In 1951 the Controller-General of Prisons, Mr L C Nott recommended to the Minister of Justice that a representative prison after-care committee be established with the assistance of parole officers. This new organisation held its first meeting on November 15 and decided to call itself the Civil Rehabilitation Committee (CRC). CRC aimed to provide assistance for people in custody in the period of transition from prison into the community. It helped with accommodation, employment and any other support needed by people who had been in contact with the criminal justice system.
The initial success of the committee raised the possibility of the establishment of other branches. The first CRC group established outside Sydney was in Newcastle. Between 1951 and 1966 other committees were established in Wollongong, Moss Vale, Tamworth, Bathurst, Cooma, Dubbo, Canberra and several suburban offices throughout Sydney. The early CRC volunteers had a mixed relationship with the department of corrections. Some within the department, such as Frank Hayes, a parole officer tasked with developing prison welfare services, were closely associated with the formation of the organisation whereas others were more derisive calling the volunteers “crim-lovers” and full of “baloney”.
In the 1960s Frank Hayes made the decision to reduce the direct involvement of parole officers in CRC. In 1963, CRC became a non-government agency allowing it more autonomy from the department and in its work, although it continued to be funded through a government grant.
Over the past 70 years the services CRC provides have evolved and changed with many specialist programs being developed to address the specific needs of our client base.
The acronym CRC remains, but the organisation no longer calls itself the “Civil Rehabilitation Committee”. This change reflects a move away from perceptions of people leaving custody as in need of “civil rehabilitation”. Today the organisation is known as the Community Restorative Centre.
In an obituary for Frank Hayes in 2000 academic and social-justice campaigner Tony Vinson wrote “prisoners and their problems do not fall from the sky. They come from families, they live in neighbourhoods and they belong to communities”. Vinson listed the establishment of CRC and its work linking prisoners back into the community as one of Hayes’s many achievements. Over the years CRC has grown and adapted, but it continues to provide the same vital service to people in contact with the criminal justice system, and their families and friends.