BushTV Goes Inside and Creates World’s First Prison Run TV Channel 

Already a disadvantaged group in Australia, Aboriginal people’s mental health suffers badly when they are imprisoned.

Up to 93% of Aboriginal detainees have some form of mental illness.

With an alarming 80% Indigenous prison populations in many northern Australian prisons something radical needs to be done about First Australian prison populations and recidivism.

Freedom Stories was a  pilot partnership with the Department of Correctional Services thanks to a Regional Arts Fund (RAF) grant  the project was completed  in the Townsville Correctional Centre in 2011.

FREEDOM STORIES content was produced by prisoners and played out on a closed circuit TV Channel called FREEDOM STORIES on the newly installed TV system inside the prison.

Each cell has a new flat screen TV, and a central control room links all of the TV’s.  Freedom Stories had a special channel dedicated to prisoners telling positive stories about their lives and their rehab with the main goal being reducing recidivism amongst Indigenous prisoners.

Freedom Stories focussed on the stories of people’s lives and was based on the idea that we all tell ouselves a story and this story can be reframed.  In the program each person produced a new meaning for their life from the stories that became available in their sharing sessions. The focus was not on experts solving problems, …it was on people discovering the hidden possibilities contained within themselves.

Freedom Stories offered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in prison a chance to learn about the media and to tell their story in new ways to prison audiences via the Freedom Stories CCTV Channel.

This pilot program was conducted in confidence.

No other prisoner produced closed circuit TV Channel exists here or overseas.

The editorial emphasis of the closed circuit BUSHTV TV Channel ws about about helping prisoners spend their time productively and assisting them in making life changing choices so when they are released they have a new narrative about themselves and a positive vision for their future. Prisoners also produced in-house productions on topics such as HEP C, maintaining mental health and personal well being, peer support and transitioning to the outside.

BUSHTV won the Queensland Government’s Reconciliation Award and was been finalist two years running for the Queensland Government’s Indigenous training awards.

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