The aim and purpose of the Wayne Weaver Foundation is to support bereaved First Nations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) prisoners, their families and communities. The Foundation supports the cost of funerals, transport, coffins, and gravestones. It also provides post release community support for prisoners and their families.
Unresolved grief is a killer. The Wayne Weaver Foundation is focussed on protecting and conserving the social and cultural bonds and traditions of First Nations peoples, their families and communities by providing the support, resources and follow up necessary to attend funerals held in community, outside correctional facilities.
First Nations people are massively overrepresented within the criminal justice system of Australia. They represent only three per cent of the total population, yet more than 28 per cent of Australia’s prison population are First Nations. The Wayne Weaver Foundation is focussed on protecting and conserving the social and cultural bonds and traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their families by providing the support and resources necessary to attend funerals held outside correctional facilities.
The attitudinal and mind set oriented wellbeing of prisoners directly affects the quality of environment around them, for better or worse, including staff. We know that the positive benefits of treating prisoners with humanity pass on to the staff, and to the families of all concerned.
Funeral ceremonies and burial practices vary throughout Australia. Burials in parts of central and southern Australia are quite different to burials in Northern Australia. The various ceremonies celebrating the life and passing of a person, often involve a series of significant Cultural practices and protocols to ensure the deceased spirit leaves the area and returns to the place of their birth.
It is critically important for First Nations people to attend these expensive ceremonies. Non-attendance can create grief, which may be unresolved, contributing to mental health issues for individuals as well as the wider community.
Unemployment at the predominantly First Nations community of Cherbourg in Southern Queensland is at 35.5 per cent. This community will hold three or four funerals a week, meaning prisoners from some 13 facilities will have to deal with the impact of a family or community member passing away three or four, sometimes 5 times a week. The numbers are staggering.
An inability to attend funerals because of cost or incarceration, or both, are major contributing factors to cultural imbalance and unresolved grief which can lead to prisoners reoffending on their release.
In times of grief people need support. Appropriate support to First Nations people can save lives by making it financially possible for them to fulfil their cultural duties to themselves and their close and extended family.
As well as providing appropriate funeral costs and funeral travel for prisoners, the Wayne Weaver Foundation will help with prisoners’ re-integration into the community.
A major part of the foundation’s work is to advance the education and awareness of the Australian public to the importance of the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in prisons in Australia and their connection to their families.
The Wayne Weaver Foundation will raise funds in 3 ways. Firstly, from the sales of artworks donated by prisoners. Secondly, from the sales of donated artworks from an established network of professional artists from around the world. Thirdly, from fully tax deductable charitable donations from the public, corporate and aligned entities. All works auctioned will be on exhibition in various locations open to the public as regular events.
The Wayne Weaver Foundation’s future projects will include the development of a purpose built transition and reintegration centre for the recently incarcerated. Watch this space.
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