Former All Black Paul Miller is bringing the skills he developed in a successful rugby career to his new position as a Probation Officer with the Department of Corrections in Otago.
Paul represented Southland and Otago at a provincial level, the Highlanders and Chiefs in Super Rugby, and made two appearances for the All Blacks in 2001 before finishing his career in Japan. He has recently returned to the rugby field playing in the Classic All Blacks competition in Bermuda.
Paul says that after he hung up his professional rugby boots, the “real world” beckoned and he embarked on a new career.
“People are initially surprised about my choice of career with Corrections,” he says, “but the two roles have a number of similarities and the skills I have learnt as a rugby player are helping me be a good probation officer.”
“Sport teaches important positive social and life skills that can help people, especially youth, to navigate through some confusing and often challenging times.”
“Life can be hard but it shouldn’t stop you from achieving your goals or finding happiness. It’s how you overcome these adversities that can make all the difference. Adversity teaches us strength and resilience within ourselves.”
Paul says that in his Corrections role he likes the way he can help influence and instill a positive change in offender’s behaviors, helping them succeed, from completing their Community Work hours to gaining employment.
“It’s taking the time to get to know each person on a personal level, relate to them, and understand the difficulties they may be facing. Once you gain the rapport and respect, it becomes easier to guide them through their sentence and other issues that may be going on in their life.”
“I talk to offenders about the importance of integrity. This means we always strive for doing the right thing – even when nobody is watching. Integrity plays a big part in my role, and offenders’ success in maintaining a crime free life.”
In his role, Paul is part of the Youth Champions team in Dunedin and says he would like to see more of the young men he works with, reconnect with sport.
“Many of these young people live quite chaotic lives. They have the best intentions and ambitions but unfortunately they struggle to maintain their good intentions and reach their goal. That’s where I found the fundamental elements associated with being involved with sport helped. Discussing and planning toward an outcome, taking small steps to help them navigate their journey to an offence free lifestyle.”
“Sport provides a supportive environment that reinforces positive behaviors and skills like good eating and exercise programmes, communication and group skills, discipline, patience and self-management,” he says.
“As a professional rugby player, team and individual discipline required eating right, training specifically and taking no short cuts. Under Laurie Mains, for example, turning up on time was crucial. It was always 10 minutes early – you were deemed late if you turned up at the required time.”
Paul is currently coaching Southern Premiers as well as his son’s U11 Pirates Rugby team, so his winter weekends get pretty busy. He says that his coaching helps ‘refresh the mind’ and de-stress from work.
“It’s always great coaching the kids and helping them to develop not only their skills but also into respectable young people,” he says.
Paul is part of the Otago District Community Corrections team which manages around 1,000 offenders on sentence in the community at any time.
“Many of the skills Paul has learnt through his sport are very transferable,” says Otago District Manager, Raymond Clark.
“We work with a diverse group of people who require different levels of guidance and support to work through their sentence and gain some new skills for a different life post sentence.”
Paul says he greatly enjoys his new role.
“The diversity of the people you work with makes every day different. I love a challenge and with this role, every day is different. It’s a privilege to be involved with Corrections and part of the Corrections team.”