Bridging the gap between Aboriginal community and police service
By Will Jackson
IT'S not happening quickly, but the relationship between police and the Northern Rivers Aboriginal community is getting better.
In 2003 NSW Police began implementing a new policy program, Aboriginal Strategic Direction, aimed at improving outcomes for indigenous communities.
On the ground level, the policy has taken the form of simple relationship-building exercises, like Aboriginal vs police football games, barbecues and incentive-based education programs, and employing more Aboriginal Liaison Officers.
Four years into the program, an audit by NSW Ombudsman's office has found the Richmond Local Area Command (LAC) has made great progress but there's still plenty of work to do.
Police and the Aboriginal Community Liaison Officers (ACLO) from each of the Northern Region's 12 LACs met yesterday to discuss their progress.
Kylie Parsons, project officer in the Ombudsman's Aboriginal unit, said there had been considerable improvements in relationships and consultation in the Richmond LAC.
Lismore's ACLO Lester Moran said many in the local Aboriginal community had come to see police in a different, more positive light since the introduction of the process. It was especially helpful to have Aboriginal people actually working in the police station, he said.
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Parsons said the policies and structures in the Richmond LAC were as good as anywhere in Australia and the results of the Ombudsman's audit clearly backed that up.
Richmond Superintendent Bruce Lyons said the effects of the policy were being shown in the command's crime statistics. Property offences committed by young Aboriginal people were trending downwards but there needed to a greater focus on assaults, which were continuing to rise.