“Human trafficking is the second-most prolific organised crime on the planet after the weapons and the drug trade. But unlike drugs, a woman can be sold more than once and often many times in one day,” Sisterhood of Survivors, Kathmandu, Nepal
IN a pastel pink court building, the colour that little girls all over the world like to wear and a deep shade of irony, less than two per cent of Nepal’s human trafficking cases make up the Supreme Court caseload.
In the country’s District Court rooms, it’s less than 0.3 per cent. But there’s a blinding bullseye, one case that stands out from the rest. In March this year, in Nuwakot’s District Court in the country’s centre, one of Nepal’s sex trafficking ring leaders was sentenced to the nation’s harshest jail penalty in history.
Back in Kathmandu, in a basic brick structure adorned with hope, the women who helped put him away, have barely just begun.
There’s a slow rumble erupting around Nepal…not the kind that Mother Everest likes to display when she’s displeased with too many climbers, nor the type that destroyed Kathmandu in the 2015 earthquake.
This is the thunder of Third World feminism.
On March 23, local politician and Chair of the Dupcheswor Rural Municipality, Sun Bahadur Tamang, was sentenced to 37 years in prison for human trafficking. Two other men, Shukman Lama and Tikaram Tamang, were jailed for 32 and 30 years respectively.
And it was thanks to the women of SASANE, survivors of sex trafficking and slave labour, who filed a case under the Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking and Smuggling Act.
Launched 10 years ago with the assistance of a USD25,000 injection from global travel company G Adventures, SASANE rescues women who have been trafficked, and trains them to become paralegals so that they, in turn, can represent other women. Those who don’t have a basic education, are trained in valuable hospitality skills, which they share along with their stories to tourists, under the Sisterhood of Survivors project.
G Adventures Chief Experience Officer Baikuntha Simkhada (BK) says the border between landlocked Nepal and India is 1346 kilometres long, and because of open-border agreements between the two countries, passports are not checked, enabling trafficking.
“Human trafficking is massive in developing countries. In Nepal, when families have more daughters, they sell them to prostitution so the parents can get more money,” he says.
“Parents know certain parts of what happens to their daughters but they don’t know the worst because they hand them over to relatives that they trust.”
The number one market is India, where girls sell for between USD4000-5000. More than 7000 girls a year in Nepal are trafficked and more than 50 a day are trafficked across the Indian border alone. Many of them simply disappear.
“Kathmandu and other major cities of Nepal are the number two market,” BK says.
“The third biggest market is further afield in places like Malaysia and Dubai where girls are sold as ‘house workers’. This the new trick or they are also called Bollywood dancers from Nepal.
“They give lots of false promises. There are lots of illegal prostitution centres here. Sometimes they are rescued by honest customers who report to police.”
BK, who has a 13-year-old daughter, says he has asked “rude questions” of parents who sold their daughters.
“There are a lot of cultural issues around this,” he says.
“The parents didn’t know. They were looking for money. In some societies they don’t talk openly.”
At SASANE, women are fed and cared for, given medical help, and seen by social workers for counselling. Only 10 per cent of survivors file a formal complaint.
Since it was established, 249 women have been trained to become paralegals, offering free-of-charge assistance to other survivors, who they have represented in 400 court cases.
Nepal is considered the epicentre of human trafficking and the issue has only worsened since the 2015 earthquake resulted in more poverty and displacement.
SASANE aims to halt “modern day slavery” with human trafficking estimated to be a USD150 billion a year industry worldwide.
It is the second most prolific organised crime on the planet after the weapons and drug trade. But unlike drugs, a woman can be sold more than once and often many times in one day.
While the average age for a trafficked woman is between 14 and 20, some are as young as 6, with more than 26 per cent of trafficked women classified as children.
Indira Gurung, one of the SASANE’s three founders, can’t remember her age and reaches for her phone to do the calculation. Nor does she want her photo taken. She’s 33, but she lost her childhood and identity a long time ago, when she was sold from her mountain village and trafficked into slave labour in Kathmandu at the age of 13.
“The agent told my parents they would send me to school and after school I would work at their home. They did not send me to school and I had to work morning to night without pay. I worked that way for five to six years,” she says.
“I had a contact with another house and went to the second home. They sent me to school but did not allow me to study and I had to work but I got a high school diploma and got a job in a restaurant and the Nepalese customers abused all the girls here.
“When customers were coming to the restaurant they wanted to do sexual abuse to us. They wanted to sleep with us and forced us to drink alcohol. The restaurant owner pushed us to go with them. They would come into a small room and close the door and force us to sit on the couch.”
After six months of sexual abuse and when she was 19, Indira contacted an organisation who helped her escape.
“At that time, we had a lot of survivors like me and we talked and learned that one cannot fight but a group can fight,” she says.
“We hired a lawyer and learned from him about our legal rights to fight trafficking and other abuse.
“When I got paralegal training, I wanted to fight the restaurant owner but he was not there anymore. He is still free, that is not good.”
Indira, who continues to face threats from human traffickers, says she did not know slavery and trafficking was illegal in Nepal before she learned her basic human rights.
“People are telling us if we share our story no one will respect us but it’s not our fault,” she says.
“Survivors need marketability skills to stand for themselves. Sometimes I am angry at my parents but that is the situation I Nepal. They are also innocent.
“I underwent counselling and art healing to learn about the power of women. This way I became empowered. I realised women have a lot of power to heal and protect other survivors.”
Indira says she prefers to inject her energy into lobbying governments, police and stake holders like NGOs.
“We are known now. Before we began our programs, many girls were missing from the mountains, now there are adolescent girls living and working on the mountains,” she says.
“One day we can stop this problem in Nepal. If the traffickers work one time, we should work two times.
“If we expand our program into 77 destinations in Nepal we can stop human trafficking.”
Each year, through their tourism projects – visitors to SASANE are taught how to make Nepal’s traditional dumpling dish of momos before being served lunch – and other collaborations, SASANE raises a massive USD85,000 to continue its work. But it’s still not enough.
SASANE has plans to open restaurants in Kathmandu’s heavy tourist area of Thamel.
“The message for all of the women in the world is that if you don’t have economic opportunities you cannot survive,” she says.
“If you don’t have skills, you have to sell your body.”
Just before our interview ends, Indira begins to cry, not over the abuse she and other women have survived, but because tour groups such as ours visit SASANE.
“Thank you, you are giving us so much strength. Many people are visiting the mountain (Everest) but not the bottom part of the mountain. We should show their stories,” she says.
“I’m not a tough woman, other women are stronger than me. I’m only trying to do my best.
“I want to be a kind-hearted woman. I just give hope and love.”
To donate to SASANE go to http://www.sasane.org.np. The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of G Adventures (www.gadadventures.com) and Thai Airways (www.thaiairways.com)
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it…The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela
A FLOCK of seagulls soars overhead Robben Island and if I unleash my imagination, so too, do the free spirits of former political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela. It’s my last day in South Africa and I’ve caught the ferry from Cape Town across to this tiny sliver of land to pay homage to the former South African president who served 18 years of his 27 year prison sentence here. It’s a rocky old ride out on the ferry across Table Bay, a day for staring out to the horizon with steely focus, but nothing compared to the journey Mandela made from prisoner to president.
Just like the gulls, swarms of tourists flock here in a bid to understand what Mandela and many like him experienced during South Africa’s apartheid years. On the dock, where the smell of boat diesel mixes with the pungent scent of fish, a sign declares “Freedom Cannot Be Manacled”. But most tourists are too busy rushing past to the waiting buses to notice. They’re intent on getting to the jail and meeting Mandela’s ghost.
Today’s guide Jama is a former political prisoner who entered the prison in 1977, when group cells housed 30 people who slept on mats. It wasn’t until 1978 that the Red Cross supplied prisoners with crude bunk beds, their personal belongings bundled into timber boxes nearby. Those who were considered leaders, such as Mandela, were given single cells, and the scrum of tourists lines up to peek into this tiny space which once housed the great man. I’m waiting for some sort of epiphany, as if Mandela’s spirit will magically part the crowds with words of wisdom. But I feel nothing but annoyed. There’s too many tourists and it seems to make a mockery of history.
Originally an island for lepers, Jama tells us there was no hot water in the prison until 1973, and back in the 1960s, the prison would mix both political and criminal inmates. The type, and portions of food you ate depended on the colour of your skin. I don’t have to imagine living in world in which apartheid existed, as it existed right up until 1994. I was 24 when it officially ended, but its legacy lives on. Speak to any South African cab driver and you’ll hear tales of how “coloured” people still live in the in-between world. And how corruption is rife under current President Jacob Zuma.
This corruption has a trickle-down effect, and it’s one I experience on my drive from Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve back into Johannesburg when I am stopped by a police officer who claims I haven’t obeyed a non-existent stop sign. At first, the officer says he is going to fine me $75, but then relents, saying the fine is “too much”. In the next breath he asks me how much it will take for me to “show my appreciation” for his leniency. Unfortunately, for this corrupt cop, I’ve never been in this situation before, so I do nothing. I just sit there, contemplating both my next move and his in this crazy chess game. Eventually he tires of the charade and sends me on my way. South Africans say you haven’t experienced Africa until you’ve been asked to bribe a cop, so I guess I’ve now seen Africa.
Back on Robben Island, the last group of political prisoners walked out of the gate in 1991, and in 1996 it was closed as a jail completely. We take a bus tour of the island where prisoners such as Mandela were forced to work on the lime quarry. Many ended up working there for 13.5 years and left with illnesses associated with the lime dust. In 1995 former prisoners including Mandela returned to the island and placed a pile of stones to commemorate the back-breaking work they endured. Mandela picked up shovel and demonstrated to the media how they made the lime.
“The man rose from the dust of the quarry. He rose from the cell of Robben Island,” our tour guide says.
“Where they started to dig the lime stone represents the triumph of the human spirit.”
I’m still contemplating both the strength and weakness of the human spirit when we make our last stop for the day, at a vantage point looking back across the ocean towards Cape Town. Our bus driver tells us we have only five minutes and advises us to return to our original seats to “avoid fights”. When I board the bus, there’s a woman sitting in my seat and I politely ask her to move, repeating the bus driver’s earlier words. But as she stands to leave, her hands full of backpack and camera gear, I notice she has left her hat on the seat. So I simply place it on her head, saying “you’ve forgotten your hat”. What happens next is incomprehensible. Out of the blue her husband comes flying down the aisle in a rage: “What a bitch you are, you put her hat on her head,” he spits at me. His actions are so at odds with the spirit of this day, and my intent, that I am stunned and I don’t reply. For the second time on my South African trip I simply don’t know what to do, and he turns on his heel, but I suspect we’re not done yet.
Back on the road our tour guide speaks again and talks about humanity before depositing us at the boat. I am waiting back on the dock for a friend just as the angry man walks past me again. “There’s that bitch,” he hisses at me. I try to explain my actions but they are lost in his storm of anger, his fury spiralling out towards the ocean like a giant storm cloud. I think about his words all the way back to Cape Town. And about man’s inhumanity to man. The kind that imprisons one man for 27 years because of his belief that all people should be treated equally. Of corrupt cops and angry men. It was Mandela who once said: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” And this thought becomes my travelling companion all the way back to Australia.
The Global Goddess stayed in Cape Town with the assistance of 318 Africa at the elegant More Quarters. http://www.318africa.com.au; http://www.morequarters.co.za
I’ve been to Nice and the isle of Greece where I sipped champagne on yacht, I moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo and showed ’em what I’ve got. I’ve been undressed by kings and I’ve seen some things that a woman ain’t s’posed to see, I’ve been to paradise…Charlene (1977)
FOR me, Christmas is a time to reflect. It’s when I briefly stop travelling, slow down and glance back on the year. It would be so easy in my job as a travel writer to stumble from destination to destination and chase the rush of the next story and adventure, discarding the last place I’ve visited as simply a fuzzy memory. Recently, while filing a piece to camera for my colleagues over at TravelThereNext, I was asked what I “collect” on my travels. And it’s pretty simple. I collect characters. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things in every corner of the planet. I try to capture them in my stories and in the quiet corners of my mind. Store them up for those rainy days when I need reminding that the world is truly a remarkable place. And so I present to you some of the great characters I’ve met of 2014.
I began my travelling year in Bali in January where I met Cekorda, 85, a respected medicine man. “How old are you?” he asks as I sit with my back against his knees, his wiry fingers probing my skull. “43,” I respond. “Not so young,” he mutters to himself, much to my amusement. He then asks me my problems. “I have a broken heart,” I reply. I lay down on a mat and he presses between my toes with a stick. My third toe on my left foot hurts and I yelp. “Your broken heart is healed. It is your mind. You have self doubt.” Cekorda then stands above me and traces his magical stick over my body to clear my aura, before announcing that I no longer have a problem. He turns to an Western bystander who speaks Indonesian. “Women are very complex,” the bystander translates for Cekorda. I laugh all the way from Bali back to Brisbane.
In February, I’m up in Thailand, where I return to the River Kwai and meet up with my young friend Sam Season, a traditional Mon Man who works on the River Kwai Jungle Rafts. Sam has two big dreams: to gain an apprenticeship as a mechanic in Australia and to marry the love of his life, Jaytarmon who lives in a neighbouring village. I ask him whether this mysterious girl with the long black hair is still beautiful. He doesn’t hesitate. “Oh, awesome. I want to listen to her voice.” He pulls out his iPhone until he finds a photo of her, laying dreamily on a bed with her hands in her chin. “I look at her photo every night before I go to bed. I have to make her believe in myself and trust in myself. When I finish my education I will be ready. I have to show her ‘can you wait for me?’ One day, when I have an education we will have a good life and then we will marry.”
March finds me back in Brisbane, struck by the sadness of the drought which is consuming my country. My journey takes me a few suburbs away where I catch up with Tom Conley, 3, who was born just before the 2011 Brisbane floods and ironically now bakes for drought relief with his mum, Sally Gardner. “Tom gets involved in all the cooking adventures in our home. He especially loves baking and as soon as I get the utensils out he rushes over, climbs up and wants to measure ingredients, crack the eggs and lick the bowl, We talk about who we are helping or who we are baking for, he enjoys drawing pictures for the drought-affected families.”
In April I return to Bali, to spend Easter alone at a yoga retreat and to recover from yet another disappointing relationship. Purely by chance I select OneWorld Retreats Escape The World program in Ubud where, along with twice-daily yoga sessions, I am challenged to sit with myself for one glorious day of silence. Claude Chouinard, who runs the retreat with his partner Iyan Yaspriyana, reminds us that despite everyone around us seemingly being able to travel, we are only a small percentage of the world who is wealthy enough to do so. He encourages us to embrace our 24 hours of silence and see it for the gift that it is. “For just one day you can consider this silence a form of torture or one of the greatest gifts you’ll ever give yourself. What we know as time is in fact an illusion. For human beings, time is limited to the moment we are born, to the moment we leave this planet, a very short journey considering the age of the universe. Live every day by the minute and enjoy as much as you possibly can…the illusion goes by quickly.”
May is chaotic and colourful as I spend nearly a month in Europe chasing a range of stories. And I meet a range of those fabulous characters I so treasure….A sultry Slovenian who compliments me on my “good English” when I reveal I’m Australian; Skanky from Mumbai who eats one gigantic meal a day as he doesn’t wish to “get sick on German food”; Suzie, the Filipino Canadian whose love of Schnitzel knows no bounds; Calamity Jane from Chicago who wanders the streets of Berlin pointing at every single wall and asking our tour guide whether it is a piece of the Berlin Wall; and a jolly gay guy from Wales.
June is spent in Christchurch, which was devastated in February 2011 by an earthquake in which 187 people were killed and 1000 buildings destroyed. At the C1 Espresso café I speak with owner Sam Crofskey, 37, who not only lost his original café across the road in the quake, but his house as well. Sam was working in his high street café when the earthquake hit. “I was a little bit confused. The coffee grinders fell off and landed on my legs and the power went off and then I could hardly stand. We needed to get rid of the customers, the staff and then ourselves. We had more than 100 people in the café at the time. Out on the street everyone was distraught and I thought everyone was over-reacting. I thought we’d come back tomorrow and clean everything up. It took a lot more for me to understand the city was actually gone. When you are here with no power or phone you have no idea what’s going on. I was like, my business if fucked, my house is fucked…that’s annoying.”
The mercury had plunged to minus 2 degrees out in Southern Queensland Country in July when I ventured to the Dalby Cattle Sales in search of myths and men. I spend two hours chasing cattle and cowboys around the cattle yards before I decide to leave. On the way back to the car, I hear a voice behind me. “So, have you got your story?” a cowboy says, following me quickly out of the cattle yards. “Yep. I don’t have all morning to be chasing you boys around,” I say defiantly. “Where are you staying tonight?” he directs this question at my breasts. “Chinchilla,” I say. He stands and considers this for a moment, calculating whether I’m worth the hour drive to the next town. And just as I’m about to turn to leave he says: “Well, I guess I’ll see you around then.” The interaction keeps me entertained for several days and hundreds of kilometres later.
I spend the most perfect August day with a close mate where we escape to the Sunshine Coast and the Eumundi Markets and Noosa. We stroll and laugh. Steal languid pauses to smell the roses, or in this case, the pungent soap on sale. Chat to a stallholder about his carnivorous plants. Try on eclectic outfits. Resist the seduction of sparkly jewellery. Wander through aisles of books. Observe the colourful characters. Pat a camel. We stumble across a “Willy Washer” and spend some time discussing its purpose. There’s a male fairy guarding some jewellery that resembles the young man selling the silver, fashioned from old knives, forks and spoons. An ancient typewriter has been dismantled, somewhat to our dismay, and crafted into trinkets. Colourful hand-woven handbags remind us of our travels around the globe. We discover Noosa Reds – plump, juicy tomatoes bursting with the distinct flavours of this fertile region – deliciously packed in crunchy brown paper bags. A giant gecko mural hugs a pole. There’s glass-blowing and some beaut ukes. And all the while, we keep winding through the marketplace, unravelling our lives.
On a stunning September afternoon I find myself staring at boobs and Broadbeach on the Gold Coast, at a High Tea to launch Kim McCosker’s cookbook Cook 4 a Cure to raise funds for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and to celebrate the opening of Australia’s newest resort brand ULTIQA Resorts. Guest speaker Mark Wood volunteers his time to speak about breast cancer after losing his wife Annie to the disease seven years ago, and says one in eight Australian women will be told they have breast cancer at some stage. “Today, 37 women will be told they have breast cancer. To think that’s happening to 37 people today and the day after is far too many. And seven people would have lost that battle today. My wife got a death sentence but my daughter, who was 12 at the time that Annie died, got a life sentence losing her mother so young. Twenty years ago, 37 per cent of women diagnosed with the disease died, but that’s now been halved through awareness and education.” All of a sudden I feel tired and emotional, but as I furtively glance around the room, I find I am not alone. There’s not a dry eye in the house.
October was spent in Fiji at the Australian Society of Travel Writers Awards where I won Best Food Travel Story for a piece I wrote about a group of six hardcore Wellington prisoners who were being rehabilitated through a cooking program “From Prison Gate to Plate”. Talk about collecting characters. And the words of celebrity chef Martin Bosley, who runs the program, still ring in my head. “I didn’t realise what a loss of freedom truly meant before I went in there. As a community we need to change our perceptions and be prepared that one day these men are getting out and we need to pick up where prisons leave off and reduce re-offending.”
I returned to Hawaii for the first time in 22 years in November, where there were characters galore including the mythical menehune. Sheraton Kona Cultural Tour Officer Lily Dudoit explains these little red men. “Everywhere in Hawaii we are known for our myths and legends. We have the little people who only come out at night to do their work. We call them Menehune and they are said to have reddish skin colour. There was a couple who had their wedding photo by this tree and when they had the photo developed there was a Menehune peeking out from behind the tree. They like to make trouble. Sometimes things go missing or they move something. You don’t find them. They find you.” I spend the rest of my time in this land of rainbows searching for possibly the most intriguing men I will meet all year.
Which brings me to December. While many leave Brisbane and Australia, this is the time of year where I sit on my back deck with a cold beer and warm memories. There’s movies and coffees and catch ups with friends and family, the all-important support cast of characters in my life. Thank you to everyone I have met out there in the big wide world this year, to those who have come on the journey with me, and to those who continue to love and support me back at home. Sending you love and light this season and may we all experience peace on earth.
FIFTEEN months ago, in the middle of a Wellington winter, I found myself standing on the cold concrete floor of New Zealand’s Rimutaka Prison, interviewing six men who had been sentenced to life for the most heinous of crimes – rape and murder. I suppose I should have been scared – at the time there was also an earthquake which woke me in the middle of the night with my bed shaking – but the old news journalist in me got the better of me, and I was bursting with curiosity. How would these men treat a female journalist in their space? What did the interior of a prison really look like? How would these six rapists and murderers act? And how should I act?
Fast forward to last Saturday night where I found myself in Fiji at the annual Australian Society of Travel Writers Awards where I was the finalist in four categories: Best Australian Story under 1000 words; Best Use of Digital Media; Best Travel Book; and for the story which led me to Wellington: Best Food Travel Story. I was incredibly honoured to be announced the winner in the Best Food Travel Story, and so today, I thought I’d share that story with you, which took me from windy Wellington to sunny Fiji. And the story that took those men from a life outside of prison, to “inside the wire”, where some of them have not felt the sand between their toes or the sun on their faces for decades.
In my acceptance speech on Saturday night, I flippantly remarked that those six men had far better manners than most of the boys I had dated in Brisbane. And in many ways, it was true. As you might imagine, a long time in prison changes a person. Many for the worse, but in rare cases, some for the better. Driving back from the prison with the chef who was teaching them to cook as part of their rehabilitation program, one thing became clear. If you treat people like animals and then release them back into society, no on wins. But if you treat people with a degree of humanity, and provided all of the correct procedures and protocols are adhered to surrounding their release, maybe, just maybe, there is hope. My winning story “Rough Road From Prison Gate To Plate” appeared in News Ltd’s Escape section last year. I hope you enjoy it…
ON a windy Wellington day the irony of a small red yacht by the name of Not Guilty is not lost on the city’s celebrity chef Martin Bosley, whose eponymously named restaurant overlooks Port Nicholson Harbour in which the boat is moored. Bosley has just spent four hours in Rimutaka Prison at nearby Upper Hutt, a place he has visited regularly since last November. Here the chef, who has owned restaurants in Port Douglas and has appeared on Australia’s Master Chef, has been teaching six prisoners – all serving life sentences – how to cook in preparation for Visa Wellington on a Plate’s festival landmark event – Prison Gate to Plate.
It’s clear that Bosley, who serves “wild-caught” sustainable catches in his Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club restaurant likes a challenge, but the thought of going into a prison and working with blokes who had “done bad things” was a stretch even for this creative cook.
“My initial reaction was that I didn’t see it working. It turns out I had some pretty
red-necked opinions of those who committed crimes and I thought a life sentence should be for life and that prisoners should be breaking rocks in the hot sun and that three meals a day was too many,” he says.
“But I found myself becoming more and more intrigued about the role food was playing in their lives and I thought ‘let’s do it’.
“Within the prison kitchen environment I was comfortable as all kitchens work the same. You pick up on that sixth sense of the ballet of the kitchen.”
Still, about the only thing Bosley’s up-market restaurant had in common with the prison kitchen was the colour scheme – both are shades of grey – which is somewhat fitting, because that’s where this chef found himself shifting, to the middle ground. In terms of a destination, there’s nothing pretty about Rimutaka Prison itself apart from the alpine surrounds in which it is nestled. Once “inside the wire” it’s patently clear this is a working jail which houses some 900 inmates, some convicted of the most cruel and cunning crimes. On a daily basis, 36 men work in the prison kitchen to feed this populous on a budget of $4.50 per head, per day. Usual fare includes sausages and gravy and it is this same restricted menu which is served throughout every New Zealand prison.
Six inmates were selected by the prison’s Chief Catering Officer to be trained chefs under Bosley’s tutelage for the Prison Gate to Plate event, a two-night $70 a head function for the public and a third night for prison stakeholders. Tickets for the public event sold out within 14 minutes.
“When we started last November there was definitely an edge of ‘I don’t know any of these foods or what these words mean’ from the prisoners. They had good skills in practical cooking – they are used to making coleslaw for 900 men and sausages and gravy and that menu rarely changes,” Bosley says.
“When I first went into the prison I felt I needed to be assured, self confident and tough but I’m not tough at all. I remember saying ‘we are going to have fun and learn but at the end of the day, don’t let me down’.
“Some of these men have had nothing in their lives. It is all about building their self-esteem and self-confidence. They don’t want to let themselves down and I’ve felt they’ve been teaching me about humility and life.”
In turn, Bosley has taught the inmates how to make the sorts of dishes that will be served on August 9 and 10, with the prisoner’s own twist on a mocktail – Jail Juice – blackcurrents, kiwifruit, apple juice, fresh ginger and soda water – being served in the Visit Hall. Guests, who will have to undergo the same strict security procedures as all visitors to the prison, will then be escorted to the Corrections Staff College Dining Room for Canapes served with a sense of humour – on regulation prison plastic trays – followed by a mouth-watering menu for which Bosley is renowned. Prisoners and prison guards will all be dressed the same, in standard black and white waiters’ outfits. Menus, catering instructors, table pieces, linen, printing and artwork, will all come from within the prison.
So successful has Bosley’s involvement been with the prison, he now employs a prisoner on a “release to work program” in his Wellington kitchen.
“I didn’t realise what a loss of freedom truly meant before I went in there. As a community we need to change our perceptions and be prepared that one day these men are getting out and we need to pick up where prisons leave off and reduce re-offending,” Bosley says.
“I never thought I’d be in the company of six men who have done bad things. But they don’t want to screw this up. There is nothing cool about prison.”
A spokesman for New Zealand’s Department of Corrections said they had a target to reduce re-offending by 25 percent by 2017. Through similar programs to Bosley’s they had already slashed recidivism by 9 percent.
Wolf, 46, has been working in the kitchen for the past two of the 13 years he has spent in the prison. He has another two years till he fronts the Parole Board.
“I grew up with a mum who loved baking and I came to jail and I didn’t have many opportunities at first and then I came into the kitchen. I love creating,” he says as he delicately places some prison-made relish on to some New Zealand cheese and crackers.
“Before I came to the kitchen I was pretty much one of those people no one wanted. I was the trouble maker who was in the High Security Unit for seven years. I was lucky someone gave me a chance and I haven’t looked back.
“My past has been pretty dodgy and I want to prove to people that I’m pretty worthy to be there.”
It’s a similar tale for the other five prisoners – Marco, Pete, Freddy, Brownie and Shultzie, all aged between 35 and 48, most having worked in the kitchen for around two years, all just living day-to-day not allowing themselves the luxury of thinking of the first thing they will do when they are finally released.
Except perhaps for Shultzie, 48, has been working in the kitchen for the past two of his 3.5 years in jail and has another 8.5 years until he is considered for parole. He’s in charge of the canapés for the Prison Gate to Plate event.
“The biggest lesson for me is that coming to prison is a waste of life but you’ve got to make the most of it. I’ve worked since I got in here and I’m going forward, I’m not looking back,” he says.
“The first thing I’m going to do when I get out of here is visit my mum and dad’s grave sites as they died while I was in here. And then I want to go fishing. “
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Tourism Wellington and with the special permission of the New Zealand Department of Corrections. Special mention must go to Intrepid Travel for sponsoring the award prize which is a $2000 Intrepid Tour anywhere in the world – http://www.intrepidtravel.com
I AM heading into a New Zealand prison to interview some male inmates and I don’t know what to wear. It’s not just the cold weather that’s thrown me, but I don’t know the reason these inmates are in the slammer. What if they shanked their mother because she wore red? Or they have a pathological hatred of blondes with Australian accents? What if they’ve read my previous blogs and realise I’m so desperate to find a fella that the only thing standing between me and my future husband is the Kiwi Parole Board? There’s a multitude of things that can wrong on this trip. And my imagination runs wild.
Like many Australian children in the late 70s/early 80s, my parents thought it was perfectly acceptable for four little girls to sit down in front of the television every night to an Aussie drama called Prisoner. For those who weren’t subjected to a similarly colourful childhood, it was a prime-time show revolving around Wentworth Maximum Security Prison in which hard-core female inmates expressed their frustrations at life.
Oh yes, there was a bunch of angry, scary gay women named Queen Bee, Doreen and Lizzie who used to lurk in the laundry room, swear themselves stupid and burn each other on the ironing press. There was also that really horrible prison guard they called The Freak and all up, it was violent and rather bizarre. I’m not even sure what the moral of the whole series was, apart from the theme song, which I used to walk around the house as a seven year old singing: “He used to give me roses, I wish he would again, but that was on the outside, and things were different then.”
Since that time, however, I’ve had a fascination with prisons. As a curious journalist I’ve always been intrigued by things to which I don’t have access. Like that secret part of an aircraft where the crew sleeps (where the hell do they go and how the hell do they come out looking so good?) The back of house of a restaurant. A boyfriend. All sorts of unattainable things.
Let’s face it, it’s not every day you get to go into a prison and so, on Tuesday morning, I found myself on New Zealand’s north island, dressed in an outfit I deemed most likely not to spark a riot and headed in. The permission form said I might be searched. Again, my imagination went into overdrive, picturing being strip-searched and being told to squat over a mirror. I had to relinquish my handbag and mobile phone. I was allowed to keep my notebook, two pens, a camera and a tape recorder.
But the adventure actually began before all that, when I arrived in Wellington on Monday to the fact the New Zealand capital had been going through a series of 6.5 scale earthquakes in the past 24 hours. Now, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with this information. Was it a bit like sharks in Australia? You know they’re out there, but you still go in the ocean and don’t really give them a second thought if you’re an Aussie, but if you’re an overseas tourists, you think Australians are insane for dipping their toes in the water when Jaws is lurking? How seriously should I take this earthquake business exactly?
When I checked into my hotel, right in the centre of the CBD where apparently all the action was happening, I asked the receptionist. “Oh, no worries,” she said, “if you feel something you just drop, cover and hold.” Drop, cover and hold what, exactly, I thought? Drop my underwear, cover my privates and hold on to them for dear life? So, I simply said: “Lady, I’m from Brisbane, I have no idea what the hell I’m meant to drop, cover and hold.” It emerged I was meant to drop to the floor, cover my head, and hold my position.
Oh, goodie, I thought. If the prisoners don’t kill me, the earthquake will. For those who read my last blog on New Zealand, as you know, weird stuff always happens to me when I skip across the ditch, so I was taking 50/50 odds on how, exactly, I would meet my maker on this trip. On my first night in Wellington, I was indeed grateful the hotel receptionist had warned me of the aftershocks of the earthquake, as that’s exactly what I experienced several times and at one point I was awoken from a deep sleep as if someone was violently shaking my bed. But I had my own plan. I decided to keep a wine glass near the bed and if the wine glass fell to the floor, so would I, me and wine having had a long relationship when it comes to life’s big issues. The glass didn’t fall, and I awoke refreshed and ready to head to prison which is a phrase you don’t use every Tuesday.
At this stage, due to confidentiality agreements I signed and an upcoming story in the mainstream media, I can’t say too much which I realise makes me sound like a bit of a wanker. I can reveal I spent 4 very interesting hours “inside the wire” (oh yeah, I learned all the lingo) with 6 prisoners who were serving life sentences. I was not permitted to ask about their crimes, but suffice to say, if you are talking life you are speaking to a bunch of men convicted of crimes such as rape and murder. What surprised me most was they were intelligent and interesting men, with a positive outlook on life, which frankly says a lot about the blokes I’ve been dating in Brisbane.
Wellington is full of surprises and this is just one I discovered during my three-day trip. I uncovered cool cafes, innovative chefs, amazing art spaces and friendly people. Sure, you get the Welly wind and at 42 degrees below (where do you think that Vodka was conceived?) it can get wild and woolly. But particularly in an earthquake, Wellington, you really rock.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Positively Wellington Tourism. To book your own Wellington escape, go to http://www.WellingtonNZ.com