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Pathways to police force for Indigenous youth

IPROWD was first developed by Peter Gibbs, a Gomeroi man from outback NSW whose sister Fiona died in police custody in 1997. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda spoke at the graduation ceremony about the need to address the “unfinished business” of improving the relationship between the police force and Indigenous Australians and stated that the delivery of the IPROWD program at Eora College was “leading the way” in achieving this.

Superintendent Luke Freudenstein, Redfern Local Area Commander, also spoke about the huge impact of past IPROWD graduates joining the police at Redfern. “They have made an amazing difference with the community”, he stated, adding that he aims to triple the number of Aboriginal police officers at the station.

The graduates gave heartfelt and moving presentations at the ceremony, as they talked about their personal stories and experience being an IPROWD student. Resilience throughout adversity was a strong theme in all of the speeches. The students, many of whom travelled extraordinary distances to attend the program, spoke about how welcoming the Redfern community had been to them and their positive experiences with local organisations Tribal Warrior and the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence.

Highlights of the course that were mentioned included academic tutoring, fitness training and instruction about policing practices. Graduate Dylan Dunn talked about the supportive friendships that were formed between the students, saying he had “met so many great people and role models”. Several students also mentioned improving their communication and leadership skills, as Anna Gaydon stated the program gave her “a lot of confidence”.

Another common element to the speeches was the desire to help community. There was a strong sense of empowerment and pride in Indigenous culture throughout the ceremony, as the graduates talked about their determination to create positive changes in their communities. Kalina Stepto said the program had “changed their lives” but also gave the ability to “change the lives of others”. Increasing Aboriginal representation in the police force is a major step forward, and as student Isaiah Dawe said for these young graduates the “journey has only just begun”.

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