community concerns for the individual in returning to their community."
Juanita said it was the coming together of staff from all the different agencies to go above and beyond that really stood out for her during the COVID-19 response.
"People gave their personal and work mobile numbers and were contactable all hours – weekends and public holidays – to ensure people could travel home, often at very short notice," she said.
"The communication throughout the pandemic was just amazing. The word 'mateship' comes to mind when I reflect on it.
"This was a huge team effort across government and non-government agencies and something I was proud to be part of.
"For me, a positive to come out of the last couple of months is a much better understanding of the work staff in different agencies do and the services they deliver," Juanita said.
Last updated: 23 June 2020
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