12 JULY 2018


12 JULY 2018
SUBJECTS: WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson apology to First Nations people in WA, Australian Law Reform Commission ‘Pathways to Justice Report’.

TOM TILLEY: … that’s the WA Police Commissioner apologising to Indigenous Peoples in Western Australia. And there’s a dark history to apologise for, from police removals in the Stolen Generations through to more recent cases like the death in custody of Ms. Dhu. Now just a few hours ago that speech was made, WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson, he stood up at a special NAIDOC ceremony and acknowledged the trauma the police had caused Indigenous Australians.

[AUDIO OF POLICE COMMISSIONER’S SPEECH: I accept our tumultuous history, acknowledge the devastating impact of our actions and take ownership of being part of that problem. Today I would like to commence a new journey in unison with Aboriginal people towards achieving reconciliation. I am committed to working with Aboriginal people to improve our relationships and foster meaningful and positive change for future generations.]

Strong words there from the boss of police in WA. Let’s find out how they were received by Indigenous people in WA. Pat Dodson is a senior Yawuru man from Broome he’s also a Labor Senator. Pat, thanks very much for joining us.

PATRICK DODSON: Thanks for having me.

TILLEY: Does this apology mean anything to you?

DODSON: Look I think it’s a great step by the Police Commissioner of Western Australia to acknowledge historical wrongs. The taking away of children, the deaths in custody tragedies that have occurred and the breaking of trust that is so imbued in our relationship and a need to rebuild that. He’s not taking anything for granted and there has to be a lot of work to rebuild and re-establish relationships and the culture  I think of how police go about their work will also be influenced by the way he wants to see them understand the history. So, quite an enlightening admission of many things and an acceptance of responsibility where they have been party to things. So, I think its good start. Police culture is a hard culture to change. But if someone at the top wants to drive this it’s a very positive message and I congratulate the Police Commissioner for undertaking it.

TILLEY: Alright great to hear your so upbeat what he said today, so you really think it would help change the culture of the police force though? They’ve been trying to do a lot of work already. They already have a strategic policy on police and Aboriginal people, we had a royal commission decades ago into Aboriginal deaths in custody yet they continued. What difference do you think this will really make?
DODSON: Some time ago the current Government asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to do an enquiry into the levels of custody that are still occurring. They delivered a report back in December, I think it was called ‘Pathways to Justice’, they tabled it in March – and they’ve done very little since them to implement the 30 or so recommendations that were made. Things like mandatory sentencing, the need for interpreters, and I see the Premier in Western Australia in the last couple of days support the use of interpreters, but also to look at alternatives to incarceration. Now the Federal Government has got that report. It has done very little about it, in fact it’s done nothing about it, and until there is leadership at the political level across these jurisdictions it’s hard for the police service to do things if they’re bound by laws which are archaic and demonstrably weighed against the interests of Aboriginal people.

TILLEY: And Pat today essentially the Police Commissioner Chris Dawson was admitting that there have been racist actions taken by the WA police. Do you think there are still people who are racist working in the WA police force?

DODSON: Oh look I’ve got no doubt that there are. It’s a big gathering of men and women. They have a culture. Ms Dhu’s example was a good example of that, of people just being ignorant and treating people in a stereotypical way. The racism is inherent. And until people are pulled up and the Commissioner’s leadership here is pulling them up and asking them to take stock of their own attitudes and their own behaviours and to consider how they might feel if someone else treated them the way they treat other people. It doesn’t mean the police go soft on crime or anything. You have to uphold the law but do that in a humane, compassionate and clear manner.  And don’t discriminate.

TILLEY: Pat Dodson great to speak to you. Thanks so much for joining us.

DODSON: Thank you very much for the opportunity.


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