The Torch giving voice and pathways to Indigenous artists

AAR-The-Torch-Emily-Toulson-My-Path-Travelled-and-Future-Paths-Made-2022Presented by The Torch, Confined is an annual exhibition of artworks from Indigenous artists currently in or recently released from prisons in Victoria. The 14th exhibition, which coincides with National Reconciliation Week, will be on display at the Glen Eira Town Hall Gallery for four weeks from Friday 5 May 2023.

With a record 473 artworks from 402 artists from across Victoria, this collection of works is a strong visual metaphor for the continuing over-representation of Indigenous Australians in the criminal justice system.

232 in-prison artists and 170 in-community artists are represented in Confined 14, many at different stages of their practice – from the 57 artists looking to make their first sale at the exhibition to established artists who are completing large scale public commissions and projects.

An extraordinary range of paintings, 410 in total, and 63 three-dimensional works across different mediums including hand-woven rugs and baskets, carved emu eggs, a terracotta wombat and a range of ceramics including Sean Miller’s work Galibaay on Country that was shortlisted for the 2022 Indigenous Ceramic Award (and won South-East Australian Aboriginal Artist Prize of $5,000), hand-carved wooden sculptures from native cyprus and silk scarves dyed from natural materials found in Gariwerd.

For the first time, The Torch is presenting a satellite exhibition in Gallery 2 called In the Torchlight, which this year gives additional space and an expanded voice to In-Community women artists who are pursuing their cultural practice post-release. Set to become an annual event, this year’s presentation feature bodies of work by Heather Shawe, Melissa Bell, Sonia Singh, Veronica Hudson and Thelma Beeton.

All artworks are available for purchase from the gallery and online with 100% of the sales going to the artist. For participants, the creation and sale of their artworks is part of the rehabilitation process that helps build confidence, social capital, economic stability and pathways to reconnect with the community.

In 2022, The Torch sold and licensed over $1.1million dollars’ worth of artworks for First Nations men and women participating in The Torch’s Indigenous Arts in Prisons and community program. Over 600 Indigenous men and women are currently connected to The Torch program.

Income earned from the program provides participants with the ability to realise their potential and change their circumstances while in prison and when connecting back to the community. Participants are able to provide approved support to their families on the outside, increasing stability and helping to alleviate ongoing socio-economic disadvantage.

Participants are also able to stand more confidently on their own two feet and avoid common pitfalls upon release from prison such as finding and maintaining affordable and safe accommodation. This decreases recidivism and opens new pathways towards education and employment with many positive intergenerational impacts.

The knowledge and experiences of Community Elders and those participating in the program continues to define the program’s design and delivery. Employment of men and women from the program to work on all aspects, including going back into prison to support others, has been significant to the program’s ongoing success.

The Torch now employs 23 permanent staff, 13 are First Nations men and women – six of whom have transitioned through the in-prison and in-community programs to now work at The Torch.

“The Torch program was built upon the foundation of Indigenous knowledges, philosophies and support processes that have been developed, taught and embraced for generations,” said Kent Morris, The Torch CEO.

“It shows that Indigenous led and delivered solutions to some of the ongoing issues caused by systemic over incarceration can be addressed successfully if driven by the Indigenous community.”

The Torch presents Confined 14 at the Glen Eira City Council Gallery from Thursday 5 May to Sunday June 4 2023. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Emily Toulson, My Path Travelled and Future Paths Made, 2022 – courtesy of The Torch