PRISONERS in country Victoria will continue to perform community work in a long-running program without any cost to property owners.
The Landmate program has given valuable help to regional communities for more than 20 years.
Teams of prisoners from the Beechworth, Ararat, Dhurringile and Langi Kal Kal prisons perform environmental and agricultural work in the community.
But the member for Benalla, Bill Sykes, said yesterday there has been some confusion recently about landholders having to contribute to the costs of Landmate.
“I am pleased to confirm that Landmate services will continue to be available at no charge,” Dr Sykes said.
“I had written to Corrections Minister Edward O’Donohue and sought clarification on the matter.
“He has confirmed that landowners will not be charged by Corrections Victoria to access the program.
“Corrections Victoria and the Department of Environment and Primary Industries have each committed $175,000 in funds in the 2013-14 financial year to support the continued operation of this important community work program.”
Dr Sykes said he is a strong advocate of the innovative program and welcomes the state government’s continued support.
“Landmate helps in the implementation of important Landcare and community projects, many of which would never have happened without this assistance,” he said.
“The scheme also has benefits for prisoners as it provides valuable social and employment skills along with providing them with a sense of self-worth.”
In times of crisis such as floods in the past three years, crews have been available to help in emergency situations.
It has been suggested the program gives prisoners a sense of pride and accomplishment while helping to reduce recidivism.
There was concern earlier this year that funding would be cut until a joint approach from three North East politicians to Mr O’Donohue.
Dr Sykes, member for Murray Valley Tim McCurdy, and member for Benambra Bill Tilley, made the approach after concerns expressed within their electorates by the Victorian Farmers Federation and people involved in many projects.
Landcare groups from the Kiewa and Indigo valleys along with individuals raised the issue with Mr Tilley.