The founder of Ngalla Maya, Mervyn Eades. Picture: Ross Swanborough Source: News Corp Australia,

The founder of Ngalla Maya, Mervyn Eades. Picture: Ross Swanborough Source: News Corp Australia,

I was asked if I had the time to provide a reference for someone I know who does great things for other people. Of course I do. I wrote the reference this morning. Mervyn Eades is a good human being who had a difficult start at life but who has turned his life around and is helping so many others, more people each day.

I thought it worthwhile to publish the reference as a story and let you read and hear the name, Mervyn Eades, and for those of you who can support his good work then please do so.

Mervyn Eades would be an outstanding candidate and would be one of the worthiest recipients of a NAIDOC Community Award. His work at Ngalla Maya has been of long overdue breakthrough proportions and the pro forma for others to follow. However his work for his people and for society in general is not limited to his outstanding contributions through Ngalla Maya.

There is no greater legacy than improving the lot of others to the point that lives are changed for the positive, that indeed lives are saved.

I have known Mervyn many years and I have firsthand witness of his mentoring of youth, young adults and any individual who has been troubled – trauma is multifactorial however Mervyn’s life experiences and worldliness give him a wonderful capacity to assist people, firstly by understanding them and then by being able to nurture the best within them, guiding them to where it matters most – from dark places to places of hope, to places where the light shines, to a steadfast resilience of how one should strive to improve one’s lot. Mervyn has helped many people and therefore in turn is helping families and relieving community distress.

Mervyn is also a profound social justice advocate, often at the helm however always behind the scenes in campaigns to see people housed, to see the most basic needs of the homeless tended to, to see education as a rightful opportunity for young people, and in campaigns about land rights, about identity, about culture – for people to have the right to navigate through cultural settings without compromising either, the right to enjoy historical and contemporary cultural settings and traditions, as high cultural content.

Mervyn’s relentless assistance to young people has been longstanding and his never give up attitude on anyone has touched me. He does not know how to give up on anyone. I love this about Mervyn.

However what is becoming Mervyn’s signature piece contribution to society is Ngalla Maya – the post prison employment program. I understand the need for this program, for its value, its high-end value. For more than a decade I have visited prisons – firstly through my former positions at Murdoch University, and then by invitation through prison personnel, and through these visits encouraged inmates to consider education and skills training opportunities. I have brought many people post prison into university education through alternate pathway programs. I understand their needs, the need to be supported, validated and loved. Prisons are undernourished in terms of educational and employment training opportunities. In prisons I have witnessed much despair, high rates of illiteracy, but I have heard their cry for help and it mostly goes unanswered. There is a huge unmet need of prisoners wanting to engage with education and employment programs. I have long craved for what Mervyn has put in place – Ngalla Maya. Mervyn should not only be recognised by the City of Belmont, but by the state, the nation – for leading so forthrightly in delivering to us this ever expanding lifesaving post-prison employment program.

People need people, this is a tenet we must understand and live by – those vulnerable should not be stranded alone in the dangerous mantra of self-responsibility.  Two Masters and PhD research in understanding custodial systems has taught me that we need to be there for one another. People need us when they are alone, when everything around them seems insurmountable, bleak. The mere fact we are there for them is in the first instance validation of their worth, their self-worth. Whether they ever realise consciously, deep inside psychosocially they do. Upon release from prison, people are at their most vulnerable – all the credible research demonstrates this. In the first year post release they are up to ten times more likely to suicide or die unnaturally than while in prison. We must do much more for people post release and also in the preparatory period leading to release. Mervyn does, he is there for them. Ngalla Maya is there for them.

Mervyn’s work has ensured that people do not reoffend, do not finish back in prison. Mervyn’s work has saved lives, and for this alone in my view he should be the recipient of numerous awards. His way is the way forward. Our duty is to support what he does. He does not just call for change, he has delivered it and he has shown the way. He is improving the wellbeing of the individual and consequently the social health of the family and the community. The more Ngalla Maya is supported and funded the more people will be helped, the more lives turned around, the more lives saved, the more families that will stay together, that will enjoy happiness, that will be who they should be and in the ways they want to be.

Mervyn started life from the behind the eight ball; he had a disadvantaged upbringing and spent time in prison from the age of 13 to the age of 31. But in the last decade and a half he has turned his life around, and carried the experiential understandings from inside prison to a firmament of knowledge that his given him the capacity to ensure that people do not return to prison.

One in twenty Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders will die by suicide, that is the official reported rate but my research estimates that the real suicide rate is closer to one in ten. From a racialised lens, both rates are horrific. Psychosocially, far too many Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders see their identity as a liability, racialised – and they feel the racism – see everything as overwhelming, hopeless and bleak. Psychosocially, Mervyn is strengthening people and turning lives around. Mervyn is well respected in many communities, his work applauded. Families with troubled members come to him.

I have turned to Mervyn to help individuals I know that need ongoing support.

Ngalla Maya is only the beginning of what Mervyn and his colleagues have in mind – they are fast expanding, reaching into adult prisons pre-release, working with youth in juvenile detention – Banksia Hill. Mervyn has set a long overdue standard.

I applaud the Certificate II and III employment programs in commercial cookery, engineering and retail he and his colleagues have set up. I applaud at the linkages they have made with employers and the immediate employment they have been able to secure for former prisoners who otherwise would have found it very difficult to secure a rewarding job.

I marvel at the fact that so soon after the establishment of Ngalla Maya Mervyn has on board so many people who otherwise would have been lost to unnatural deaths, to the streets, to reoffending and to long-term aimlessness. He works with disengaged youth, ex-offenders and long-term job seekers.

Ngalla Maya is now in the process of establishing further employment programs and job linkages in hospitality and business administration.

Ngalla Maya is working with the Department of Corrective Service in pre-release programs and pathways, to encourage and ready more people post-release for a brighter future and to the belief that they can be much more and do ever so much for themselves. Ngalla Maya has the support of the Department of Education.

Mervyn’s contributions to society, to young people are not limited to Ngalla Maya but Ngalla Maya alone is every reason why Mervyn Eades would be a worthy recipient of any award and support. He is doing for people what governments have failed to substantively deliver – rehabilitative and restorative practices and justices – these are the ways forward.

Mervyn is the best of what a community leader should be and is indeed a change agent while remaining salt of the earth, humble. He not only turned his own life around but has turned around the lives of many, and will do so for many more years to come and for this we all owe him.

We owe Mervyn a thank you.