VACCHO welcomes Victorian Chief Commissioner of Police Shane Patton’s apology for police actions that have traumatised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but calls for concrete action to prevent continued harm at the hands of Victorian Police.
While the Commissioner’s acknowledgement of the harm caused by Victorian Police is a welcome and necessary step in the process of truth-telling, it must be followed by changes in police conduct and training. Aboriginal Victorians still report unsafe and unwarranted interactions with law enforcement in Victoria at an alarming rate.
While Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Training was made mandatory for all Victorian police in May 2022, the Commission heard that only 12% of officers have completed the training as of March 2023.
VACCHO remains concerned by the content of police training and practice which has been found to be culturally unsafe, lacking in transparency and accountability, and stubbornly resistant to change.
The training manual presented at yesterday’s Yoorrook Justice Commission hearing presents a deficit narrative to describe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, while encouraging officers to describe people using derogatory terms. There is no mention on whether officers should ask people how they identify and how they might pose this question.
Aboriginal Justice Agreements and the Aboriginal Justice Caucus have been advocating for a change in the training manual for 20 years.
If Victoria Police is truly committed to improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in police care and custody, then concrete action will be taken to ensure no further harm comes to Aboriginal people in police custody.
VACCHO supports the statements of Yoorrook Justice Commission chair, Professor Eleanor Bourke, highlighting the importance of the Commissioner’s apology being on public record.
Professor Bourke called for Victoria Police to respect the culture and human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and families, pointing out the low levels of confidence Indigenous Victorians have in making complaints to the police.
For more information, visit the Yoorrook Justice Commission website.