APY Lands: Police Aboriginal Liaison Officers

First posted on 28 March 2008 under APY Lands & Employment.
This article has been updated and archived.
Tags: policing


The first PALO graduates

The first PALO recruits (2008)

For over 20 years, Anangu Community Constables provided the first line of policing on the APY Lands. From 2004 onwards, the number of Anangu willing or able to take on this role dropped significantly. In 2007, South Australia (SA) Police decided to use some of the salaries from unfilled Community Constable positions to employ Anangu staff in other roles.

In early 2008, SA Police appointed four Anangu as Police Aboriginal Liaison Officers.

As of 2 February 2012, there was only one Liaison Officer on the APY Lands.[i]

The Paper Trail

Police Aboriginal Liaison Officers

In December 2006, SA Police reported that it was considering redirecting part of the salaries for vacant APY Community Constable positions towards the cost of employing Aboriginal women to assist “in investigations of sexual abuse and other forms of violence.”[ii]

The following year, SA Police developed plans to recruit three Anangu as community liaison officers as part of a 12-month pilot scheme to help it respond more effectively to family violence. SA Police expected most of these recruits to be women, appointed on a part-time basis.[iii]

In March 2008, four Anangu completed a week of training to become “Police Aboriginal Liaison Officers.” A media release issued later that month 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.[iv]

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.[v]

As of 30 September 2008, one of the Liaison Officers had gone on to become a full-time Community Constable. This resulted in a decrease in the number of Liaison Officers (from 4 to 3) and a corresponding increase in the number of Community Constables (from 3 to 4). [vi]

A second round of training for potential Liaison Officers was conducted in December 2008.[vii] A third round was conducted in 2009.[viii]

2009 update

On 6 July 2009, the Paper Tracker asked SA Police for an update on its efforts to recruit and retain Anangu staff on the APY Lands.[ix]

In a reply dated 21 July 2009, SA Police advised that:

  • there were two Aboriginal Liaison Officers working in APY communities,
  • these officers lived in Iwantja and Amata, and
  • the officers were “available to operate within these communities and to assist police officers on the APY Lands, in particular assisting the APY Lands Child and Family Violence/Crime Prevention Officers”.[x]

At that time, SA Police also noted that the completion of new police stations at Amata, Mimili and Pukatja would “provide the opportunity to consolidate employment of community members.”[xi]

As the Liaison Officers are employed on an “as needs” basis, the Paper Tracker had asked SA Police for information on the number of hours that these officers had been employed during the previous month (i.e. June 2009). This information was not provided in SA Police’s reply of 21 July 2009.

2010 update

On 21 April 2010, the Paper Tracker asked SA Police for another update on its efforts to train and employ Police Aboriginal Liaison Officers.[xii]

In a reply dated 11 May 2010, SA Police advised that while there were “still two current” Liaison Officers on the APY Lands – one each in Iwantja and Amata – neither officer had been “officially utilised in the first quarter of 2010.”[xiii]

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.[xiv]

2011 update

In early 2011, the Paper Tracker asked SA Police for another update on its efforts to train and employ Liaison Officers.[xv]

In a reply dated 28 January 2011, SA Police advised that:

  • three Liaison Officers had been employed for a combined total of 251 hours between July and December 2010,
  • a review conducted in November 2010 had found that two of these officers were no longer able to perform their duties “due to other commitments” and that these officers had subsequently “separated” from SA Police,
  • the one remaining Liaison Officer was based in Pukatja,
  • another two Anangu had been selected for Liaison Officer positions, “with their training to commence in February [2011]”, and
  • once trained, the new officers would work in Kaltjiti and Mimili.[xvi]

Ten months later, on 8 November 2011, SA Police advised the Paper Tracker that only two Anangu were engaged as Liaison Officers, both based in Kaltjiti.[xvii]

2012 update

As of 2 February 2012, there was only one Anangu Liaison Officer on the APY Lands and seven of the ten APY Community Constable positions were vacant.[xviii]

This article was last updated in February 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] See: Yeomans, A (SAPOL). 2 February 2012. Email to J. Nicholls. Also: Boothey, S (SAPOL). 2 February 2012. Email to S. Martin (The Australian).

[ii] “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).

[iii] These developments were outlined by Assistant Commissioner Graeme Barton (SAPOL) during a meeting held at the State Administration Centre on 21 September 2007. Two months later, the Department of the Premier and Cabinet reported that: “A position of Community Liaison Officer has been agreed by SAPOL with the aim of employing Anangu women to assist women and children who are subject to domestic violence and abuse to come forward” (“Progress on the APY Lands” report, November 2007, Department of the Premier and Cabinet, p8).

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

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

[vi] Wright, M. 29 October 2008, “APY Lands,” Hansard, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia, p686. Information confirmed by M. Weaver during phone conversation with J. Nicholls on 30 October 2008.

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

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

[ix] McDonald, P. 6 July 2009. Letter to G. Barton (SAPOL).

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

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

[xii] McDonald, P. 21 April 2010. Letter to G. Barton (SAPOL).

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

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

[xv] McDonald, P. 10 January 2011. Letter to G. Barton (SAPOL).

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

[xvii] Information provided by Senior Sergeant A. Yeomans (SAPOL) on 8 November 2011 in the course of an interview recorded for the Paper Tracker Radio Show.

[xviii] See: Yeomans, A (SAPOL). 2 February 2012. Email to J. Nicholls. Also: Boothey, S (SAPOL). 2 February 2012. Email to S. Martin (The Australian).

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.