bravo John: making ‘freedom’ a reality
The 2014 Volunteer of the Year [WA], John Nagle, jokes that he is not a good enough humanitarian to fulfil his role with Outcare, a service supporting men in their transition from prison into the community. “Without my faith I wouldn’t be able to do what I do”.
Speaking to The Record after receiving his award on 15 May John shared the journey of his own transition from his career in the hardware business to his 13 years as a volunteer with Outcare.
He recalls the moment his interest was sparked, several years before his retirement. “I was approached by a young man looking for work and noticed a few years gap in his résumé. He informed me that he had been in prison and it made me aware of the difficulties he was going through in his search for work.”
John was able to put the man in contact with a friend who was able to provide him with employment. Theencounter planted a seed which would bloom once John’s own working days would come to an end.
“I used to work 10-11 hours a day before my retirement and I was never much of a television watcher, and there was only so much gardening I could do”, John explained. “Besides my wife Joan was very encouraging – although her enthusiasm may have been driven by the thought of having me under her feet all day” he added with a laugh.
John has always been inspired by the example of eighteenth century saint and founder of the Pallottines, Vincent Pallotti, who spent his life reaching out to society’s outcastes including those in prisons and he is grateful for the opportunity to be able to put his faith into action. John’s compassion for those exiting prison grows each time he witnesses the difficulties many face as they make the step back into society. His experience has allowed him to see the devastating effects, both socially and economically, on individuals and their families. “We see the challenges not only for the men trying to re-enter the employment and housing markets, but also with their families who often have to deal with children, mortgages, schooling and everyday living without their partners,” he said.
John recall a comment made several years ago during a talk he gave to a church group when a member of the audience expressed admiration for the work being done with offenders, but was quick to emphasise that he would not want them living in his neighbourhood. It is attitudes such as these that John would like to see change.
The 77-year old’s experience has given him a deeper insight into the tragic cycle of recidivism and he believes that society needs to politically reassess its perception of offenders and adopt a preventative approach. “We are looking at the situation from the wrong end,” he insists. “We should be promoting early childhood education and getting alongside parents who are struggling, and not putting our money into building more prisons”.
John, an acolyte at Queen of Apostles parish in Riverton, has used contacts he made during his time involved with the WA Football League to assist men in their transition. During one of his first visits to a prison John discovered that there were a number of football teams playing one another. But their uniforms were falling apart. He was able to approach Outcare and they were able to provide sweaters, shorts and socks for all players.
John has also been able to observe the exceptional talent amongst the prison teams and has been able to link a number of young men into football clubs on their release. “All these men have something to offer and the role of receiving them back into society needs to be a communal one”, he said. “We need to restore the dignity and self respect they have lost and assist them in breaking the cycle they have found themselves in.”
When John’s 4 adult children learned of his decision to spend his retirement years moving in and out of prisons, they were initially reluctant. “My wife has always been very supportive because she is a volunteer herself”, he said, “but when I told the children what I was doing I think they were worried, not just about my safety, but my mental health”, he chuckled. All, however, were proudly in attendance when he received his award from the WA governor, Malcolm McCusker on May 15.
interview thanks to Mark Reidy – The Record
John Nagle – Perth – AUSTRALIA