By Herlyn Kaur - ABC July 2020
THIS IS EXCEPTIONAL, AND THAT'S BECAUSE COMPASSION IS PLAYING A ROLE - WITH PRACTICAL APPLICATION. THIS IS A GOOD BALANCE. IT IS UNFAIR HOW MANY CHILDREN AND TEENS ARE BROUGHT UP. LET'S GIVE THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT AND EMBRACE HER STORY - IT'S ONE OF HOPE. HERE IS SOMEONE WHO TURNED HER STORY AROUND WITH SOME HELP AND OTHERS WILL FOLLOW. WELL DONE AUSSIES!
Tory Puntigam-Locke has come a long way from where she was only a year ago. The 27-year-old was addicted to drugs and serving a prison sentence at Perth's Melaleuca Women's Prison at that point.
"My family has been quite dysfunctional, there's been violence, there's been addiction throughout my family," she said. "I fell pregnant at 17 and I was made to abort that baby and I self-harmed."
A stint in a mental institution followed but things did not improve after Ms Puntigam-Locke got out. "I was looking for something to escape all that guilt and pain and for a while nothing really worked and then I found meth," she said. "Basically, I was running from myself and from the guilt of my past. I didn't know any better, I didn't know there was help out there."
And then she found the one thing that turned her life around.
Wandoo Offers A Way Back
The Therapeutic Community Program at Wandoo Rehabilitation Prison for women is run by non-for-profit organisation Cyrenian House in conjunction with the Department of Justice. According to the WA Government, it's Australia's first voluntary drug and alcohol rehabilitation program run in a prison.
Inmates have to volunteer to join to show they are ready and willing to make a change.
Ms Puntigam-Locke completed the program less than a year ago and is now one of 109 graduates from the facility.
"[It] feels amazing, I've been given a new life and a life that I wouldn't even have dreamed of," she said.
"I have savings for the first time, I can go to the shops and buy whatever I want, not live from pay cheque to pay cheque or go out and spend everything on drugs.
"It's the first time in my life I've achieved anything. It's the first time in my life I'm actually proud to stand up and say, 'I was an addict and I overcame something."
Seizing 'a second chance'
For most ex-prisoners, finding work on the outside is their biggest hurdle.
But Ms Puntigam-Locke said she had been lucky enough to get another chance at life.
At the local cafe where she has found work, owner Jackie Madeley said a criminal history should not matter.
"She's amazing, she's the most effervescent person I think I've ever met, she's got a lovely nature with customers," Ms Madeley said.
"She's been very honest with me as her employer and I appreciate that. What happened with Tory in the past is her past."
"I was looking for someone who could do the work, I was looking for someone who had the personality and I believe everybody should be given a second chance."
Reoffending rates 'astonishingly low'
Just days ago, Wandoo Rehabilitation Prison celebrated two years of running the program.
WA Corrective Services Minister Fran Logan said it had seen major success rates, with only one of its graduates landing back in prison.
Tory learnt she could make better choices.
She found her true personality.
She is a Life Inspiration.
Reading her Story gives you Courage.
She is a good role model for young women in need.
Be Encouraged To Make Changes.
Don't just imprison people, show them a better way.
Every child deserves to have a secure upbringing.
Tory was given an opportunity to find better in life.
There should be more purposeful facilities like this.
ALL THE BEST TO YOU TORY!