VicPol Corporate

Victoria Police has demonstrated a commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inclusion through various initiatives over the last twenty years.

It is important to acknowledge the work we have done to help establish the building blocks of a more culturally safe and capable organisation.

The Aboriginal Inclusion Strategy and Action Plan 2018–2021 provided a sound basis for making more substantial progress.

We recognise that we have significant work to do and that a greater organisational focus is needed.

Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Training (ACAT)

Objectives

  • Improve the relationship between police and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Victoria.
  • Improve engagement with non-Aboriginal employees to understand the lived experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • Improve and promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workplace cultural safety and inclusion.
  • Increase the attraction and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees.
  • Improve cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when accessing Victoria Police services.
  • Develop the skills of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees to contribute to ACAT content.
  • Address the commitment to the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework – Goal 17: Aboriginal Victorians feel safe and connected. Measure 17.1.1 Proportion of police officers who have received Aboriginal cultural awareness training.
  • Encourage Victoria Police employees who have chosen to not previously identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, to feel culturally safe to do so.

Steps

  • The ACAT package was developed by an Aboriginal consulting firm and then strengthened by Victoria Police Aboriginal employees.
  • It is designed for face-to-face delivery but can be adapted to be presented in an online format.
  • In March 2022 ACAT was made mandatory for all police and Protective Services Officers (PSOs) and for Police Custody Officers (PCOs) in March 2023.

Organisational impact

  • Organisational engagement in genuine conversations about the true experiences and history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Contribution to a culturally safe and inclusive workplace for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees.
  • Enabling informed responses by Victoria Police employees to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
  • A demonstrated increase in the personal knowledge of Victoria Police employees of the true history and culture of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • As of 30 April 2023, Victoria Police has had 6,615 participants in ACAT.

Aboriginal people are at greater risk of victimisation than the wider community because of entrenched disadvantage associated with inter-generational trauma.2

Interactions with the criminal justice system are strongly associated with this trauma and contribute to low levels of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities trust and confidence in police.

Victoria Police’s ACAT acknowledges the historical role police played in past government policies and practices that negatively impacted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and aims to establish and strengthen the relationship between police and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The ACAT package was developed by Nyuka Wara Consulting, and led by cultural consultant and educator, Eddie Moore, an Aboriginal man with family links to the Wemba Wemba people from Swan Hill, the Palawa people from Cape Barren Island and the Wotjobaluk people from the Wimmera in Victoria.

Victoria Police Aboriginal employees have added their own contributions to strengthen and localise the package. Aboriginal employees began delivering ACAT to the Victoria Police workforce in 2020.

ACAT content is strengthened by truth telling videos provided by Aboriginal Elders and stakeholders from across Victoria who give their perspectives on the themes of the package.

ACAT provides an historical context of the experienced trauma of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the impact that that previous government policies had on their culture, communities and lives. The training focuses on addressing unconscious bias and building greater levels of cultural awareness.

The development of ACAT highlights the importance of working in partnership with Aboriginal communities to enhance culturally competent policing responses.

The training demonstrates Victoria Police’s commitment to the VAAF and the Aboriginal Justice Agreement Phase 4.

With ACAT becoming mandatory for all police, PSOs and PCOs the state-wide rollout of ACAT has transitioned to a new model of delivery by the Divisional Training Officer Network with the assistance of Victoria Police Aboriginal employees.

As at 30 April 2023, 6,615 Victoria Police employees had participated in ACAT.

A yarn with Laurie Marks, proud Wotjobaluk and Gunai Kurnai man and first Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer (ACLO)

  • The ACLO Program was implemented in 2005 to address Recommendation 231 of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, to strengthen relationships and facilitate communication between Victoria Police and Aboriginal people across the state.
  • When Laurie joined Victoria Police in 2005, he became the first ACLO to be appointed.
  • Laurie is currently the ACLO at the Proactive Policing Unit in Morwell.

When did you become aware of the ACLO program?

The police Aboriginal Liaison Officer in Mildura, who started the ACLO Program came to speak with Aboriginal communities across Victoria and I was part of those discussions.

At the time I was a Youth Justice worker in Gippsland, but I had experience in the courts too as I was one of the first Aboriginal bail justices.

Why did you want to become an ACLO?

I wanted to see a change in the way my community interacted with police.

We can work well together if we have a shared understanding.

There is mistrust with police inherited from past government decisions. But it is important to break down barriers. I start every day with a positive attitude and a smile.

What impact does the ACLO program have on the organisation and community?

The community feels comfortable talking to the ACLO, as there is open and honest communication.

It is a fine line to be part of the community, as well as represent the police.

It takes time to break down barriers.

But there are good relationships between the community and police.

How has the ACLO role changed?

I remember the first week was busy, meeting with many Aboriginal organisations and then needing to plan for what the role was going to do.

I had to work out what the role should and could be.

This was the beginning of the ACLO Program that has continued influencing policy, process and roles through to today.

Once we got more people on board, I led the training and development for the new ACLOs in Shepparton, Warrnambool and Bairnsdale.

How can Victoria Police improve?

The organisation needs to increase connection to the community. This must be a continuing priority.

We also need to get better at retaining knowledge, sharing stories, learnings and local police ensuring that ACLOs and Aboriginal employees are part of the decision-making.

Victoria Police School-Based Traineeship Program

The School-Based Traineeship Program is designed for students completing Years 10, 11 or 12 who are interested in a career with Victoria Police.

Victoria Police, Skillinvest and Jobs Victoria jointly created this program to provide useful work experience and insight into a policing career.

From 2018–2022, 95 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander school-based trainees participated in the program.

Aiden's story – my journey from school-based trainee to Victoria Police employee

While I was at school, I had the opportunity to do a school-based traineeship at the Moe Police Station one day each week.

This helped me to gain a Certificate 3 in Business Administration and make some good relationships.

I became a much better person through my knowledge and experience along the way.

I was nominated for the Koorie Student of the year at the Victorian State Training Awards, and I was runner-up top four from across the state.

After the program, I was successful in gaining a business administration job and I left school early.

Within a short period of time, I received a call from Skillinvest about the Youth Cadetship at Victoria Police, applied and was successful in gaining a role at the Priority and Safer Communities Division.

During the two years as a cadet, I gained a Certificate 4 in Government.

2 Behrendt, L., 2001. Genocide: the distance between law and life. Aboriginal History, 25, pp.132-147.

Reviewed 30 May 2023

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