Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Aboriginal cops -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

HEATHER EWART, PRESENTER: It's an ongoing concern that Indigenous Australians are over-represented
in prisons right around the country. Aborigines make up around two per cent of Australia's
population, but number 25 per cent of prison inmates. And few ever aim to become police officers.
To address this imbalance, a training program's been deployed in NSW to put Aboriginal students
from regional towns on the path to a police career. Kirstin Murray reports.

JOSHUA SCHARKIE, NSW POLICE: As soon as we got the call to form up, your body just straight, your
chest poked out (inaudible) proud, we started marchin' slowly along with the drums. When you throw
that hat up in the air, you launched it because, pride, that's what you were feeling that day.

KIRSTIN MURRAY, REPORTER: Achieving the title of Probationary Constable takes sacrifice, commitment
and hard work, but for some there can be added obstacles to overcome.

JOSHUA SCHARKIE: I'm the first person in my family to become a police officer, the first sibling of
my mum's to graduate high school, the first person to go to university in my family. No-one in my
family had achieved anything like I have so far.

KIRSTIN MURRAY: Joshua Scharkie's one of a handful of Aboriginal officers now serving on the
frontline, but the 20-year-old says it was an unusual career choice for someone like him to make.

JOSHUA SCHARKIE: I grew up in a neighbourhood, (inaudible) Housing Commission. I didn't know many
Koori coppers. Actually I didn't know any. ... The mentality down in my area was, "If a copper
comes, you're gonna get arrested."

KIRSTIN MURRAY: There's a similar attitude in many Aboriginal communities where the local force is
mostly white and from out of town. The tension that creates plays out day after day.

Witnessing what can happen when relations break down led Peter Gibbs to devote the last 14 years
for campaign for change. In his eyes, the problem's obvious.

PETER GIBBS: If we had a significant Aboriginal population there, why don't we have a significant
part of the police force Aboriginal as well?

KIRSTIN MURRAY: Back in 1987, Peter Gibbs was living in the outback NSW town of Brewarrina when the
death in custody of Lloyd Boney sparked a riot. Sadly, it seems not enough was learnt from the
Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody that followed. Just 10 years later, another
Aborigine would die in a cell here. It was Peter Gibb's sister.

PETER GIBBS: I remember the phone call. They said, "There's been an incident at the Brewarrina
Police Station and your sister's on life support." The shock just - that for me was something I'll
never be able to forget.

KIRSTIN MURRAY: The day Fiona Gibbs was laid to rest was the day her family made a life-changing

PETER GIBBS: We were asked whether we really wanted to take on the police that night and to start a
riot, and all we had to do was give the order. And my dad and I stood shoulder-to-shoulder and
informing the people that's not what we want from Fiona's death. And we made a commitment then that
we would get a positive out of her tragedy.

KIRSTIN MURRAY: This is the legacy of Fiona Gibbs: a classroom full of Aboriginal students training
to become police officers.

STEVE BRADSHAW, ASST. COMMISSIONER, NSW POLICE: I haven't given up on Peter Gibb's original
suggestion that the only way you can really bring people out of serious disadvantage is by
providing employment. And if we can produce role models of police from these communities, that is
going to encourage other young people to join the police, because 53 per cent of our juvenile
justice institutions are full of young Aboriginal people and a lot of 'em come from western NSW and
that's a tragedy.

PETER GIBBS: I've got the vision that in 20 years' time in western NSW we'll have a police force
dominated by Aboriginal people. Now wouldn't that be something.

KIRSTIN MURRAY: An 18-week course run by NSW Police and TAFE helps students from regional
communities prepare for the gruelling training of the academy.

TROY GRANT, NSW POLICE: The course is a bridging program. It's to provide the opportunity, the
literacy, the academic skills that they need to have to enter the NSW Police training course.

HANNAH WILLIAMS, STUDENT: All I can say is it's one big emotional rollercoaster. One minute you can
be happy and then just break down in tears. I've learnt that I'm strong and that no-one can tell me
that I can't do anything and that I'm gonna make a really good cop and I'm gonna do it.

KIRSTIN MURRAY: Some students have travelled from the most remote corners of NSW to be here. Others
have left full-time jobs and families at home to follow their dreams.

AARON COOPER, STUDENT: My wife - it's a hard one. ... To my wife it means a lot, but it also gives
my kids a really good future as well. And hopefully I can be a positive role model to 'em.

TROY GRANT, NSW POLICE: Right at the beginning of this course, you guys were given a shirt. But
that's your first badge. That's the first step or your first mark of being a role model, being a
contributor to your community. It starts with that shirt that you're wearing and it makes its way
all the way up to this shirt and that badge there.

KIRSTIN MURRAY: Inspector Troy Grant understands the positive impact that can be made from having
locals police their own communities. As a junior officer he was posted to Brewarrina five years
after Lloyd Boney died, and with tensions still running hot, he himself became the victim of

TROY GRANT: It was terrible. There was no relationship and I think it was us and them, without
question. ... And unless you were part of that community, you're really behind the eight ball.

KIRSTIN MURRAY: Since the course began in Dubbo three years ago, nine students have gone on to join
the police force. And there'll be more officers to come, with every member of this class making

PETER GIBBS: You've got all these emotions sort of - you've got elation, you've got sadness. I'm
certainly proud because people are making a decision for a police career and then it sort of
reinforces the decision we made that day to put our efforts into something positive.

GRADUATING NSW POLICE OFFICER: I'm a proud Nungunee (phonetic spelling) man. I'm 29 years old.

GRADUATING NSW POLICE OFFICER II: I'm a proud Neabar (phonetic spelling) woman from Bourke.

JOSHUA SCHARKIE: I'm a proud Kamilaroi man and a student of the first 2008 Wipeout program. I would
like to say to Peter and Assistant Commissioner Bradshaw, that your legacy is clearly evident as 14
proud students graduate today. Thankyou very much.

KIRSTIN MURRAY: The aim is for graduates to return home to serve their own towns and that's
something Joshua Scharkie's looking forward to.

JOSHUA SCHARKIE: I want to possibly go back as a sergeant 'cause you can run your own station in a
country station. ... It's where it's at. There's nothing better.

HEATHER EWART: Kirstin Murray reporting.