Whatever you do for the least of these
Cameron Brett is the Tasmanian Ministry Coordinator for Prison Fellowship Australia.
The work he does in Jesus’ name within our prison system is a testament to God’s goodness and faithfulness to even the forgotten ones in our state.
Read on to find out about his work, his passions, his heart fro prisoners, and how you can support him.
Hi! My name is Cameron Brett, and I am the Ministry Coordinator of Prison Fellowship Tasmania. I have been a Prison Chaplain with Anglican Health and Welfare (3 days/week) for two years. And with Prison Fellowship (2 days/week) for one year.
I was born in Brisbane and am a proud Queenslander! I loved growing up in Brisbane, where I attended Church since birth. Firstly, at Sandgate Baptist, and then Bracken Ridge Baptist Church where my family and I were Foundation Members.
My father and stepmother are still active members of Bracken Ridge Baptist which is now a large contemporary Church. I loved the warm temperatures in Brisbane, especially those cooling summer storms following a hot summer day. It was great to be close to beaches and I enjoyed the busy lifestyle of a medium sized city.
After eight years working with Westpac Bank, I studied at the then Baptist Theological College of Queensland, now Malyon College, training as a Baptist Minister. I was ordained as a Queensland Baptist minister in 1999. I then served as Associate Pastor at Moore Park Baptist Church, then Majestic Park Baptist Church.
My father, sisters and their families continue to live in Brisbane. We moved to Hobart to be closer to Karen’s family in 2010. During this time in Tasmania, I have ministered as a High School Chaplain until the Lord called me into Prison Ministry as a Chaplain in 2020 with Anglican Health & Welfare.
The call to Tasmania
My wife, Karen, and I are blessed with four adult children. Three are now married and all are living around Hobart and active in different churches. Karen home-schooled our children for varying lengths of time. They have all now gone on to university, with the three eldest working in their chosen fields.
When our children were younger, we sensed God’s call to school chaplaincy. So we packed up and moved to Tasmania when I was appointed full-time Chaplain at Montrose Bay High. Later I served as Chaplain at Jordon River Learning Federation Senior School. Finally, I was chaplain at Elizabeth College. All this, over a period of ten years.
These days, my focus is with Prison Fellowship Tasmania. It is a volunteer-based missionary organisation which seeks to reach men and women for Jesus, who are incarcerated in Tasmania, by sharing the Gospel with them.
I spend the majority of my time inside the Prison listening to inmates about whatever is on their mind.Cameron Brett
The Work of a Prison Chaplain
I spend the majority of my time during the week, inside the Prison listening to, and talking with, inmates about whatever is on their minds. I also help them with any spiritual matters. There are very few things prisoners have control over in their lives. So, for them to choose to speak with me, is a real privilege.
More broadly, I prepare messages and presentations, speaking at churches around Tasmania who want to know more, and support, Prison Fellowship. We have a fantastic team of volunteers, whom I work with to run Chapel Services in most Tasmanian Prison facilities. As well we run other Christian programs such as The Prisoner’s Journey and Alpha. Because I am a Prison Chaplain and PF Ministry Coordinator, I assist Prison Fellowship volunteers from inside the Prison.
Also, I help bless children of inmates by providing birthday and Christmas gifts to those who participate in our Angel Tree program. I assist other volunteers by facilitating their visits with inmates, write letters or provide post-release support to men and women who request help.
As a Prison Chaplain, I see how Prison Fellowship volunteers encourage inmates who request a visit. Prison is a very lonely place, especially as most inmate’s family don’t want anything to do with them once they are incarcerated.
A question of TRUST
Many prisoners receive no contact from friends or family. I’ve witnessed how unconditional love and acceptance from a Prison Fellowship volunteer can powerfully provide the basis for open, caring but frank conversations. The kind which inmates can’t have with other prisoners, nor prison staff.
I enjoy sitting with inmates and listening to their stories – not so much about their crime, as most don’t talk about that. Instead, it is about their family, where they grew up and what they hope to achieve upon their release.
Once I gain an inmate’s trust, and that I am interested in them and not their crime, they begin to open up. They can then share what is on their heart. This is a rare and valuable opportunity, because for many inmates, it is difficult for them to trust anyone inside, or outside, the prison.
I see myself as Jesus’ representative in the Prison. Being ‘present’ with inmates enables me to share God’s love and acceptance with them. I regularly share (not preach) with inmates how God sees any crime as sin, and that we are all sinners in God’s eyes. And that none are any worse than others, and how forgiveness is available to all who truly turn from their old ways.
Accepting that Jesus has paid the penalty for our sin, enables us to be free, on the inside. Even though inmates are required to pay the earthly penalty for their sins, their heavenly Father will accept them as His children when they ask for His forgiveness – and that’s the forgiveness which counts, which truly sets us free, to be the person God designed each of us to be.
The best advice I have is to “Treat everyone with respect”. When visiting people in prison, I remind myself that “there but for the grace of God, go I”.
Honestly, we are all sinners and are all deserving of God’s judgement. Acknowledging this helps me to respect each one I talk with, regardless of their crime or the length of their sentence. When you show respect for an individual, I find they reciprocate that respect to you.
Love, care and support
My primary responsibility is to visit with inmates. As well, I coordinate with the Tasmanian Prison Service for volunteers to enter (and exit!) the prison. The volunteers then minister to men and women by running The Prisoner’s Journey, Alpha and our Chapel Services.
I also arrange to visit churches, seeking to share with them the work of Prison Fellowship. I share how Tasmanian churches can be involved in ministering to fellow Tasmanians in prison and their families in the community. This can be done either by financially supporting the work, or volunteering with Prison Fellowship Tasmania.
Volunteers assist in our Chapel Services, visit with inmates, help wrap and deliver gifts at birthday and Christmas time, or cover our programs and people with prayer. If you would like to volunteer, I’d love to talk with you about where you sense the Lord is leading you to serve.
Bringing hope, in Jesus’ name
We have some fantastic resources such as The Prisoner’s Journey which is a video- based group discussion program, based on Christianity Explored, developed specifically for prisoners. The Angel Tree program seeks to bless the children and families of inmates by providing a gift at Christmas and birthdays. However, all these resources cost money to develop, facilitate and promote. That’s why I visit with churches and other groups to share with them how they can partner with Prison Fellowship Tasmania by volunteering or financially supporting our work.
I’m excited that I can help empower ordinary Christian men and women to be God’s messengers of hope and love to people in our Prisons, who receive very little love, attention or care from others.
Many inmates have lost hope. I find that so sad because without hope, what do you have? Simply, daily existence. I, and we as Christians, can be God’s Presence in our prisons and thus bring hope. Hope is powerful. Hope is life-changing. We have hope in Jesus – it’s our responsibility to share that hope with those who have no hope.
You can bring hope by visiting with or writing to prisoners. Or by supporting them upon release. Or if you’re unable to do that, at least financially support those who are caring for “the least of these”.
Many inmates have lost hopeCameron Brett
I am most challenged by the idea that I am working in a prison! Prior to working as a Prison Chaplain, I had no idea what a prison looked, or felt like, inside. Like most people, I had little experience with the courts or prison sentencing.
As a high school chaplain, I had at least supported two or three students who appeared before Juvenile Justice. But now, I seek to share God’s love, mercy and forgiveness with people who have done some very bad things. Yet, it’s not I but Christ in me, who demonstrates God loves every one of them. And so should we.
Pray for Cameron and the prison ministry
Every day I am conscious that I enter a prison facility. As a Chaplain, I am privileged to enter into an inmate’s space. Please support me by praying for my safety, and for me to have God’s Words to share.
I’ve seen the power of a God-given, timely, kind word. We can change people’s lives because, for many, they are hanging on at the very end of their rope. Please pray our volunteers will continue their easy access to the prison to meet with inmates in the Visitor’s Centre. This is especially true with Covid still threatening our community.
Will you join me in responding to Jesus’ words, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.” Matthew 25:40
We are looking to increase our team of volunteers to mentor men and women after they are released from prison. Can you be a friend to an ex-offender? You could help them navigate public transport, Centrelink or banking options available now. If so, please get in touch with me via email.
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