Apology on behalf of the Western Australia Police Force to Indigenous people

Media release by the WA Police on the 12th July 2018 …


Commissioner Chris Dawson today issued an apology on behalf of the Western Australia Police Force to Indigenous people. The apology came as the WA Police Force marked NAIDOC Week with a flag raising ceremony at Police Headquarters.

“I would like to say sorry to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for our participation in past wrongful actions that have caused immeasurable pain and suffering,” the Commissioner told the attendees.

“As the legislated protectors of Aboriginal people, police played a significant role in contributing to a traumatic history, which continues to reverberate today. I accept that previous laws, practices and policies deeply affected the lives of Aboriginal people, and that police involvement in historical events has led to mistrust in law enforcement and the damaging of our relationship.”

Commissioner Dawson acknowledged we cannot change the past, but can learn from it, pledging to make amends and ensure mistakes are not repeated.

“From this day forward, and in my time as Commissioner, I will take steps to heal historical wounds between police and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” he said. “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.”

Mr Dawson pointed to some of the good work and achievements already in progress, especially in
diverting youth from the justice system. He spoke of the Aboriginal Cadet Program which has trained 45 cadets since 2016, including five graduates who have already become sworn police officers.

“The innate cultural understanding of these constables will help bridge a gap between Aboriginal people and the justice system,” he said. “This will no doubt be life changing for the community members’ lives these officers will touch.”

“We can already see this in action at the Warakurna Multi-Functional Police Facility near the WA/NT border – which is the first entirely Indigenous-run police station in this state. The relationships built by officers in this area have had a positive impact on the community, and I note a drop in the crime rate in that area has also occurred.”

In the spirit of reconciliation, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags were today raised as a permanent feature at Police Headquarters to symbolise and recognise the important role Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people play in Western Australian communities.

The Commissioner’s full speech is available at the Western Australia Police Force Website.
12 July 2018