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'Entrenched racism' in NSW Police harming young people, Indigenous leader says
Mar 29, 2017 Category: General

'Entrenched racism' in NSW Police harming young people, Indigenous leader says


ABC Broken Hill
By Declan Gooch and Dugald Saunders


Photo: The chair of the Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly, Des Jones. (Supplied: Maari Ma Health)


The chairman of an Indigenous body in far west New South Wales has criticised the role of police in the region, saying they are contributing to social disadvantage.

Former NSW Aboriginal Land Council representative and Murrawarri man Des Jones has taken up the head role at the Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly, which covers most of the state's west.

Mr Jones said his own personal dealings with police and his experience with others had highlighted major problems with the way officers interacted with Aboriginal communities.

He said the force was adding to the problems experienced by Indigenous youth.

"There's entrenched racism in the police force," Mr Jones said.

"There's a culture in the police force that they all look after one another. There's now a culture where they'll suppress and oppress young people.

"They'll also try and get the young people to admit to things that they haven't done. I've witnessed this myself."

Mr Jones, a resident of Wentworth near Mildura, said part of his role would be helping to empower communities to solve social justice issues.

"That's the first step, is to get enough resources to make sure that our communities can defend themselves in these sort of cases," he said.

"But also have strategies to put in place so we can prevent a lot of social issues that are arising on a daily or a monthly basis.

"There's got to be a starting point, and I hope my appointment is a starting point."

POLICE KEEN TO WORK WITH INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY

Western Regional Commander Geoff McKechnie said he disagreed there was racism within the police force.

"I'm very confident that the command out there are operating effectively, and I think there may have been some misunderstandings by the sound of it," he said.

"This is certainly the first time I have heard this level of adverse comment.

"I will certainly talk to Des and see if I can find out what the specifics are."

Superintendent Paul Smith, from the Barrier Local Area Command, said he would be happy to work with Mr Jones and the regional assembly in the far west.

He said there had been significant progress in improving relations between the Indigenous community and police in recent years.

"I've worked out in the far west over my career on a number of occasions dating back to the early '90s, and I think most definitely we work a lot better with the communities than we have in the past," Superintendent Smith said.

"But there's always room for improvement, and we're certainly keen to work towards that.

"Not just the police — I think all government agencies strive for that."