Noel, LEAP member

"I was taught to cook and look after myself.... I haven’t been back to jail since I got that support."

I grew up in boys’ homes as my Mum and Dad couldn’t handle me. I had a brother and a sister, but I was naughty all the time. My Dad used to come and see me every week, but Mum never came. I used to say, “Where’s Mum?” And Dad would just say, “Oh, she’s at home.” Sometimes he would bring my brother and sister in to say hello.

In the boy’s home I went to school and church services. I made friends and played football and cricket. I got transferred a few times too. In my older years I trained as a bootmaker but I got my hand caught under a press. I did it on purpose because they wouldn’t let us go and play Saturday footy, which I loved. I was lucky I didn’t lose my hand.

Dad died when I was 16 of a massive heart attack. He was 49 years old, and I was with him at the time. I was really hurt, really sad. I was close to him.

By the time I was 19 I was getting in trouble with the law. It started with some mates and I knocking off pumpkins for fun. Then it was breaking into houses and doing stupid things. I went to prison and was in and out after that for many years. I did my best to mix in and find someone to talk to, but it wasn’t easy.

Years ago there was no help at all once you left jail; you were more or less thrown out on the street. So, you would do stupid things to go back in where you could get three meals a day, and a bit of work with money to spend at the canteen.

The last time I got out of jail was 2008. ACSO gave me accommodation and I had drug and alcohol counselling. I was taught to cook and look after myself. It was great. It made a big difference. I haven’t been back to jail since I got that support.

I got involved with the ACSO advisory panel (formerly CAG, now LEAP) about 10 years ago and I love it. It’s something to do once a month and it’s helped keep me out of trouble. The other members and I, we know what it’s really like in jail and we know what people need when they come out. We can give advice and suggest things.

When I’m not doing that I like to get out in the sun and go down to the beach. Being out of jail is great. I like being on the straight and narrow.