First Duke of Ed Gold Award presented in prison
The first prisoner in New Zealand to achieve The Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award at Gold level was presented with his Award today by Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis inside the Youth Unit of Christchurch Men’s Prison.
Two other young offenders, who have yet to fully complete the Gold Award, were presented with Gold Sectional Certificates, recognising their completion of the Adventurous Journey section of the Award—which required them to tramp and camp out at night on prison grounds. Two more received Silver Awards, while six received the Bronze Award.
“The Award challenges young people to get out of their comfort zones and learn a new skill, give service to their communities, take part in an adventure, and get physically active,” says Karen Ross, National Director of the Award in New Zealand. “It not only teaches them practical skills like team work and communication, but it also challenges them on a personal level, in ways that build identity, confidence and self-esteem.”
She says that although a common misconception is that the Award is a bit ‘elitist’—"possibly because of its association with royalty”—the reality is that the Award is open to all young people aged 14-25, regardless of their gender, socio-economic background or ability. “In fact, it’s those who are disadvantaged in some way, such as prisoners and refugees, that are often the ones who benefit most from the programme,” Karen says. “It opens their eyes to opportunities they may never have seen before, giving them ambition for a better life on their release.”
While the Youth Unit already offers a wide range of skills and opportunities to develop offenders’ skills for living positively outside prison, Youth Unit Principal Corrections Officer Gary Smallridge says the Award is the first programme they have offered where the youth are completely responsible for how, when and if they participate. “It really is up to them how much they get out of this, but we’ve seen just how life changing it can be.”
Joe (not his real name), who received the Gold Award, couldn’t agree more, saying: “I’ve got a different state of mind now, and I’m thinking more positively about my future. When I get out, I want to be a role model for my niece and nephew—and my own kids one day—and talk to them about what they can achieve in life.”
Gary says that in the two years the Award programme has been operating as a pilot in the Youth Unit, staff have seen enormous growth in the youth involved and even a shift in culture. “Being involved in a project that gives them so much enjoyment from doing something positive can be a real eye opener for them,” he says.
The Award is delivered into Christchurch Men’s Prison Youth Unit by Chris Allan’s Joshua Foundation thanks to the generous funding of Kiwi philanthropist Michael Friedlander.
The Corrections Department is now in the process of finalising negotiations to deliver the Award in-house with six corrections facilities (men’s and women’s) set to become active Award Units.