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The design concept of the shipping container opshop for Shakti’s Sustinnoworx project in west Auckland

Auckland prisoners create opshops from containers for Shakti NZ

Auckland Prison and Shakti Community Council (New Zealand) have signed an agreement to have prisoners turn two containers into opshops for Shakti’s Sustinnoworx project in west Auckland.


Shakti Community Council is a non-profit organisation serving migrant and refugee women of Asian, African and Middle Eastern origin. The Sustinnoworx social enterprise project is a venture from Shakti Education and Training Company (SETAC) which was established 10 years ago to provide opportunities to refugee and migrant women and families, especially those affected by family violence, to learn English and obtain life skills in a safe, community-based environment.

Jeanette Burns, Corrections’ northern regional commissioner, and Farida Sultana, founder and director of SETAC Sustinnoworx, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) at Auckland Prison in April. Also present at the signing was architect Frank Tonetti, designer of the containers and director of Auckland-based firm Architettura.

“The conversion of these containers into high-quality, useful community spaces gives prisoners in the offender employment programme a fantastic chance to learn and hone construction skills that can help the men secure sustainable employment on their release from prison,” says Ms Burns. “This project also provides the men with a wonderful opportunity to give back to the community in a meaningful way.”

Employment opportunities

Ms Sultana says Shakti is delighted to be collaborating with Auckland Prison and Architettura to transform the two containers into viable retail spaces in west Auckland. “This initiative will help Shakti’s Sustinnoworx project achieve its objectives of creating and marketing upcycled, refurbished and repurposed goods for the community, while also creating employment opportunities for vulnerable women.

“Much of this work will be done by women survivors of abuse and violence, and the project aims to create pathways for the women to become skilled members of the workforce or self-reliant entrepreneurs.”

Architect Frank Tonetti had his work cut out for him when he was approached to design the two shipping containers. “The containers have significant structural and durability advantages over conventional forms of construction, and offer a readily available and affordable building module,” says Mr Tonetti. “This project also offers a good opportunity for prisoners to learn how to modify and fit out containers in a quick, practical and cost-effective manner to create versatile and attractive work and living spaces.”

Once the repurposed containers are completed, Corrections’ community work teams will help install the structures.

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