24 Apr 2018
Icon - Industry Insight

Justice careers that take you to Australia

This article was first featured in Justice Matters magazine and features Angela Halliday’s work in Australia for Sodexo Justice Services.

When Angela Halliday was asked to go to Perth, it wasn’t to the Scottish city 60 miles from her Paisley home…it was 9,000 miles away in Australia! The rather large detour from her role as deputy director at HMP Addiewell to her current job as Justice Services’ deputy director of business development proved to be challenging and rewarding in equal measure.

Angela was asked to oversee the mobilisation of the contract Sodexo won in 2016 from the Western Australian Government to manage and operate the new 254-bed women’s Melaleuca Remand and Reintegration Facility (Melaleuca). “Perth is one of the most remote cities in the world and, at first, I thought: ‘What have I done?’,” she said. “I left my husband, Stevie, and son, Stephen, behind (although they later came out to visit) but I was joined by two of the operations team from the UK, Richard Gaze and Bridgian McClements, plus Gemma Forster from HR, and they were fabulous. They kept me sane. “Their commitment and dedication made it a success and we opened on time within three months.”

Angela Halliday, Andrew Reaper, Michel Landel

Apart from very practical issues such as having to condense all deliveries to the new site into a five-day period, the general political climate in Perth didn’t help because there was opposition to the running of Melaleuca being outsourced. Overseeing the recruitment of the 156 staff needed to run Melaleuca was by no means straightforward, either. The team tapped into the ‘local’ knowledge of Sodexo colleagues in Melbourne….but it didn’t help that they were in a different time zone! Developing and designing service solutions to engage with the indigenous communities involved understanding the culture and observing what went on in other establishments, Angela added. Managing to convince sceptical Aussies that there was a different, Sodexo, way to deal with women prisoners was one of her main triumphs.

“It’s probably fair to say the differences between the Sodexo culture and the culture of publicly-run prisons in Australia were huge is the difference between black and white,” she observed. “Our philosophy is about changing lives and helping offenders to reflect on the decisions they’ve made that have led to them being imprisoned. “They were uncertain about me, for example being on first name terms with offenders. They were used to using surnames or numbers, and to being expected to stand up when an officer went into the room. “I was a bit of an unknown quantity. It was challenging…but in a good way. “Female offenders are far more challenging than male offenders; they are far more chaotic,” said Angela. “In Melaleuca, I adapted the experience I’d gained in Scotland dealing with people affected by addictions to manage issues unique to that region.” Angela added: “I feel honoured and it was a privilege for me to have been able to embed the quality of life philosophy into that establishment.”

In the first four months of her stay in Perth, she saw very little of the country because the work was all-consuming, seven days a week. Eventually, though, she was able to get out and about, particularly enjoying Kings Park (one of the world’s largest and most beautiful inner city parks rich in Aboriginal and European history) close to where she lived in an apartment. “I did a lot of walking in Perth, and enjoyed the sunshine,” said Angela. “The people were extremely friendly and I never went anywhere where people were not welcoming. “Living there, you felt very much part of the community.”

Angela halliday

She also enjoyed the natural wildlife which she imagined was confined simply to guidebook hyperbole. “I got to do some whale watching. When I was out walking one day I saw a pod of dolphins, and, on another occasion, right by the hard shoulder of the road, a kangaroo. It was amazing to see such wildlife virtually on your doorstep.”

Shortly before returning home, Angela conquered one of her own demons – a fear of heights. “I have an aunt and two cousins in Melbourne so I went over there to see them for a long weekend but I went to Sydney first and I did the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge climb.”

Now back in the UK, Angela has taken the lead on developing and designing growth plans for Justice Services. “I’ve been given an edict to think outside the box about how Justice Services could grow,” she explained. “I used to work in policy and strategic development for The Wise Group, a social enterprise that tackles social, economic and environmental problems, so I am accustomed to research and analysis into citizenship and improving health and wellbeing of vulnerable people in the community. “It’s fairly early days but we have recently put in our first bid to support authorities trying to tackle issues linked to people coming into contact with justice experiencing mental health problems etc. “At the heart of what we can offer is our ability to translate the support we have given to offenders in custody to those in the community.

“We want to get Sodexo known as a provider who can design and deliver new service solutions that work for people in the community who are currently leading chaotic lives. “It’s about thinking differently and being able to see the person first rather than the offence. “I truly believe we can change people’s lives for the better, whether they’re in a custodial situation or in the community. “We have the skills and the passion to do it. It’s about changing hearts and minds and we are very well placed to use our experience in the community through our CRCs.”

It was Angela’s work with The Wise Group that first introduced her to prison work. She was working on a project to tackle the suicide rate of male offenders leaving prison. The work led her to do focus groups in Glasgow’s HMP Barlinnie and, when HMP Addiewell was opening in 2008, because of her passion for changing lives, she was recommended by a prison colleague to go there as head of public protection and reintegration.

One day a colleague suggested she took on an operational management role and, before she knew it, she was the deputy director. “You know when something feels natural and I wished I’d done it 20 years earlier,” she said.

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