The lady who provides the link to outside

p2353 Enid HarlandBy ERWIN CHLANDA

 

A taxi ride to the prison costs around $60 one way.

 

It is about 30 kilometres from the town centre.

 

There is no public transport.

 

There are nearly 600 people locked up, almost all of them black and from families living in poverty.

 

Although contact with relatives is regarded as a crucial part of a prisoner’s rehabilitation, for many it would not be possible without the Prison Fellowship, a Catholic organisation.

 

This is something that has obviously slipped the prison planners’ mind.

 

And without Enid Harland there would be no Prison Fellowship in Alice Springs.

 

Last weekend she celebrated 20 years on the job, with a team of fellow volunteers operating a bus service at $10 for a return trip, and filling in registration slips in the small visitors building outside the main gates.

 

Mrs Harland quite often takes all three weekend shifts, especially when volunteers are not available: All day on Saturdays and a half-day  on Sundays.

 

There is plenty to do during the week as well: Organising the drivers’ roster, ensuring the bus is serviced and cleaned, and buying drinks and sweets which she sells to visitors at very low prices.

 

Mrs Harland knows most of the visitors. She calls some “darling” and “dear”. Many are now visiting the third generation of family members who have fallen foul of the law.

 

The visitors are mostly Aboriginal women, their moods ranging from sullenness and despair, to resigned acceptance and even joking with other visitors.

 

The bus can be a noisy place with excited kids, and women keeping up a high volume chatter on their mobile phones.

 

Some have their own children with them, some aged just a week or two. Older women bring their grandchildren, almost all of them spruced up for the visit in bright, clean clothes and combed hair.

 

The service takes them from the “hospital lawns” opposite the Memo Club to the prison. On the way back many ask to be dropped off at the Women’s Shelter.

 

Last weekend Mrs Harland received flowers from prison guards (she always addresses them by their surname, and using the prefix “Mr”.)

 

The sniffer dog handlers gave her a small dot painting in a frame with a congratulatory message, and some prisoners had baked her little cakes.

 

A small girl, seeing the bouquet in a vase on the desk where the forms are filled in, gave Mrs Harland a yellow flower – her favourite colour, as she told the little girl.

 

When she saw Mrs Harland’s delight the girl went outside, picked another yellow flower, and presented it, followed by a big smile and another dash for a third yellow daisy.

 

(The writer is a volunteer bus driver for the service.)

 

 

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5 Comments (starting with the most recent)

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  1. Arthur Comer
    Posted September 10, 2016 at 8:59 am

    My grandson spent many months at the Correctional centre there, and because of that I was able to make contact through Enid.
    It is thrilling to see her receive recognition of her selfless service over the years.
    The passage in Matthew 25, where Jesus commends the prison visitors, seems very appropriate for Enid.

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  2. Fran
    Posted September 9, 2016 at 11:17 am

    Enid was presented with a Paul Harris Fellow gift award from The Rotary Club of Stuart three years ago to recognize and acknowledge her wonderful work.
    Enid is the true spirit of the meaning “Service above Self”.

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  3. Grant Butler
    Posted September 9, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Enid does a fantastic job keeping Prison Fellowship going.
    Certainly worthy of an Australia Day honour if not Centralian of the Year.

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  4. Graham Tjilpi Buckley
    Posted September 9, 2016 at 9:00 am

    Although it is some years now since I was a visitor on a regular basis I have witnessed first hand the dedication and fine work that Enid does.
    One of the volunteer drivers, Fred, is also someone I view as a great friend.
    This whole service by the Prison Fellowship is something that cannot be measured in dollar terms or, more importantly, in human terms.
    However, undoubtedly it is an invaluable social community contribution by several people. None more so than Enid!
    2017 Centralian of the Year? You bet!

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  5. Ray
    Posted September 7, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    The work Enid does is invaluable. It’s a tough job organising what can sometimes be a big mob of people to ensure everybody is ready to go in on time.
    Truly an unsung hero and Erwin, maybe a worthy nomination for Centralian of the Year next year. This is a voluntary job and to continue for 20 years is outstanding.
    For the officers to recognise her efforts and also the drug dog unit to give her a token of appreciation is also a reflection of how her efforts have been recognised by those who work closely with her every weekend.
    Well done to Enid and for the officers to recognise her service.

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