Grafton Land Council’s Wesley Fernando, Grafton Aboriginal Community liason officer John Skinner, Diane Randall, Detective Chief Inspector Jason Breton, Hunter Region youth command’s Ed Beazley, Richmond Local Area Command’s Grant Martin, Judy Eamens and Patricia Laurie.
Grafton Land Council’s Wesley Fernando, Grafton Aboriginal Community liason officer John Skinner, Diane Randall, Detective Chief Inspector Jason Breton, Hunter Region youth command’s Ed Beazley, Richmond Local Area Command’s Grant Martin, Judy Eamens and Patricia Laurie.

Police work hard at relations

RELATIONS between police and the Aboriginal community on the Lower Clarence have improved out of sight over the past two days. The challenge now is to keep that going.

On Tuesday Aboriginal community leaders met police from the Coffs/Clarence Local Area Command and yesterday they were invited to a meeting in Yamba involving at least 14 senior police from the northern region.

NSW Aboriginal Land Council member and Yaegl tribe descendant Patricia Laurie said the Aboriginal community saw the police moves as very positive.

“There has been very effective communication over the past two days and we want that to continue,” she said.

She said improved relations between the indigenous and non-indigenous communities of the Yamba area required mutual respect and that a lot of ground work was being done to develop that respect.

Residents of Ngaru Village were developing relationships with residents of the neighbouring Sands and Beachside developments, and further partnerships were being developed between the Aboriginal community and the golf and surf clubs.

For example, eight young Aboriginals have joined Yamba Nippers.

“We need to acknowledge we need one another,” Ms Laurie said.

“It makes us all feel a bit safer.”

The meeting yesterday had been organised more than 12 months ago and police used the session to outline policies they had implemented to reduce the Aboriginal community’s contact with the criminal justice system.

One officer, Sergeant Grant Martin of Tabulam police, outlined his efforts with Aboriginal communities in his area.

He said that in his own time, out of uniform and in his own vehicle, he went to one mission and started developing relationships with the community.

He found one of the biggest problems facing residents was having no driver’s licence.

“There were probably about 40 people on long-term licence disqualifications,” he said.

He said that because Tabulam was isolated, it meant those people could not get out.

“They have skills ready to go but can’t work because they haven’t got a licence,” he said.

He has helped implement a number of measures – like getting an RTA computer in the local Land Council office – to help residents get a licence.



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