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Future skilling correctional services

The Corrections industry is a highly dynamic and diverse work environment. It demands a broad range of skills from its employees, as was identified in the Corrections Industry Reference Committee’s (IRC) Skills Forecast. Since then work has been underway to modernise the occupational skill standards for the industry and in January, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Skills Council endorsed a revised Correctional Services Training Package.

The 2018 Skills Forecast identified the need to review five distinct skills areas: Cultural Competencies, Immigration Detention, Technical Skills, Electronic Monitoring and Youth Justice. The IRC established five Technical Advisory Committees (TACs), comprising 45 experts from the Correctional Services, community service organisations and advocacy groups, to revise four qualifications, 13 Units of Competency and one Skill Set. In addition to the work of the TACs, stakeholders provided valuable feedback during a public consultation period.

The Closing the Gap (2017) and the Prison to Work (2016) reports highlighted the over-representation of Indigenous Australians in the prison system and pointed to cultural competency as essential for engaging with these prisoners and for addressing recidivism. The Cultural Competency TAC revised units to address the skills required to establish a safe environment for the protection and welfare of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders.

The Youth Justice TAC reviewed existing Units of Competency to address skills and knowledge requirements for those working with young offenders. The TAC revised the units to ensure the safety and rights of young people in detention. It also addressed the need for employees to know how to communicate effectively with young people.

With a greater emphasis now on rehabilitation of offenders, the Technical Skills TAC focused on ensuring units relating to case work matched contemporary corrections practices. They created a new unit to upskill Correctional Services staff in rehabilitation and reintegration. Existing Units of Competency were also reviewed so that they better equip officers to perform their day-to-day duties, including responding to medical emergencies, dealing with offenders influenced by drugs or alcohol, and supervising offenders in the community.

Immigration detention is strictly administrative, not punitive. Therefore, an Authorised Officer in Immigration Detention requires unique skills. A new qualification and two new Units of Competency have been created to address current work practices and specific skills such as developing rapport with people in immigration detention whilst maintaining professional boundaries.

Since 2016, when changes were made to legislation enabling Court Ordered Home Detention in certain instances, there have been many more community corrections orders, thereby increasing the demand for skills in remote electronic monitoring. The Electronic Monitoring TAC developed a new micro credential, the Electronic Monitoring Operator Skill Set, to address this emerging industry role.

Members from all TACs were involved in the review of the Certificate III, IV and Diploma qualifications to ensure their assigned skills areas were addressed not only at the task level but also for the occupation outcome described in those qualifications.

The Chair of the Corrections Industry Reference Committee, Amanda Swards, stated “this body of work by our dedicated TACs has resulted in new and revised standards for staff working in corrections. These will underpin the new direction the industry is taking to ensure the best outcomes for offenders and to keep our officers safe”.

The revised Training package is available on training.gov.au

For more information on the projects, view here.