Anangu Lands: recruiting Community Constables

First posted on 4 February 2012 under APY Lands, Employment & Yalata.
This article has been updated and archived.
Tags: policing

Summary

South Australia Police receives funding to employ 12 Community Constables on the APY Lands and in Yalata.

As of 4 November 2011, nine of these positions were vacant (75%). In one community, the local Community Constable position had been empty for over eight years.[i]

In 2011, SA Police conducted an evaluation of the Community Constable Program.[ii] In November 2011, the Commissioner of Police approved the evaluation’s recommendations. A strategy to address the recommendations was, reportedly, completed the following month.[iii]

On 19 January 2012, the Minister for Police (Hon Jennifer Rankine MP) advised the Paper Tracker that the recommendations focused on “employment conditions, training requirements and providing opportunities for Aboriginal Liaison Officers to qualify for Community Constable positions”. The Minister also advised that “the process of implementation and reassessing strategies” was “ongoing.”[iv]

On 16 February 2012, the Paper Tracker asked the Minister for a copy of the recommendations and associated implementation strategy.[v] More than five months later, neither of these documents had been provided.

On 19 July 2012, the Paper Tracker obtained a copy of the 2011 evaluation report after SA Police released this document in response to a Freedom of Information request.[vi] In an accompanying letter, SA Police contradicted earlier advice, noting that strategies to implement the report’s recommendations were “still in the developmental stage” and had not yet been approved for implementation.[vii]

As of 20 July 2012, 7 of the 10 Community Constable positions on the APY Lands remained unfilled.[viii]

The Paper Trail

Introduction

The role of an Anangu Community Constable is “to preserve the peace” in a particular community by:

  • providing the first line of policing,
  • intervening in the early stages of incidents before they escalate,
  • providing a police presence at community gatherings, and
  • utilising problem solving approaches which take account of the interplay of cultural factors, including kinship obligations.[ix]

On the APY Lands, the first Community Constables – then called “Aboriginal Police Aides” – were appointed in 1986.[x] By the early 1990s, similar positions had also been established in Yalata.[xi]

Historically, Anangu communities were invited to nominate individuals for training and appointment as their local Community Constables.[xii]

Community Constables in Yalata

In 2008, the South Australian Coroner conducted an inquest into the 2005 death of an Anangu man at Yalata.

In his findings, the Coroner commended the efforts of Yalata’s two Community Constables, commenting:

It is clear that the work of the Community Constables in this community is absolutely crucial.[xiii]

The Coroner also drew attention to the evidence of two sworn police officers who had spoken “very positively” about the work of the Community Constables. Indeed, one of these officers had acknowledged that without their assistance:

he would have been unable to carry out his daily duties and certainly would have been unable to achieve as much as he did in eliminating petrol sniffing.[xiv]

The Coroner concluded:

it is clear that [SA Police] is making a tremendous effort to ensure that the Yalata Community is properly served by a strong police presence, it is absolutely essential that this commitment be maintained and, if at all possible, strengthened.[xv]

Notwithstanding this conclusion, within two years both of Yalata’s Community Constable positions were vacant.[xvi]

As of 4 November 2011, one of the positions had been vacant for more than two years and the other for around 12 months.[xvii]

APY Policing: Community Constables and sworn police officers

In 2002, there were 12 Community Constables working on the APY Lands.[xviii]

That year, the State Coroner concluded:

The [APY] Community Constable Scheme is a worthwhile initiative, and could be improved with further training. However the scheme has significant limitations because of cultural constraints, and the fact that the Community Constables are members of very small communities. Their strengths lie in diffusing acute situations, and acting as liaison and intelligence officers.[xix]

As part of his findings, the Coroner recommended that SA Police establish sworn officer positions on the APY Lands, in part, “to provide an appropriate degree of training, support, and supervision of Community Constables.”[xx]

In February 2004, SA Police created six permanent sworn officer positions on the APY Lands.[xxi]  In subsequent years, another 13 positions were announced.[xxii]

The establishment of a permanent sworn police presence on the APY Lands coincided with a reduction in the overall number of APY Community Constable positions (from 12 to 10).[xxiii]

Unexpectedly, it also coincided with a decrease in SA Police’s ability to recruit and retain Community Constables. Since early 2005, despite “ongoing efforts to fill the vacant positions,” more than half of the positions have usually been empty.[xxiv]

New policing roles for APY Anangu

In December 2006, SA Police reported that it was considering redirecting part of the salaries for the vacant APY Community Constable positions into other part-time roles.[xxv]

Fifteen months later, four Anangu completed a week of training to become “Police Aboriginal Liaison Officers.” A media release issued at that time indicated that these Officers would:

combine their new found knowledge and their local backgrounds to build closer relationships between APY communities and police. In doing so they aim to improve public safety and provide support for families relating to personal safety. The Police Aboriginal Liaison Officers will assist Community Constables and Police Officers on the APY Lands with police matters and crime prevention.[xxvi]

On 31 March 2008, SA Police advised the Paper Tracker that the new Liaison Officer positions had been set up to “complement the Community Constable Officers” and that “there has been no reduction” to the 10 Community Constable positions.[xxvii]

The following year, in July 2009, SA Police advised that there were currently four Community Constables and two Aboriginal Liaison Officers working in APY communities.[xxviii] It also noted that the completion of new police stations at Amata, Mimili and Pukatja would “provide the opportunity to consolidate employment of community members.”[xxix]

On 11 May 2010, SA Police advised that while there were “still two current” Liaison Officers on the APY Lands, neither had been “officially utilised in the first quarter of 2010.”[xxx]

The advice also stated:

Currently, as a result of work within communities by local police, a number of applications for Community Constable positions have been received and are being processed to selection…

Due to the current level of interest it is possible that all vacant Community Constable positions may be filled. This will effectively remove the need to employ further [Liaison Officers]. If this was to occur, the continuing employment of existing [Liaison Officers] would be reviewed.[xxxi]

During 2010, SA Police received 15 applications from people interested in working as a Community Constable on the APY Lands.[xxxii] Notwithstanding this interest, the following year, the number of Anangu employed as Community Constables on the APY Lands did not increase.

Policing in Kaltjiti

The APY community of Kaltjiti is home to more than 200 Anangu. For a number of years, its Council Members have been asking for a stronger police presence in their community. For example in April 2010, the Council asked SA Police to:

  • investigate building and staffing a new police station in Kaltjiti, and
  • employ a young male community member as its Community Constable.[xxxiii]

Click here for a copy of the community’s letter to SA Police (file size: 36KB)

In October 2010, the Council raised similar concerns in a letter to the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (Hon Grace Portolesi MP):[xxxiv]

Click here for a copy of the letter to Minister Portolesi (file size: 40KB)

The Council’s concerns remained unaddressed when the Paper Tracker met with the Council’s Chairperson in August 2011.[xxxv]

As of early 2012, the Kaltjiti Community Constable position had been vacant for more than eight years (i.e. since August 2003).[xxxvi]

Vacant positions

On 4 November 2011, SA Police advised the Hon Robert Brokenshire MLC (Family First) that:

  • two Community Constables were currently employed at Ernabella/Pukatja and one at Mimili,
  • the remaining 7 APY Community Constable positions were vacant,
  • four of these positions had been empty since May 2007 or earlier,
  • both of the Yalata positions were also vacant, and
  • “in the past 18 months approximately 20 (twenty) people from the APY Lands and Yalata [had] expressed an interest” in becoming a Community Constable.[xxxvii]

More than seven months later, on 20 July 2012, SA Police advised the Paper Tracker that none of the 7 vacant APY Community Constable positions had been filled.[xxxviii]

The future of the Community Constable Program

Almost two years earlier, in August 2010, the South Australian Government’s Sustainable Budget Commission had recommended reducing “the number of Community Constables positions located in “country and metropolitan areas from 36 to 12.”[xxxix]

Shortly afterwards, the Paper Tracker was contacted by a number of people who were concerned that all of the Community Constables positions located in Anangu communities may have been under review.

Throughout 2011, the Paper Tracker endeavoured – with assistance from several Members of Parliament – to confirm that SA Police was formally reviewing the Community Constable program and to what end.

Obtaining clear information on the review proved difficult.

On 28 February 2011, SA Police appeared before the SA Parliament’s Budget and Finance Committee. On that occasion, the Hon Tammy Franks MLC (Australian Greens) asked SA Police to confirm that it had “commenced a review of the Community Constable scheme.”[xl]

In reply, the Commissioner of Police (Mal Hyde) stated that he did not think a “whole scale review” of the scheme was underway but indicated that this would be checked.[xli] More than 10 months later, it appeared that SA Police had not provided the Parliamentary Committee with any further advice on this matter.[xlii]

On 23 March 2011, Mr Steven Marshall MP (Member for Norwood) asked SA Police – under the Freedom of Information Act 1991 (SA) – for “a copy of all documents created between 1 July 2010 and 18 March 2011 relating to the establishment and conduct of any review or assessment of the Community Constable program.”[xliii]

In a reply dated 9 May 2011, SA Police’s FOI Officer advised Mr Marshall that she had located two documents “associated with the wording of [his] FOI application”. These documents were described as follows:

  • Police Aboriginal Liaison Officer and Community Constable Program – APY and Yalata Lands Evaluations December 2010″, and
  • “Police Aboriginal Liaison Officer and Community Constable Program – APY and Yalata Lands Evaluation March 2011”.[xliv]

The Officer further advised Mr Marshall that access to these documents was refused for a number of reasons including “that the evaluation report had not been completed as this time.”[xlv]

Click here to download a copy of the full advice (file size: 258KB)

On 6 April 2011, the Paper Tracker wrote to the Commissioner of Policeseeking information on the “ongoing review of the Community Constable Program”, including the date on which the review commenced and its terms of reference.[xlvi]

In a reply dated 19 April 2011, Commissioner Hyde wrote:

[SA Police] regularly reviews and evaluates its business processes as part of a continuous improvement approach to service delivery.

Internal business practice review information is not released externally as a standard practice, as it contributes to, but is not the only factor involved in [SA Police’s] use of knowledge, innovation and operational intelligence in continual service delivery improvement.

We can advise you however, that any changes to [SA Police’s] services as a result of this review will be available to you as an interested stakeholder, in the usual way, through direct engagement, collaborative partnerships, community forums and the media.[xlvii]

On 28 November 2011, the Australian newspaper published an article in which the following SA Police advice was directly quoted:

A review of the Community Constable program on the [APY] and Yalata Lands is underway and a report will be presented for the commissioner’s consideration in due course.

The review will consider the roles required, given the significant increase in police numbers and the ongoing difficultly to identify suitable applicants.[xlviii]

Ministerial advice (2012)

On 20 December 2011, the Paper Tracker asked South Australia’s Minister for Police (Hon Jennifer Rankine MP) for some information on the review of the Community Constable program as reported in The Australian newspaper article.[xlix]

In a reply dated 19 January 2012, the Minister advised the Paper Tracker that SA Police had:

commenced an evaluation of the Community Constable Program in April 2011 to determine if it met community needs and establish whether changes could be implemented to improve customer service delivery.

As a result of the evaluation, several recommendations were presented to and approved by the Commissioner of Police in November 2011. These recommendations related to employment conditions, training requirements and providing opportunities for Aboriginal Liaison Officers to qualify for Community Constable positions. I am advised a strategy to address those recommendations was completed in December 2011 and the process of implementation and reassessing strategies is ongoing.[l]

Click here to read the Minister’s full advice (file size: 265KB)

On 16 February 2012, the Paper Tracker asked the South Australian Minister for Police (Hon Jennifer Rankine MP) for a copy of the Community Constable Program’s evaluation recommendations and associated implementation strategy.[li]

On 27 February 2012, the Minister’s office acknowledged this request and indicated that a response would be provided “as soon as possible.”[lii]

On 15 March 2012, the Paper Tracker received a second letter from the Minister’s office. It read (in part):

I would like to assure you that your correspondence is receiving attention. Further information is being gathered regarding the matters as requested and you will receive a response as soon as possible.[liii]

As of 31 July 2012, this response had not been provided.

Freedom of Information request (added 31 July 2012)

On 19 July 2012, the Paper Tracker received a copy of the evaluation report that the Hon Robert Brokenshire MLC (Family First) had obtained under a Freedom of Information (FoI) request.[liv]

The report is dated June 2011 and recommends, among other things, that the job description for Community Constables positions on the APY Lands and in Yalata be “adjusted” to ensure these staff no longer undertake any “first response duties.”[lv]

Click here to download a copy of the full report (file size: 878KB)

As part of his FoI request, Mr Brokenshire had also sought “a copy of any strategies South Australia Police [had] developed … to address the evaluation’s recommendations.” [lvi]

In response to this part of the request, SA Police advised Mr Brokenshire that it was:

working across several specialist policing areas to develop relevant strategies based on the evaluation’s recommendations and the current environment existing on the Lands. These are still in the developmental stage and are yet to be considered by executive and approved for implementation.[lvii]

The Paper Tracker notes that this statement is at odds with the SA Police Minister’s advice of January 2012 in which she noted that “a strategy to address” the recommendations had been “completed in December 2011” and that “the process of implementation and reassessing strategies” was “ongoing.”[lviii]

This article was last updated in July 2012. It has been archived and will no longer be updated. It will, however, remain accessible online as a source of background information for anyone wishing to undertake further research on this issue. Information included in the article was current at the time it was archived. Keep in mind, however, that Ministerial changes and names of departments, among other things, may have since changed.


[i] Gentgall, T (SAPOL). 4 November 2011. Letter to Hon. R. Brokenshire MLC.

[ii] Boyer, B. 19 January 2012. Letter to Rev. P. McDonald from the Office of the South Australian Minister for Police (Hon J. Rankine MP).

[iii] Boyer, B. 19 January 2012. Letter to Rev. P. McDonald from the Office of the South Australian Minister for Police (Hon J. Rankine MP).

[iv] Boyer, B. 19 January 2012. Letter to Rev. P. McDonald from the Office of the South Australian Minister for Police (Hon J. Rankine MP).

[v] McDonald, P. 16 February 2012. Letter to Hon J. Rankine.

[vi] This copy of the report was provided to the Paper Tracker by the Hon Robert Brokenshire MLC (Family First) to whom SA Police had released a copy of the report on 26 June 2012 (see: Gentgall, T (SAPOL). 26 June 2012, Letter to Hon R. Brokenshire MLC).

[vii] Gentgall, T (SAPOL). 26 June 2012, Letter to Hon R. Brokenshire MLC, p2.

[viii] Yeomans, A (SAPOL). 20 July 2012. Email to J. Nicholls.

[ix] Osborn, T. 11 March 2004, “Delivery of Police Services, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands,” Project Report, South Australia Police, p20. See also:  SA Police, March 2011. “Strategy for Engaging Aboriginal Communities: 2011-2014”, page 13-14.

[x] See Koleff, F. 19 June 1986, “Police set date for first Aboriginal officer plan.” Also: “First recruits here for police aide program,” 7 October 1986, Advertiser, p5.

[xi] See: Parliament of Australia. November 1994, Justice under scrutiny: report of the Inquiry into the implementation by Governments of the Recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, p193.

[xii] Parliament of South Australia, 2004, Report of the Select Committee on Pitjantjatjara Land Rights, pp218, p39.

[xiii] Johns, M. 18 December 2008. Finding of Inquest into the death of Kunmunara Gibson, Paragraph 5.19

[xiv] Johns, M. 18 December 2008. Finding of Inquest into the death of Kunmunara Gibson, Paragraph 5.10 and 5.14.

[xv] Johns, M. 18 December 2008. Finding of Inquest into the death of Kunmunara Gibson, Paragraph 6.4.

[xvi] Gentgall, T (SAPOL). 4 November 2011. Letter to Hon. R. Brokenshire MLC.

[xvii] Gentgall, T (SAPOL). 4 November 2011. Letter to Hon. R. Brokenshire MLC.

[xviii] Chivell, K. 2002, Coronial Inquests findings for Thompson, Hunt and Ken, Section 11.19.

[xix] Chivell, K. 2002, Coronial Inquests findings for Thompson, Hunt and Ken, Executive Summary, Paragraph 23..

[xx] Chivell, K. 2002, Coronial Inquests findings for Thompson, Hunt and Ken, Section 8.12.

[xxi] South Australia Police, 2005, South Australia Police Annual Report 2005/05, p5.

[xxii] Weatherill, J. 2 July 2007, Hansard, House of Assembly, Estimates Committee A, Parliament of South Australia, p129. Also: Rann, M. 6 May 2008, “APY Lands Inquiry,” Hansard, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia, p3336.

[xxiii] This reduction occurred in 2004 after SA Police completed a review of police services on the APY Lands (see: Osborn, T. 11 March 2004, “Delivery of Police Services, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands,” Project Report, South Australia Police).

[xxiv] For example, as of August 2006, only four of the ten community constable positions on the APY Lands were filled (see “Progress on the APY Lands” report, August 2006, Department of the Premier and Cabinet, p7).

[xxv] “South Australia Police Briefing Paper,” December 2006, p3. (Attached as Annexure 2 to Valentin, J. March 2007, An Independent Assessment of Policing in Remote Indigenous Communities for the Government of Australia). Also: “Progress on the APY Lands” report, November 2007, Department of the Premier and Cabinet, p8.

[xxvi] Weaver, M. March 2008, “Police Aboriginal Liaison Officers,” Media Release.

[xxvii] Weaver, M. 31 March 2008, Email to J. Nicholls.

[xxviii] Barton, G (SAPOL). 21 July 2009. Letter to Rev P. McDonald.

[xxix] Barton, G (SAPOL). 21 July 2009. Letter to Rev P. McDonald.

[xxx] Barton, G. (SAPOL). 11 May 2010. Letter to Rev. P. McDonald.

[xxxi] Barton, G. (SAPOL). 11 May 2010. Letter to Rev. P. McDonald.

[xxxii] Smith, N (SAPOL). 28 January 2011. Letter to Rev. P. McDonald.

[xxxiii] Stevens, R. 28 April 2010. Letter to M. Hyde (SAPOL).

[xxxiv] Stevens, R. 8 November 2010. Letter to Hon. G. Portolesi MP.

[xxxv] The Chairperson (Robert Stevens) raised the issues of community-based policing with the Paper Tracker’s Jonathan Nicholls on the afternoon of 30 August 2011. This meeting was held in the Kaltjiti Community Office.

[xxxvi] Yeomans, A (SAPOL). 2 February 2012. Email to J. Nicholls

[xxxvii] Gentgall, T (SAPOL). 4 November 2011. Letter to Hon. R. Brokenshire MLC.

[xxxviii] Yeomans, A (SAPOL). 20 July 2012. Email to J. Nicholls.

[xxxix] Government of South Australia. August 2010. Budget Improvement Measures: Restoring Sustainable State Finance, Second report by the Sustainable Budget Commission, p274.

[xl] Franks, T. 28 February 2011. Transcript of the meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee, Legislative Council, Parliament of South Australia, p453-4.

[xli] Franks, T. 28 February 2011. Transcript of the meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee, Legislative Council, Parliament of South Australia, p454.

[xlii] On 30 May 2011, SA Police provided the Committee with answers to the questions it had taken on notice during the 28 February 2011 meeting and associated information request. No information on the review of the Community Constable program appears in that document. (see: Hyde, M (SAPOL). 30 May 2011. Letter to R. Lucas, Budget and Finance Committee, Parliament of South Australia). As of 31 December 2011, no additional SA Police advice on this matter had been posted to the Committee’s website.

[xliii] Marshall, S. March 2011. Freedom of Information application lodged with SA Police. See also: Brown, T. 23 March 2011. Email to J. Nicholls from the Officer of Mr Steven Marshall MP

[xliv] Gentgall, T (SAPOL). 9 May 2011. Letter to S. Marshall MP.

[xlv] Gentgall, T (SAPOL). 9 May 2011. Letter to S. Marshall MP.

[xlvi] Nicholls, J. 6 April 2011. Letter to M. Hyde (SAPOL)

[xlvii] Hyde, M (SAPOL). 19 April 2011. Letter to J. Nicholls.

[xlviii] Puddy, R. 28 November 2011 “”Review as police jobs in APY Lands left vacant”, The Australian. Available online at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/review-as-police-jobs-in-apy-lands-left-vacant/story-fn59niix-1226207508102 Accessed: 2 February 2012.

[xlix] McDonald, P. 20 December 2011. Letter to Hon. J. Rankine MP

[l] Boyer, B. 19 January 2012. Letter to Rev. P. McDonald from the Office of the South Australian Minister for Police.

[li] McDonald, P. 16 February 2012. Letter to Hon J. Rankine.

[lii] Hicks, M. 27 February 2012. Letter to Mr. P. McDonald from the Office of the Minister for Police.

[liii] Hicks, M. 27 February 2012. Letter to Mr. P. McDonald from the Office of the Minister for Police.

[liv] This copy of the report was provided to the Paper Tracker by the Hon Robert Brokenshire MLC (Family First) to whom SA Police had released a copy of the report on 26 June 2012 (see: Gentgall, T (SAPOL). 26 June 2012, Letter to Hon R. Brokenshire MLC).

[lv] SAPOL. June 2011. “Community Constable Program & Police Aboriginal Liaison Officer Scheme. APY & Yalata Lands. Evaluation and Options”, page15-16.

[lvi] See: Gentgall, T (SAPOL). 26 June 2012, Letter to Hon R. Brokenshire MLC, p2.

[lvii] Gentgall, T (SAPOL). 26 June 2012, Letter to Hon R. Brokenshire MLC, p2.

[lviii] Boyer, B. 19 January 2012. Letter to Rev. P. McDonald from the Office of the South Australian Minister for Police.

The Paper Tracker works hard to provide accurate and up-to-date information. We will correct any inaccurate information as soon as it is brought to our attention. Please contact us if you have additional information or can provide us with an update.