JSB284 Lecture Week Eight Notes
Policing Diverse Communities
What is culture?
Indigenous culture and policing Indigenous communities.
Current policing approaches.
Policing multicultural communities.
History of multiculturalism.
Current policing approaches.
What is ‘culture’?
A set of shared beliefs (either religious or non-religious), goals, standards, attitudes and ways of
doing things that are specific to a certain ‘group’ of people.
What is ‘Australian culture’?
- Indigenous culture.
- Non-Indigenous culture.
What is Indigenous Culture?
At least 50, 000 years old (some say even 65, 000).
Around 600 different clan groups or ‘nations’ in Australia before colonisation (range of cultural beliefs).
Passing knowledge and rituals from one generation to the next primarily via spoken stories (Dreaming
stories about the creation of the Earth).
Land is the foundation of Aboriginal culture.
Kinship means everyone has a special relationship with one another – each of which holds specific
Language – over 200 languages prior to colonisation, now only around 60 still alive.
Indigenous Australians and Australian Police
Since colonisation (First Fleet onwards), Indigenous culture has fractured and changed.
To understand the problems inherent in policing communities today, we need to understand the history.
The Protectionist Era
Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897 (Qld).
Police acted as ‘protectors’.
Police arrested people and took them to Indigenous reserves.
Also missions, run by the Church (generally Anglican).
Police acted as judge, juror and jailer in remote areas.
1930s onwards – a focus on ‘absorbing’ and ‘assimilating’.
Stolen generations (until mid-late 1900s).
Police often had the role of taking the children away.
1967 onwards, but focus was still on assimilating and ‘absorbing’.
Stolen generations continued
Overarching effort to ‘quash’ Indigenous identity Self determination era:
1972, Whitlam Government introduced ‘self determination’ as national priority
Stolen generations and practice of ‘assimilation’ found to be inconsistent with self-determination
The historical relationship between Indigenous Australians and Australian Police has influenced relationships
between the two groups today.
In your reading, Jeffries and Dillon (2009, 145) stated:
“Indigenous peoples are still subjected to high levels of police regulation, and relationships between
Indigenous peoples and police remain strained by mistrust on both sides and reports of racial
discrimination by police.”
The history of social disadvantage and police brutality against Indigenous populations plays out in today’s
arrest and imprisonment statistics.
In 1995, Queensland police took Indigenous peoples into police custody at a rate of 2327 per 100,000
population as opposed to 121 per 100,000 population for non-Indigenous peoples (Cunneen, 2001, 19).
Between 2008 and 2009, Indigenous peoples over 10 years old were 7.5 times more likely to be charged by
police than non-Indigenous peoples (Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse, 2010, 1).
In 2009, Indigenous adults were 13.9 times more likely than non-Indigenous adults to be imprisoned
(Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse, 2010, 1).
Over-representation is caused by a culmination of various different factors:
Health disparities are huge.
Social and educational disparities are huge.
Can lead to over-policing and prejudicial policing due to negative schemas.
Discretionary decisions by police, but also by other actors throughout the criminal justice system.
Police often feel that they carry the burden of past wrongs;
“Police cannot solve the problem of internal colonialism in Australia but they can be aware that it
forms the context in which they work” (Jennett, 1999, 19).
It isn’t about ‘solving’ the world’s problems, it is about understanding them so as to inform one’s own
Changes to Policing Approaches
Cross-cultural training, education and awareness
Indigenous community policing initiatives
Diversionary programmes for Indigenous offenders
Commitment to improving custodial health and safety
Case Study Queensland
Cultural Advisory Unit
• Cultural appreciation project
• Multicultural Awareness Online Learning Product
• Attend cultural awareness sessions
• Multicultural quick reference guides
• Multicultural action plan
• Police Ethnic Advisory Group
• Cross Cultural Liaison Officers