Big picture at core of prison footy draft plan

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Peter SweeneyGeraldton Guardian
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Former prison head Dennis Gilleland wants inmates to play for clubs.
Camera IconFormer prison head Dennis Gilleland wants inmates to play for clubs. Credit: Peter Sweeney, The Geraldton Guardian.

A former senior prison officer and football figurehead wants prisoners to be allowed to play in the Great Northern and North Midlands leagues.

Dennis Gilleland believes inmates at Greenough Regional Prison should also learn how to umpire and administer football — to help clubs and create better opportunities when they are released.

“Obviously, it would be under strict circumstances and conditions, but this can work. It has worked in other places,” he said.

Mr Gilleland retired in 2018 following 26 years at the Greenough Regional Prison, where he was assistant superintendent of offender services.

He also worked in prisons in Broome, Kalgoorlie, Albany and at Pardelup Prison Farm at Mount Barker.

Mr Gilleland was president of Railways Football Club between 2010 and 2016, and is well respected in the GNFL.

He has called for clubs in the Great Northern and North Midlands football leagues to investigate a similar scheme to V Swans, founded by Swan Districts Football Club in Perth.

V Swans runs a personal development program titled New Horizons in various prisons and prison farms in Perth and WA.

New Horizons provides opportunities through football, education and employment support. For many years, inmates from Wooroloo Prison Farm played at Bassendean Oval in a Sunday amateur league.

This stopped two years ago when the State Government called for new tenders for prison projects.

“It (prisoners playing for football clubs) needs all parties interested and on board,” Cheryl Thomas, senior administration officer of V Swans at Swan Districts Football Club, said.

“With the right people and right attitudes, it can work. Obviously the management of the prison need to support and drive it.

“Football is one part of V Swans, which has reintegration programs designed to promote healthy lifestyle choices.

“It provides opportunities through football, education and employment to give prisoners a better chance of entering community activities when they get out, rather than going back to what got them inside.”

Mr Gilleland said his plan was not only about playing football but learning many aspects of the sport and what was needed to run a club.

“Most (inmates) will want to play but there’s more to football than playing,” he said.

“There’s umpiring and administration and so much else. Their involvement would help the clubs, but more so help themselves.”

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