• SAPOL Community Constables getting a lesson from Aboriginal elders, Mitika Burton and Stanley Douglas, who are among the longest serving Community Constables. (Supplied. )Source: Supplied.
The South Australia Police have used their annual Foundation Day to recognise and celebrate the unique contribution Aboriginal trackers made to the force since they first began in the 1850s.
Douglas Smith

30 Apr 2019 - 8:57 AM  UPDATED 1 May 2019 - 10:15 AM

When eight-year-old Jane Pfeiffer was abducted in 1966 just metres from her family farmhouse in the Adelaide Hills, Jimmy James and Daniel Moodoo were called in to track her down.

The search involved more than 150 police and volunteers, but it was two Aboriginal trackers, Jimmy James and Daniel Moodoo, who found her alive after following her tracks through more than 20 kilometres of harsh scrubland.

On Sunday, South Australia Police [SAPOL] recognised Aboriginal trackers as part of their Foundation Day ceremonies celebrating 181 years of service, making it the third-oldest police force in the world.

Sixteen Aboriginal trackers were employed by SAPOL in 1852, with that number growing over time to more than 65.

Sunday's ceremony also marked the beginning of a photographic exhibition to honour the work of trackers, including Jimmy James, whose famed career spanned for 40 years.

South Australian Police Commissioner, Grant Stevens told NITV News that Mr James was “the most famous tracker” in South Australian history.

“He worked closely with SAPOL using tracking skills and instincts honed by generations of Pitjantjatjara men to locate scores of murderers, prison escapees and missing people,” he said.

"Trackers are famed for using their bush skills to spot subtle changes in the environment that reveal the path a person has taken in often harsh and remote areas,” he said.

In 1984, Mr James was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his contribution to 104 different cases with SAPOL.

Aboriginal tracking is still an effective craft, and trackers are regularly called upon by SAPOL to assist in both low and high profile cases.

In 2019, new batches of Aboriginal Community Constables are carrying on the teachings of the Aboriginal men who have gone before them.  

Senior Community Constable, Waylon Johncock has been working for SAPOL for 10 years.

Based out of a remote community on the Nullarbor, Mr Johncock helps non-Indigenous officers understand the cultural and social issues within the community to help bridge the gap between Indigenous people and local policing. 

He told NITV News that an important part of his job was to assist in communications between non-Indigenous police and Aboriginal people because there was a “huge gap in the English and the Pitjantjatjara language.”

“Because I have a basic grasp of the Pitjantjatjara language, I’m able to assist my mainstream member who I’m working with to communicate,” Mr Johncock said.

There are now 36 Community Constables based throughout South Australia, joining the 44 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women employed as sworn police officers with SAPOL.

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