Settlement Guide

Settlement Guide: How to approach the police in your community

Coffee with a Cop at Fairfield Source: NSW Police Instagram

For many new arrivals to Australia, or those who do not speak English, it can be difficult to reach out to or trust and engage with the police - but the police are there to help. Many have special resources and programs in place to assist such members of the community - here are just a few.

Building trust takes time - and for many new arrivals to Australia, or those who do not speak English, approaching the authorities can sometimes seem intimidating.

But you should not be afraid of approaching your local police or asking for help when you need it. There are many resources and initiatives available to help assist non-English speakers and migrant communities. Here are just a few:

Community programs  

Have a ‘Coffee with a Cop’

This program initially started in the United States to bring police officers and the community together to discuss issues and learn more about each other in a friendly environment over a cup of coffee. 


Now it’s being rolled out in Australia too, beginning across New South Wales after Fairfield’s Commander, Superintendent Peter Lennon, introduced the coffee meetings in his culturally diverse community. He believes this program helps to overcome the distrust many new arrivals have towards law enforcement agents.

Find out more here.  

What happens at the meetings?

Apart from building bridges between police and refugee communities, the meetings also offer an opportunity to inform you about the rules and regulations that apply when police are called to an incident.By attending the coffee meeting you can find out more about police powers  - such as when they have the rights to search a person, property or vehicle - and when they have the power to arrest. This transparency can help reassure uncertain community members about their rights.  

Play basketball!

South Sudanese All Stars win at basketball
The South Sudanese All Stars play the Victorian Police at Eagle Stadium (Photo by David Chiengkou for SBS)

A few months ago over 200 South Sudanese youth gathered for a regular friendly basketball match with the Victorian Police to build some bridges after negative press the community received  due to a series of crimes committed in Melbourne's South East suburbs. SBS Dinka was there to cover the game - read more below. 


Community programs around the country

The African All Stars cup and the Coffee with a Cop programs are just two of many many other multicultural initiatives featuring police engagement that have been put in place around the country to reach out to culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Here are a few more, as listed in the AIC Research publication Crime prevention programs for culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Australia

- African All Stars Cup (Vic) 
- A Journey of Understanding (Vic) 
Burmese Refugee (Karin/Chin) Police Information Sessions (Qld) 
Community Engagement Events (Vic)
Crime Stoppers for Everyone (Vic)
For the Love of the Game (Qld) 
Footy with the Fuzz (WA)
Migrant Information Centre (various programs) (Vic) 
Migrant Resource Centre of South Australia (various programs) (SA)
MRC Jurisdictional Community Partnership (JCP) Project (Tas)
- Muslim Women and Youth Day (Qld)
- Short Story Big Screen (ACT)
Taste of Harmony African Australian Women's Day Barbecue (SA)
Youth Driving Program (ACT)

Talk to your local Multicultural Police representative

Police organisations in most states and territory have launched some form of initiative to reach out to culturally and linguistically diverse communities, including Indigenous communities, often engaging special officers for the task.

In Sydney the MCLO (Multicultural Community Liaison Officers) program employs civilian officers who represent over 40 different language groups. Their task is to strengthen the links and facilitate communication between police and culturally and linguistically diverse communities. If you need to report a crime or have any concerns you can always talk to an officer in your language.

Here are some of the programs in place across the states - click on the links to find out more about how you can in touch and get involved. 

NSW - Multicultural Community Liaison Officers
VIC - Multicultural Liaison Officer Program
TAS - Multicultural Policing
SA - Neighbourhood policing
WA - WA Police Aboriginal and Community Diversity Unit
NT - Indigenous liaison
ACT - Multicultural and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement plan
QLD - Police Cultural support unit


Information in your language

Police units around Australia publish helpful information about important community and safety issues such as domestic violence, road safety, counter terrorism and criminal infringement notices in a diverse array of different languages. Follow the links above to find more in-language services in your state.