Patrol progressing despite funding cuts

Jack Dempster greets Nyoongar Outreach Service patrollers Clive Smith and Marcel Roberts
Jack Dempster greets Nyoongar Outreach Service patrollers Clive Smith and Marcel Roberts

Last year, the outreach service, which helps resolve public conflicts and prevent Aboriginal youth and adults from clashing with police, was $300,000 out of pocket after failing to secure a grant from the Attorney-General’s Department.

Nyoongar Patrol chief executive Maria McAtackney said two staff members and a bus, which patrolled the South-East Corridor, were lost as a result of the federal funding cut. There is now only one bus, which patrols during the day from Tuesday to Thursday and on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Ms McAtackney was initially concerned the evening patrols would have to end too.

However, the outreach service was able to regain $180,000 in this year’s State budget from the WA Department of Indigenous Affairs, which will be ongoing for the next three years.

‘If we had lost all of that ($300,000) then it would have been a major crisis,’ she said.

‘We were vulnerable, but things are looking much better.

‘What we’re doing now is maintaining the patrols and getting around the hot spot areas as quickly as we can.’

Ms McAtackney said the South-East Corridor, which includes Cannington and Burswood, was made a priority because of high demand for services despite the service operating on limited funds.

‘We have to prioritise our services. Fremantle isn’t as busy during the nights, so if we have a staff shortage due to leave entitlements, we mobilise the patrol to the South-East.

‘The patrols make a significant difference to the area.’

Patrol officer Clive Smith said the reason the patrols were successful was because the patrollers were able to get to know the people they dealt with and gain their trust.

‘You get to know them and the hot spots,’ he said.

‘Things go on, but we work it out with them instead of the police; we’re there to help them and not get them in trouble.’

Patrollers transport youth to their homes after safety checks and parent/guardian consents are completed and take adults to support services if needed, especially if they are intoxicated.

Mr Smith said patrollers work closely with stakeholders, including the police and often help mitigate situations that could end in arrest.