Townsville City Council’s Animal Care and Adoption Centre (ACAC) has made significant strides in transforming and restoring lives through an innovative collaboration with Queensland Correctional Services.

This pioneering program involves low-security female prisoners visiting ACAC, under the supervision of a correctional officer, to provide care and support for rescued animals. The program not only benefits the animals in need but also empowers the women by equipping them with essential skills and boosting their confidence for successfully returning to community life.

Community Health, Safety, and Sustainability Committee chairperson Maurie Soars said the program has proven to be a powerful way to assist people returning to society by providing them with the resources and support they need to successfully transition back to their communities.

“Not only does it provide these individuals with an opportunity to reconnect with the community in a safe environment, it also allows them to gain new skills and work experience as well as fostering empathy, compassion and a renewed sense of self-worth,” Cr Soars said.

“Council is proud to be partnered in this great initiative, and the bond formed between the women and the animals is truly transformative.”

Management at the Townsville Women’s Correctional Centre said up to six women travel to the ACAC under the supervision of a Correctional Officer.

“We’ve seen the positive impact on the people who care for the rescue animals, as it allows them to give back to the community while building skills and self-worth,” the Correctional Manager said.

“Providing individuals with increased responsibility and the opportunity to learn vocational and life skills, reduces their risk of reoffending and is an important stepping-stone to successful rehabilitation.

“We’ve had some great successes with the partnership with ACAC,  with women going on to work in similar fields after release.”

Under this collaborative initiative, each person engages in activities at ACAC such as caring for cats and dogs, creating bedding, walking the animals, and participating in training sessions. The experience provides them with a unique opportunity to connect with vulnerable animals, forming deep emotional bonds and providing them with a sense of purpose and responsibility.

Member for Mundingburra Les Walker said he has seen firsthand the change in prisoners when they can show care for a person or animal.

“In my former life as a Corrections Officer, I experienced the positive effects for people engaged in programs like the one run by Council’s Animal Care and Adoption Centre,” Mr Walker said.

“It’s very important that, when a person finishes a custodial sentence, they have a positive experience that they can draw on as they re-establish their lives.

“I think it’s fair to say that people in the custodial system share a bond with rescue animals, as many have come from difficult and challenging circumstances and they want another chance.”

Cr Soars said the positive outcomes of the ACAC program extend beyond the prison.

“As the women prepare to exit the custodial system, their involvement in the ACAC program equips them with valuable skills that enhance their employability and self-sufficiency.”

“Through caring for the animals, they can develop a strong work ethic, responsibility, and communication skills that are transferable to various job sectors. This increased confidence and skillset significantly improves their prospects of successfully entering into the workforce and returning to everyday life.”

“The ACAC program exemplifies the Townsville City Council’s commitment to community health, safety, and sustainability.

“By extending a helping hand to both vulnerable animals and individuals in need, we are fostering a more inclusive and compassionate society.

“We commend the Queensland Correctional Services for their dedication to working with Council in transforming lives and promoting positive change.”

Visit Council’s website to find out more about Council’s Animal Care and Adoption Centre as well as the half-price sale happening until June 30.