Twenty-three years after the Tasty nightclub storm, the rainbow which emerged is only getting more vivid at Victoria Police.
On paper, Constable Brenton Erkens-Goss has the perfect background to serve the community. He’s volunteered with the State Emergency Service as a road crash rescuer and has spent countless hours talking to and helping commuters as a Protective Services Officer (PSO).
But policing is about more than just what appears on paper.
“I came out to my family when I was 21 when I had my first relationship,” he said.
“They’ve always been supportive and there was a bit of ‘yeah, we know’ when I told people.”
As one of more than 100 Victoria Police Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and gender diverse and Intersex (LGBTI) Liaison Officers (also known as GLLOs), Const Erkens-Goss uses his personal experience to provide specialised support to a community which still struggles with a high level of under-reporting crime.
“In one case recently I helped a transgender teenager who was experiencing family violence from her father who was withholding her medication,” he explained.
“I mediated with her dad and helped them get counselling.
“Her father simply misunderstood how his daughter was feeling and didn’t understand what she was experiencing, through specialised counselling this has educated him.
“I strongly believe that everyone deserves to be treated equally and be able to live in their own skin without having to hide who they are.”
Victoria Police’s relationship with LGBTI communities hit rock bottom at the Tasty nightclub in 1994, when officers detained 463 patrons for seven hours and subjected them to strip and cavity searches.
In 2014, then-Acting Chief Commissioner Lucinda Nolan formally apologised; ushering in a new era of policing to rebuild and regain trust.
Const Erkens-Goss said it was hard to hear about the disturbing raid as part of the Victoria Police Academy’s training, but ultimately it was indicative of a different time and a different Victoria Police.
“Victoria Police has definitely changed,” he said.
“After the Tasty nightclub, the LGBTI Liaison Officer program was implemented to help build rapport and also to have trained and experienced liaison officers to be there to support victims of crime who may identify as LGBTI (to either sit in an interview, take a statement or investigate hate crime) but also as a knowledge bank to other members who may need some assistance.”
Const Erkens-Goss said Victoria Police’s involvement in events like Pride and Midsumma was far from tokenism, and shows the organisation celebrates diversity and is respectful and there to help.
The Academy also has an LGBTI Student Network and Const Erkens-Goss is working to implement his learnings from the inaugural World LGBT Conference for Criminal Justice Professionals in Amsterdam to increase inclusiveness among members.
“I always wanted to be a police officer,” he said.
“To get some practical experience of the realities of the job I worked as a road crash rescuer, which was very challenging but rewarding.”
Const Erkens-Goss also paced the train platforms as a PSO, which he said was great for gathering intel and helping people, before graduating from the Constable Qualifying Program.
And while it’s still early days, he hopes the next stage in his career is retirement – of his GLLO badge, when the need for specialised support is no longer required.
“We’re not quite there yet,” he said. “But we’re definitely gaining ground.”
Image: Const Erkens-Goss at the Police Academy.
Editorial: Anthea Cannon
Photography: John Pallot
GLLO/LGBTI Liaison Officers
Victoria Police has a network of liaison officers (GLLOs) who provide advice to other police and the community.
The group has more than 100 GLLOs who also attend community events and build relationships with youth and LGBTI networks.
Reviewed 21 February 2019