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CDU Fulbright scholar bringing prison arts program home

Adelle Sefton-Rowston
CDU’s Fulbright scholar Dr Adelle Sefton-Rowston is researching the impact of arts programs inside prisons in Alabama, the United States, and hopes to bring it to the Northern Territory.

A Charles Darwin University (CDU) lecturer has spent the last few months researching the impact of arts programs inside prisons in Alabama, the United States as part of her Fulbright scholarship project.

CDU Senior Lecturer in Literature and Fulbright scholar Dr Adelle Sefton-Rowston won the Fulbright scholarship to further her research into the impact of arts programs for incarcerated people in the justice system.

Dr Sefton-Rowston has been teaching a short course in research writing and presenting at the Staton Prison in Alabama, United States through Alabama University’s Alabama Prison Arts and Education Project (APAEP).

Dr Sefton-Rowston is also learning about the history of successful programs in the US, the challenges and successes of a program that has been running for 20 years in America.

“My research focuses on inclusive pedagogy and the use of human language in the program delivery,” Dr Sefton-Rowston said.

“That is something we can all carry with us, which is a simple reminder that we all have a right to education and to learn and grow.”

The students’ artworks from the APAEP Art on the Inside Travelling exhibit, were shown in collaboration with the Department of Corrections at Alabama State Archives and History. This was a groundbreaking moment for all stakeholders that brought everyone together to see the value and impact of student learning inside prisons.

Dr Sefton-Rowston first ran a pilot program at sector 4 of the Darwin Correctional Centre in 2019 after noticing the graffiti one of the detainees marked on his prison cell wall.

“I looked at what that represented in his wellbeing and the need to be seen and realised that art can be healing to them.”

Dr Sefton-Rowston started to run self-portrait and contemporary mural classes with the women at sector 4 of Darwin Correctional Centre.

“Now seeing what is possible in Alabama, it’s opened my eyes to possibilities for potential students in the Northern Territory among the justice-impacted people wanting the opportunity the learn, grow and create,” she said.

“There are many mirrors between Alabama and the NT. There is an over-representation of black people in prison in both places.”

 

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