Not coping with the sudden and tragic death of his sister, Derek’s life quickly spiraled out of control. Taking methamphetamines and finding himself involved with a bad crowd, an unfortunate incident with a stolen car and a police chase landed Derek in jail with a 7-year sentence.

While in jail, Derek had time to think about his life and wanted to change the destructive path he was on.  After four years, he was unexpectedly released on parole. Before being released from jail he learnt about a program that BUSY Ability offers to ex-offenders and those with a criminal conviction, to support them to become job ready and find steady work. The program, run through the Australian Government’s Workforce Australia Specialist Employment Services, supports people with a lived experience of the justice system.

Derek was interested and when he met Blake at the boarding house where they both resided after their release from separate prisons, he learnt that Blake had also heard about the ex-offenders’ program and was keen to get involved. Both men were keen to change their lives for the better and were determined to stay out of the system. They made the call and booked an appointment with BUSY Ability who deliver the program in regions throughout Queensland.

“At first, I thought they were going to be like any other job agency. I have a face tattoo and other agencies I found were judgmental and didn’t want to help me. Because of this, I thought BUSY Ability would give up on us too but Ricki-Leigh at BUSY Ability, she really got on top of us and she never gave up on us. She made me want to do right and made me want to engage,” Derek stated.

Both Derek and Blake had one-on-one support with their employment consultant who assessed their skills and the types of work they could be suited for. Both had done labouring in the past and Derek had also done some forklift driving so they were offered the opportunity to do a forklift course with One Stop Training, a part of BUSY Skills and The BUSY Group.

Derek further stated, “Ahmed from BUSY Skills would pick us both up every morning at 7.30am to take us to the course, and then drop us home in the afternoon. One Stop Training really helped me through the course. My schooling wasn’t the best, so they really made me sit down and understand the questions.”

Since completing the course and gaining their forklift tickets, Blake and Derek have now been placed into work with a local manufacturing company.

They are both grateful for the support received, believing it has made the difference for a better future moving forward.

As Derek put it, “Coming out of prison, we think we have nothing, no support, but now this license has given me opportunities. If there was no one at BUSY that ‘gave a stuff’, I wouldn’t be on this track to employment. I’d be back to my old ways which would land me back in jail. There are so many others in prison who would be the same as me. Knowing someone really cared made all the difference!”

Stacey Turnbull, Chief Executive Officer at BUSY Ability said, “The team at BUSY Ability are passionate about providing support to individuals who have lived experience of the justice system. Regardless of someone’s past, everyone deserves a second chance for their future. We’ve already helped hundreds of people like Blake and Derek to find a better path forward through skills and employment. With ongoing support Derek and Blake, and all participants in this program, have a real chance to turn their lives around. This benefits not only the individuals but their families and the broader community – all of us really!”

If you have a lived experience of the justice system and are struggling to find work you can find out more about BUSY Ability’s Workforce Australia Specialist Employment Services.

Blake (L) and Derek (Centre) with Ahmed from BUSY Skills, both gained their forklift license and have now been placed into work, thanks to the ex-offender program through BUSY Ability.

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