Indigenous affairs

Aboriginal police officers recognised

National Reconciliation Week sees the inaugural Aboriginal Service Medal presented to WA officers in recognition of their service and commitment to the community.

WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said the award was an important step in reconciliation between Aboriginal people and police.

“It really does symbolise and recognise their personal commitment in making this state safe,” Commissioner Dawson said.

“Despite all the pressures that come with wearing our police uniform, they have strongly contributed to protecting and serving all West Australians.

“I’m so proud of what they have achieved and what they’re yet to achieve.”

WA Police Force Aboriginal Service Medal. Photo: Matthew Goddard.

National Reconciliation Week runs annually from May 27 to June 3, with Commissioner Dawson launching the new Reconciliation Action Plan yesterday.

The plan aims to provide better support for Aboriginal police officers and improve the force’s relationship with Aboriginal communities.

Awarding the Aboriginal Service Medals was one of various actions included in the RAP, which also stated Aboriginal flags would now fly permanently at all WA police stations.

Police Cadets Sabrina Reale and Nikki Trigwell assisting the Aboriginal smoking ceremony. Photo: Matthew Goddard.

Commissioner Dawson also commended the ability of Aboriginal police officers to engage with their community.

“Aboriginal people themselves have that innate ability to understand the culture and to assist the rest of us, me included, in better understanding and how we can actually police the state in a better way,” he said.

According to historical records, Aboriginal people have worked with WA police since the early 19th century in roles such as Aboriginal Police Liaison Officers and Aboriginal Assistants.

Aboriginal Service Medal recipient Community Relations Officer Monica Lee said Aboriginal police officers have an inherent ability to engage with their communities.

“When you’re from home like us in the Kimberly and in Broome, we don’t have to have any icebreakers,” Officer Lee said.

“We don’t have any introduction, we’re connected already, so we’re in right away.

“For us it’s working out the two laws together to get the best outcome for the individual, their families, the community, and obviously the police.”

Aboriginal Service Medal recipient Community Relations Officer Monica Lee. Photo: Matthew Goddard.

Aboriginal Service Medal recipient Sergeant Laura Russ said she was proud to be able to bridge the gap between Aboriginal people and police.

“Being able to be that link and to break down barriers between the WA police and also Aboriginal people and Aboriginal communities, that’s something that I’m really passionate about,” she said.

Sgt Russ also stated the importance of the police improving reconciliation with Aboriginal people.

“Mr Dawson is taking the right step now with doing the apology last year and going into Reconciliation Week this week.”

“There’s definitely a lot more work that needs to be done.”

Aboriginal Service Medal recipient Detective Senior Constable Nathan Hansen said the WA Police Force needed to first solve internal issues before focusing on the wider problems.

“We need to first start inside and work it out,” Det-Snr-Cst Hansen said.

“Once we show the outside that we’ve got the workings going well within our own agency, I can see people getting on board.”

Aboriginal Service Medal recipient Detective Senior Constable Nathan Hansen. Photo: Matthew Goddard.

The 2019 theme of National Reconciliation Week is “Grounded in Truth: Walk Together with Courage”, with a Walk for Reconciliation being held in Yagan Square tomorrow at 12pm.

Watch footage of today’s interviews and the Aboriginal smoking ceremony below.