Graduating and Leaving the TC Program at Palmerston Farm

I don’t want to sit here tonight and tell my life story. What I do want to do,  is give you all a brief background of where my life was at when I came to the farm, and what I’ve achieved since I’ve been here.

I came to the farm, as an every day user of amphetamines, with an 18 year habit. My family had wiped their hands of me, my best friend was an amphetamines manufacturer and I had a bench warrant out for my arrest. The bench warrant was because I had snubbed a community based order, for a charge of stealing as a servant. Naturally, I had lost, what was a very good job, through stealing from the company that I worked for, to help pay for my amphetamine habit. Through losing my job, I had lost all confidence in ever thinking I would be employable again. I had lost my car and licence and was effectively homeless for about three years, living by the seat of my pants, lying, stealing, cheating, wheeling and dealing to get by, I was depressed, fed up and frightened about my future and I needed help.

When I went to court for stealing as a servant the first time, I very narrowly escaped jail time, and was instead given a community order. As I said before, I had snubbed this order entirely, and found out through Palmerston Farm Welfare Officer, when I had come to the farm, that a bench warrant was out for my arrest. Her advice to me, was to show some commitment to the program, and to hand myself into the courts in Stage 2, once I had achieved some time within the program.

Two weeks into Stage 2, my councillor wrote a letter to the courts identifying my commitment to the program. I took this letter, along with a staff support member to the district court to hand myself in. I was arrested at the court, and put into a holding cell at 8.30 in the morning. The arresting officer had told me I would be seen that day and I was really nervous. I had a very long wait in the holding cell, because I had later found out that the lifts in the courts had broken down. At 5.30 in the afternoon I was finally taken up into court to see the magistrate. My duty lawyer said a brief spiel in my favour, as they do, when he was suddenly interrupted by a frustrated magistrate, who said “That’s all very nice Mr so and so” (I’ve forgotten the lawyer’s name) “You do a wonderful job for your clients, but your client has completely disregarded the court’s orders, and I see absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t order your client to jail.” My heart raced, I was scared and shaking. My duty lawyer then quickly mentioned to the magistrate that perhaps he may reconsider, after he had read my letter from Palmerston Association. The magistrate read the letter slowly, looked up at me, looked back at the letter and sighed. “Mr x” said the magistrate. “In view of this glowing letter, I see you appear to be committed to getting yourself well, and I have decided to reinstate your community order.” I have never felt so relieved in all my life, or as grateful as I did for that letter. It was in that moment that I realised the letter was no fluke, I had earned the letter by working hard in the program, and I decided that no matter how long it took I was going to make the best of being at the Farm.

I reported to the community justice officer every week for a year, as part of my order, and in my spare time at the farm I worked off the 100 community hours I was also sentenced to. I found working off the hours hard at times, because I had to do a minimum number of hours every week, and after the program day had finished, I would see other residents sitting down to relax, whilst I trudged off up the Farm to continue working. It took me three months to work off those hours.

In the mean time I had arranged with the Welfare Officer to consolidate and pay off all of my fines, so that I could get my licence back. Once I got my licence back I became a community driver, which afforded me the opportunity to provide a lot of support to other residents, this I found very beneficial to my program.

Once I had worked off my community hours, my next focus was getting into Stage 4, and working towards making myself feel, and become employable again. I had decided that I would definitely do Stage 4, and hoped that I would be able to find a beneficial TAFE course. I sat down with the Welfare Officer one day, and explained to her my lack of confidence, and the reasons for it, I also explained to her that I couldn’t go back to the type of work I had gotten sacked from, because I found it extremely mundane, and that type of work was a major trigger for me. We sat at the office computer looking at the TAFE website, and she asked me “what are you interested in?”  I told her about my passion for harness racing, and that I dreamed of becoming a reinsman, and slapping home winners at Gloucester park.

Neither of us thought that a reinsman’s course would be available at TAFE, but we plugged it into the computer anyway… and lo and behold, out popped the reinsman’s course that I’m doing at TAFE today, and so my dream had a chance of becoming reality.

In time I had re earned the trust and respect of my family, this became obvious to me, when I set about getting a low income loan for a car to get to TAFE. I was knocked back for the loan, and explained my despair to my mother. My mum completely surprised me, by explaining to me that through my hard work in recovery, I had earned back her trust and that she would help me buy a car. I was thrilled and excited.

I remember in the first few weeks of TAFE, when we were told, we needed to be officially licensed by Racing and Wagering Western Australia, to complete the work experience component of the course, and that this required a police clearance. Immediately I worried, as my record is long and nasty.  I made the decision straight away to quietly tell my lecturer of my recovery, and criminal record. He looked me straight in the eye and said. “Well ‘x’, you’ve been honest with me, and I’ll back you all the way, as long as you continue to be honest and transparent with me, I’m on good terms with the boss of racing and wagering, go and get your police clearance. You’ll be right” and I was. I remember how amazed I felt at the time, that people in the world outside of rehab, would use words like “honesty” and “transparent” I also realised at that time that my hard work and honesty was really beginning to pay off in all sorts of places.

I had a brief period at the start of Stage 4 where I did some volunteer work, and was able to give something back to the wider community. Recently I’ve managed to find a brand new home through Homeswest, and gotten my finances and 10 years worth of income tax sorted.

Through my endeavours at TAFE, my lecturer, recommended me for a track attendant’s job at Gloucester Park, and I am now employed by the Western Australian Trotting Association, officially ending my fears of not being employable. My job as a track attendant has allowed me to gain more experience working with trotters, and has allowed me to begin networking with licensed trainers and reinsmen, which will eventually help lead me to fulfilling my dream of becoming a licensed reinsman.

At the Farm I learnt to communicate assertively, I learnt positive self talk, I learnt humility, patience and tolerance, I learnt about respect and self care, I learnt life is not hard. Life is full of exciting challenges. Most importantly at the Farm, I learnt how to manage and maintain my recovery from amphetamines. As I am about to leave the Farm, I no longer worry about my future, but instead look forward to what I have built  here….. Having a real life.

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