17 November 2023

Bill Bean has found his 'dream job' as the Horticulture Instructor at Auckland Prison where he helps people become rehabilitated and gain qualifications.

What is your current role?

I am a Horticulture Instructor based at Auckland Prison in Paremoremo. I’ve worked in prisons since 1979, when they were still operated by the former Department of Justice, after retiring from 12 years in the Navy. I started as a prison officer and worked my up to a Divisional Officer. In 2005, the role of Acting Nursery Instructor became available, and I jumped at the chance – it remains my dream job to this day.

What does service to the community mean to you?

My connection to the land and my mahi has allowed me to serve my community by helping the men and therefore the wider community. My work provides an opportunity to teach appreciation for what we have, and gratitude for what we can achieve. These are useful lessons for the men to learn, and transfer to their lives once their sentence ends – whether that be through employment opportunities or supporting their whānau/community.

How does your work make a difference?

People in prison are not only nursery workers, growers, labourers, potential horticulturalists/agriculturalists; they are fathers, brothers, husbands, uncles, friends, and part of a wider whānau.

In helping them towards becoming rehabilitated, we are helping everyone their lives touch. I help ensure the men are professionally trained and supported to discover new methods of cultivating. They gain qualifications and produce kai for themselves and their communities.

My work helps the men understand the value of self-sufficiency, shows them they can make positive change, and enables them to contribute to their whānau.

What achievements are you most proud of?

I’ve been fortunate to have had a broad variety of experiences during my time working in prisons. I was one of the first advisers to help create and develop the Post Incident Response Team (PIRT) to support staff safety and wellbeing. This involved training staff to support their colleagues who have experienced serious incidents at work with open dialogue, confidentiality, empathy and wrap around services.

I am also proud of the mahi and kai our men continue to provide to struggling community groups through our stakeholders, such as Kai Collective Helensville, Goodworks Trust North Shore, and Salvation Army Albany. The provision of approximately 6-7 tonnes of fresh vegetables each year consisting of herbs, kumara, cabbage, silver beet, ruruhau, onions, kale, rhubarb and tomatoes is our way of feeding whānau and giving back to communities.

In helping them towards becoming rehabilitated, we are helping everyone their lives touch.

What’s your favourite part of the job?

Having the opportunity to change the lives of people who have entered prison is incredibly rewarding. We all want to see those in prison spend that time constructively to take control of their lives for the better.

Role-modelling good work ethics, life-skills, and giving them an appreciation of how important it is for them to take responsibility for themselves and their whānau is incredibly rewarding.

When they bring a positive and productive attitude to their everyday lives I leave work knowing that I have added value. Beyond the everyday, I love seeing them put the skills they learn to use outside of prison; learning how to grow and connecting to the land are instrumental parts of their rehabilitation.

Seeing the lasting impact our programmes have is probably the most rewarding part of my job.

What are 3 words you would use to describe your work?

My mahi is life changing, rewarding and fulfilling.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the Public Service?

Never be afraid to ask questions, even if you believe it may not be important.

The job may not be for everyone but give it your best shot and you might be surprised.

Work hard with integrity, respect, empathy, and gratitude.

Look after yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually.