AFTER years spent in trouble with the law, Chris Ugle is looking forward to a bright future with his young family.
The 29-year-old, who spent most of his teenage years and early 20s under the watchful eye of police, has made drastic changes to improve his life.
The scaffolder recently completed 12 certificates at the Skills Training and Engineering Services in Bibra Lake as part of the Ngalla Maya program and is now working full-time.
The program, run out of Fremantle and Belmont, offers former inmates and those at risk of being incarcerated a chance to become qualified in industries and placed in employment.
Mr Ugle said trouble for him began in his early teen years, but spiralled out of control after he lost both his parents at 19.
“I got involved in the wrong crowd and was doing the wrong things, involved in criminal activity and getting into trouble with police while under the influence of alcohol and drugs,” he said.
“I started on a journey I didn’t think I’d be able to get off.
“I finished my schooling and while I was working I went through a major change in my life where I lost both my parents.
“My father had a massive heart attack and my mother died of cancer in the same year and that’s what took its toll on me.”
Mr Ugle said during this period of his life, he lost his self worth, did not feel settled and had no structure.
“Life wasn’t the same. I didn’t see the good in anything and I always put myself down telling myself I was not good enough and couldn’t accomplish things. This happened until I couldn’t take it anymore,” he said.
It was at this point he realised things needed to change and he met Ngalla Maya founder Mervyn Eades.
“As I got older I started seeing my brother and his family,” he said.
“He has a good life and I knew it was something I wanted but here I was at 25 still doing the same things I was doing at 15.
“When I came in to meet Merv for the first time, I never thought that it would mean I would turn over a new leaf. He opened my eyes up to the possibilities and offered that glimmer of hope.”
The father-of-one hopes his story will encourage others in similar situations to seek help and show them there is more to life than just being stuck in “the system”.
“For those who are thinking that their lives are at an end or (that there’s) no hope left, I just want to say there is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
“It’s never too late but changes don’t happen unless you make the change and Ngalla Maya is bound by that, even if it’s that one step.
“It drops that little pebble in the pond and creates a ripple effect.
“Merv chucked me a line and I grabbed it with both hands. Hopefully I can give others the same opportunity.
“It’s hard to put into words, but he is one of a kind, someone I look up to, a father figure and I owe it all to him.”
FORMER INMATE STATISTICS
– People leaving prison are at elevated risk of an unnatural death and aberrant behaviour and are 10 times more likely to die unnaturally – including suicide – than while in custody.
– As of June 2016, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people comprised 28 per cent of all prisoners despite comprising less than three per cent of the national population.
– Where the incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders was predominately of males, in 2016 in excess of 10 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates were females.
– Nationally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth aged 10 to 17 comprise 55 per cent of the inmates in juvenile detention.
– Western Australia incarcerates Aboriginal juveniles at the nation’s highest rate – 56 times of non-Aboriginal youth.
– Repeat offending is increasing with 78 per cent of prisoners, nearly 8,000 of the more than 10,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates, having served a prior conviction.
– One third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates have served at least five prior convictions.