130 years of helping people change

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ANNIVERSARY: Jocelyn Comiskey has been working with probabtion Rotorua for 15-years. PHOTO/BEN FRASER
ANNIVERSARY: Jocelyn Comiskey has been working with probabtion Rotorua for 15-years. PHOTO/BEN FRASER

The staff at Rotorua Community Corrections believe everyone can change - no matter how far down the wrong track they may have travelled.

This month the Department of Corrections is celebrating the 130th anniversary of probation services in Rotorua and the rest of New Zealand.

Much has changed since New Zealand was the first country in the world to introduce probation in 1886.

When the service was first established there were 18 people placed on probation and by 1949 there were a total of seven full-time probation officers.

In 1969, Rotorua staff moved into the former police station, which today is the Pig & Whistle.

Following this, the office moved to a nearby building in Haupapa St, before in 1999, moving to the current 1232 Haupapa St site.

Service Manager Jocelyn Comiskey has been working in the Rotorua Community Corrections office for more than 15 years.

"I did a psychology degree and a teaching diploma. I was always interested in working with people and so I was doing some relief teaching and then I saw this and I thought that looks interesting. And it is, I love it.

"People come to us because they have broken the law and they have rehabilitative needs and so we need to look at getting them to do the programmes they need, but also getting them to change their behaviour as well as working with their families and anyone else involved.

"We also work with victims where it's necessary.

"It renews your belief in rehabilitation that people can change because sometimes you get people who may have gone a long way down a not so great path and it's not good for them or the people around him.

"Maybe they won't change the first time they come here, but people can change when there is the right combination of circumstances."

She said not everyone who came along wanted to change - at first.

"But whenever they've been inspired by the probation officer and when they are actually able to see it through, it's extremely rewarding.

"It confirms that we are doing something worthwhile. You get to see people change and that's great but it can be quite a long time to get to that point. It's about not giving up.

"It's hard to comprehend 130 years, particularly the journey we have come on, because I think when we started there were just a handful and to think of what it must have been like then, it's almost unimaginable, our scope and focus is so much broader"

She said Rotorua Community Corrections had a key role in preparing mountain bike tracks and walkways via community work.

"We also work closely with our other community partners on a range of projects that assist us reducing re-offending and ensuring public safety.

"Additionally, staff attend local court proceedings and provide reports which help to support the judiciary to set the most appropriate sentences."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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