THE Jail Dreaming exhibition, comprising of works by artists from the Mid North Coast Correctional Centre (MNCCC) at Kempsey opened at Gangga Marrang Arts and Cultural Centre on Friday (June 6).
Running until Friday July 11, it links with other celebrations of indigenous culture such as Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC Week in early July.
The exhibition is an important one and the first for Gangga Marrang.
The indigenous rate of incarceration is proportionally very high in Australia.
"Often it is when people go to jail, when they have the time, when they see what they can do, it fills them with pride," said Joan McDonald, a member of Gangga Marrang.
"This exhibition is important for the community, it shows that they are thinking of us and we are thinking of them."
"It is important to the indigenous people in jail that they be able to express themselves in a very positive way and they can do that through their art," said Greg Sneddon, the general manager of MNCCC at Kempsey. "Recognising their art and letting them put it out into the community furthers their confidence and hopefully helps change their attitude when they return to their homes and community."
Raylene Ballangarry, an Aboriginal elder working at MNCCC and her colleague Luke Morris, spoke about how painting helps the indigenous men and women at Kempsey Jail tell their stories.
"If you talk with them, they do not really open up - give them paint and canvas and it allows them to tell their story, where they are going, where they have been and what they want to achieve in life.
"Recognition from the community is important for the guys trying to make a positive change in themselves and it is also good for the community to see something positive coming out of prison.
"It helps the inmates to see that there is potential to turn themselves around.
"An exhibition such as this also helps give them confidence in themselves."
The importance of being able to express themselves culturally was raised by Tracey Anderson, Aboriginal community officer at Greater Taree City Council.
"No matter where Aboriginal people are on their journey in life, it is our culture that holds us and will bring us home."
The name Jail Dreaming was chosen to reflect on the wish for inmates to be with their families and communities.
"When I'm painting I think of my loved ones, my daughter, mother, father and even sometimes my brothers ...... it also helps me keep my mind off things and pass the time," said one of the artists.
Gangga Marrang is situated at 82 Victoria Street, Taree and is open from 9am and 3.30pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
The gallery can be opened at other times by arrangement, by telephoning 6552 7856.