• “It’s shown me that I can do something and there’s people out there that can take an interest in it and will pay for it." - Chris Austin. (Supplied)
A former criminal says learning to paint has reconnected him with his Indigenous culture.
By
Brooke Fryer

Source:
NITV News
8 Feb 2019 - 1:45 PM  UPDATED 14 Feb 2019 - 2:51 PM

Before he picked up a paintbrush, Chris Austin was in and out of prison for committing a string of robberies.

Behind bars, the Keerraay Woorriing man re-connected to his traditional culture through an art program called The Torch.

Now Austin's artworks are on display in Melbourne as part of Confined 10, the program's 10th anniversary exhibition.

“Art connects you to your culture and makes you feel a part of the community," he told NITV News.

Austin's portrait of Aboriginal activist William Cooper sold for $2500 shortly after the free exhibition opened at St Kilda Town Hall.

“It’s shown me that I can do something and there’s people out there that can take an interest in it and will pay for it,” he said.

One hundred percent of art sale profits go to the artists. Those who are imprisoned are paid upon release.

The program focuses on the role that culture and identity play in the rehabilitation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders that have been incarcerated.

Kent Morris, a Barkandji man and chief executive of The Torch, said that program encourages the rehabilitation of Indigenous prisoners.

He said this year’s exhibition has been more successful than organisers could have imagined.  

“The paintings represent ideas about family, connection to country and a desire to change their lives and connect to themselves and family and community,” Mr Morris said.