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PACCOA Program / Organisation Award

Written By: PACCOA

Date: January 15th, 2020

Left to Right: Laura Blackwell, Norm Reed, Liz Moore Seated: Cathy Reed

The winner of the 2021 program / organisation award for outstanding achievement and contribution to working with offenders over many years is Norm Reed’s Onesimus Foundation. This organisation represents an excellent example of a partnership between Corrective Services and a community organisation, and makes a significant contribution to the lives of prisoners and their families and local communities as well as to those on community-based orders.

Norm moved to Tasmania in 2009 as the Pastor of the Christian Family Centre, located next door to the Tasmania Prison Service (TPS). Since then, Norm and the Onesimus Foundation have worked extensively in collaboration with the TPS and Community Corrections to offer a range of programs to increase rehabilitative opportunities and to support the reintegration of offenders into the community. The focus of this work is on creating healthy family relationships that encourage people with convictions to be welcomed home as contributing and fulfilled members of society with a reduced risk of reoffending. Onesimus partners with a range of organisations to provide practical programs, social services and spiritual support, both inside and outside the prison.

Norm undertook a Churchill Fellowship in 2014 and examined family visiting practices in 21 prisons around the world. Based on this study, a team of Family Engagement Workers has been established to work in the TPS to support prisoners and their families. Norm supervises volunteers and students on Social Work placements who work alongside TPS staff to provide programs such as the Homework Club and Video Homework Club, contact visits with children, video visits, compassionate visits (including funerals), Kids’ Days, Email a Prisoner and Onesimus Bears.

Norm has established a multi-agency working group focussed on Children Affected by Parental Offending which helped develop Hidden Sentence Training for practitioners working with children affected by parental offending. The training has now been provided to over 1000 people around Tasmania, and a practitioner handbook has been developed. Norm’s organisation also provides ‘Hillside Haven’, affordable accommodation for families visiting the prison, and secured funding for playground equipment inside Risdon Prison.

Norm and the Onesimus Foundation have been instrumental in the development of ‘Just Desserts’, a community-based coalition that supports the work of the Court Mandated Diversion program (Tasmania’s Drug Court). Norm and the Onesimus Foundation responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by offering a Mentor Program providing additional support to individuals subject to community-based orders.

It’s easy to see that Norm and the Onesimus Foundation are very worthy recipients of the Tasmanian 2021 PACCOA award for their outstanding contribution to engaging local communities in working with offenders. As one of the testimonials accompanying this nomination states, ‘it’s hard to put into words the impact that Norm has had on supporting families and raising the profile of families and children impacted by the incarceration of a family member’. Another describes his ‘altruism, passion and dedication to improving the lives of others’, and Norm’s impact on the TPS has been such that ‘many people think he is an employee and are surprised to learn that everything he does is as a volunteer’. PACCOA warmly congratulates Norm and the Onesimus Foundation as the first recipients of the Tasmanian award for organisations.

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