Former Ipswich woman Silene, who is one of the ex-criminals appearing on Channel 7 show, Conviction Kitchen. Photos: Supplied
Former Ipswich woman Silene, who is one of the ex-criminals appearing on Channel 7 show, Conviction Kitchen. Photos: Supplied

A chance for a new life

AN IPSWICH woman says her life has been turned around thanks to the television show, Conviction Kitchen.

Neither cooking show nor reality TV yet somehow both, Conviction Kitchen offers 12 convicted criminals the chance to redeem themselves and reclaim their lives.

The kitchen staff under chef Ian Curley and the front-of-house team managed by Lisa Parker operate Conviction restaurant in Brisbane.

The best two will embark on new careers in one of Curley's high-end Melbourne restaurants.

They have experienced homelessness, chronic unemployment and drug abuse, and their crimes include fraud, stealing, dangerous driving and drug offences.

One of them, Ipswich-born-and-bred Silene, 37, was jailed twice for producing amphetamines.

When she got out of Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre last year she decided her life had to change. As soon as she heard about Conviction Kitchen she jumped at the chance

“While I was incarcerated I joined an organisation called Offender Reintegration Support Service (ORSS), and when you get out of prison they help you find accommodation and help you get a job and all that,” Silene said.

“They contacted me in October last year and asked me if I was still looking for work.

“Basically I hadn't worked for the past 10 years, so when they called me with this fantastic opportunity I went for it, and it was the greatest thing I ever done, I think. To have someone reach out to me was so wonderful.

“When I was released from prison the last time, I've been clean since, and that lifestyle is definitely not for me any longer. Prison isn't a nice place to be at all. I'm 37 years old and was heading nowhere.”

Born in Ipswich and educated at Brassall State School and Ipswich State High, Silene said she wished others didn't follow her wasteful path.

“My message would be ‘don't take life for granted', and ‘a life of drugs is no life at all',” she said.

“It might be all good and well at the time, but you look back on it and, you know, I've got nothing to be proud of.”

That all changed once Conviction Kitchen got under way, including being given a makeover before the restaurant opened.

“The makeover, that was fantastic. I could not believe the change actually. It was massive,” she laughed.

“It made me feel good about myself; it gave me back some self-esteem, a bit of confidence.

“I'm doing my best, making a new start in life, not letting anybody down. It's a chance for me to give a little back.”

Silene sounds like someone who hasn't done a lot of genuine laughing lately, and likes it a lot.

“We were asked if we wanted to be front of house or in the kitchen, but I'm hopeless in the kitchen so I said front of house,” she said.

“I'm a very shy and reserved person, so it took a little bit for me to come out of my shell; and also I've never done anything in hospitality so all of it was a whole new experience for me.

“Opening night I dropped a glass and it smashed everywhere. They were good enough to have a camera on me; that was the one and only time I did anything like that and they happened to be filming.

“Without Lisa I wouldn't have got through it. Her commitment and guidance – everything – she was fantastic.

“It has made a major impact on my life.

“I've finally got some direction; I've got some normality in my life. For the first time in my life I'm doing something right. It's great.”

Conviction Kitchen moves to Monday nights from tonight on Channel 7 at 8.30pm.

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