Prison vis­its through chap­laincy of­fers bea­con of hope

With friend­ship at the fore­front of what he does, Toowoomba man Terry Collins de­liv­ers a unique type of sup­port to pris­on­ers

Style Magazine - - Contents -

For Toowoomba man Terry Collins, life has al­ways been about com­mu­nity.

Born on the fam­ily farm at Wil­low­vale near War­wick, Terry started life in a small com­mu­nity which gave him the ground­ing for the rest of his life.

“We only had 21 kids at the Wil­low­vale school and the same teacher for eight years,” he smiled.

“We had a fam­ily of 11 while the Fitzger­alds had 16.

“It was a good Chris­tian com­mu­nity and look­ing back, it’s the qual­ity of those peo­ple that strikes me.

“Out of the 21 kids at the school, two

be­came Catholic priests and an­other two (re­li­gious) min­is­ters.

“It was a sim­ple life but it gave me the foun­da­tion for the rest of my life.

“There was great gen­eros­ity of spirit to help one an­other in that com­mu­nity.”

Terry com­pleted his ed­u­ca­tion at Down­lands Col­lege which he de­scribed as “a dif­fer­ent com­mu­nity”.

Af­ter com­plet­ing his school­ing at Down­lands Col­lege he joined Queens­land Rail and, apart from two years na­tional ser­vice, he was to spend 47 years with the rail­way be­fore his re­tire­ment six years ago.

Terry and his wife Noreen, an Al­lora girl, had eight chil­dren and through his work with the rail­way the fam­ily got to spend time in many com­mu­ni­ties up and down the state.

Hav­ing started as an en­gine cleaner with the rail­way in War­wick, Terry moved on to be a rail­way train fire­man at Mt Isa be­fore be­com­ing a train driver, trav­el­ling the state.

“In the smaller towns you re­ally get the sense of com­mu­nity and get in­volved in sport and other things,” Terry said.

“I got to meet a lot of good peo­ple and some lar­rikins too.”

I have 20 to 30 blokes I see weekly and we’ve de­vel­oped a friend­ship.

Since re­tire­ment in Toowoomba, Terry and Noreen have taken to var­i­ous vol­un­teer work with Noreen in­volved in St Pa­trick’s par­ish Care and Con­cern move­ment among other things while Terry has found yet an­other com­mu­nity with which to en­gage.

For the past four years he has been in­volved in the prison chap­laincy pro­gram.

Friends of his had been in­volved in the prison chap­laincy pro­gram for some time and, be­liev­ing Terry was ideal for such vol­un­teer work, took him along to see how the ser­vice worked.

“It was a real eye opener but I thought it was such an im­por­tant pro­gram and I re­ally took to it,” he said.

“It’s Chris­tian based and we have five or six dif­fer­ent de­nom­i­na­tions who work to­gether.

“We’re all work­ing for the same pur­pose though with a dif­fer­ent ap­proach.”

Terry said the chap­laincy pro­gram pro­vided sup­port for long-term as well as short-term pris­on­ers, some of whom come from Toowoomba, Dar­ling Downs and Lock­yer re­gions who are es­pe­cially pleased to catch up with news from their home towns.

“I have 20 to 30 blokes I see weekly and we’ve de­vel­oped a friend­ship,” he said.

“Some of them are very tal­ented, there is one fel­low who is a long-term pris­oner who is a very tal­ented Abo­rig­i­nal artist while oth­ers play mu­si­cal in­stru­ments.

“Some of them are study­ing for de­grees to bet­ter them­selves when they get out.

“We don’t know the rea­son why they’re in there and we don’t ask, though some­times they tell us.

“The sad thing is the ef­fect that drugs have had on some of them.”

Terry also con­ducts a church ser­vice once a month that is also well at­tended.

“We had one ser­vice where a few of them grab their gui­tars, drums and other in­stru­ments for the ser­vice.

“We re­ally had it rockin’,” he grinned.

PHOTO: BEV LACEY

Terry Collins has been vol­un­teer­ing for four years in prison chap­laincy.

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