The Western Australia Police Force have launched their first ever Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in a move Police Commissioner Chris Dawson today described as "overdue".
The commissioner said the plan was a way to build better relationships between police and Aboriginal communities in WA, describing it as "more than just a booklet ... more than just raising the flags".
“It’s a positive step forward by West Australian Police and Aboriginal people of Western Australia,” he said at today's launch in Perth.
The RAP was launched at the inaugural Aboriginal Employee Symposium or “Dandjoo", meaning gathering in Noongar language.
Elders, police from other States and Territories, an officer from New Zealand and Aboriginal police employees from across the state attended Dandjoo where they workshopped ways of moving forward with the RAP.
Developed in consultation with the WA police's Aboriginal Affairs Division, Reconciliation WA, members of the Aboriginal Police Advisory Forum, and members of the community, the plan aims to ensure better equality, wellbeing and justice outcomes for First Nations people in WA.
WA police will implement Welcome to Country or Acknowledgement of Country before all events; fly the Aboriginal flag at police stations, display newly commissioned artworks and plaques at specific police facilities; acknowledge Aboriginal ownership of Australia; increase Aboriginal employment numbers; introduce a new award for Aboriginal officers both past and present; and attempt to increase staff understanding of the context of cultural protocols and customs.
Commissioner Dawson said he was "taken back" when he realised the Aboriginal flag wasn't being flown at the Police Headquarters in Perth. He said the flying the flag is a "symbol of respect".
Yawuru man and WA Police Aboriginal Affairs Unit Superintendent, Brian Wilkinson, said it’s important to "win the war of ideas" in order for progress to be made between Aboriginal communities and police.
“We have to find a way to bring police officers along to say, there is a better way of policing and working with the Aboriginal community,” he said.
“The police force is a hierarchy, so it’s not gonna be done by command and control. What we need to do is win the hearts and the minds of the broader police force and show that there is a better way forward in working with Aboriginal people to get better outcomes.”
Commissioner Dawson said the most urgent issue at the moment is ensuring protection and services are being provided for some of the state’s "most vulnerable" people.
“Aboriginal persons are subjected to more crimes than non- Aboriginal persons. More Aboriginal people are tied up in our prisons and in our court systems,” he said.
The police are currently working with government, community and non-government organisations to solve some of these issues.
“We can’t solve this overnight, this will be a generational change but it [RAP] will be a very important step moving forward.”