WA POLICE Commissioner Chris Dawson’s apology to the Indigenous community last week should bridge the gap between the two groups, according to Warakurna Brevet Sergeant Wendy Kelly.
Mr Dawson said sorry to the State’s Indigenous people for the force’s part in “past wrongful actions” outside Police Headquarters yesterday.
The speech coincided with Naidoc Week and was preceded by a traditional Indigenous dance performance and smoking ceremony.
It was also revealed the Aborginal flag would fly permanently outside Police Headquarters.
Sgt Kelly said police and the Noongar community could now “move on”.
“I truly believe (it is a new start) because some of the elders that were here today stood up during the ceremony which I see as a positive,” she said.
“I feel, for myself, so proud and I’m going to do everything I can to bridge that gap even more.”
She said she did not expect Mr Dawson to apologise.
“I spoke to Commissioner Dawson and said to him ‘you didn’t have to say sorry’, but he did and it’s made such an impact,” she said.
“ I know now, even though I’m five foot, I can stand tall.
“I can do things knowing I have the backup with any decision-making and projects I take on.”
Commissioner Dawson said some of his comments were “confronting and may make some people feel uncomfortable” but truth-telling was important.
“And so, on behalf of the Western Australia Police Force, I would like to say sorry to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for our participation in past wrongful actions that have caused immeasurable pain and suffering,” he said.
“As the legislated protectors of Aboriginal people, police played an important and significant role in contributing to a traumatic history, which continues to reverberate today.”
Commissioner Dawson highlighted the “grave impacts” the forcible removal of Aboriginal children from their families had on Indigenous people and their culture.
“We cannot change the past but we can learn from it,” he said.
“We can make amends and ensure mistakes are not repeated.
“From this day forward, and in my time as Commissioner, I will take steps to heal historical wounds between police and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“I accept our tumultuous history, acknowledge the devastating impact of our actions and take ownership of being part of the problem.”