What is Balund-a?
Balund-a, located in Tabulam in the far North-East of NSW, within the Bundjalung Nation, is not a correctional centre. The Balund-a program is an innovative residential diversionary program for male and female offenders between 18 and 40 years of age. The program is aimed at reducing re-offending, and developing skills within a culturally sensitive and supportive community environment.
The full name for the program is Bugilmah Burube Wullinje Balund-a, and translates roughly to ‘Be good now you have a second chance down by the river’.
The program includes a mix of practical skills-building and rehabilitative activities, with cultural programs, including visits to scared sites, music, dance and art. The program also employs community elders to support and assist residents to connect with their culture and history, as an aid to the process of rehabilitation.
The program is aimed at reducing indigenous rates of incarceration but is not limited to indigenous offenders.
Our Unlocked program for Balund-a was part of our focus on Indigenous inmates, and in 2012 The Red Room Company’s Artistic Director Johanna Featherstone travelled with one of Australia’s most renowned Indigenous poets, Lionel Fogarty, to run a series of workshops.
The students wrote and illustrated their own poems, and they then recorded them in the studio. The students responded enthusiastically to Lionel Fogarty’s work, and were especially taken with his use of Indigenous language.
In response to this, we organised for a local man, Lewis, who speaks the language, to come in on the last day of the workshops and translate some of the poems for the students. Lewis also played Yidaki for the students. Integrating the Unlocked workshops into a broader cultural context is important to The Red Room Company, especially when we are working with Indigenous communities. Language – the material of poetry – is just one element in the fabric of culture, and its meaning and value grow when it is put in relation with other elements of culture and other languages.
As always, The Red Room Company relies on the generous support of our collaborators and sponsors, and we would like to give special thanks to Anne Kantor, for her ongoing support of this important project. We would also like to thank Arts NSW, the educational staff from ACE Community Colleges and the Corrective Services NSW Audio Visual Production Unit, with whom we worked on this project, and of course all of the workshop participants.