On Monday 16th October President Colin McCulloch welcomed Guest Speakers Michael Cockram and Jean Mackenzie along with the partners and visitors who had come to the meeting to hear an extremely interesting presentation.
Michael Cockram is a former Rotarian and a retired Lawyer. In 2005 he started a Restorative Justice Course which involves taking victims of serious crime into prisons to meet with unrelated offenders over a period of two months to discuss what has happened and together to seek a way forward. He has just started his 33rd course and he explained how it is that both victims and offenders seem to find levels of healing in this counterintuitive process. Michael's topic for the evening was "Reach for Life - grasping the snake that bit you". Michael was assisted in his presentation by Jean Mackenzie, a graduate of the program, who described her own reactions. In the late 1970's in Apartheid South Africa, Jean had suffered the loss of her eldest brother to a vicious assault and subsequent death.
After many dark times and significant pain the family migrated to Australia. After her own family got older Jean began working with an agency dealing with long term offenders, assisting them reintegrating into society. That is when the Restorative Justice program came to her attention. She came into contact with Michael Cockram and began to attend a number of information events. When Jean agreed to participate in one of the programs at Karnet Prison Farm and shared her story she realised she had been suffering all those years from 'survivor guilt'. Jean felt one of the most valuable gifts the program gave her was a sense of closure about her brother's death all those years before.
In 2009 Michael was awarded an Order of Australia (AM) for his work in this area. Reach for Life is a Not for Profit organisation dedicated to re-empowering people who (directly or indirectly) have experienced life changing events such as:- Homicide, Domestic and other forms of Violence, Sexual Assault and Intimidation. The Reach for Life programme is run once a week for 7 weeks inside a prison where victims of crime (including indirect or secondary victims) are brought together with unrelated offenders to share and discuss their stories and to explore some solutions. The reason for doing it is that just as an offender may be in a physical prison, a victim may be in a psychological prison inflicted by an offence. Reach for Life seeks to free victims from this prison through understanding, empathy, compassion, truth and the restoration of personal power. For any further information on this program or to contact Michael details are as follows:- Website is www.reachforlifeaustralia.com or firstname.lastname@example.org