The Northern Territory has the largest Aboriginal population of any Australian jurisdiction by percentage. Police have always had a close connection with the communities they serve and work hand in hand with community members and leaders to solve mutual problems. Aboriginal people have played many roles within the Northern Territory Police including Police Trackers, Aboriginal Police Aides, Aboriginal Community Police Officers (ACPOs), Constables and other ranks within the force.
Warning: May contain images and names of Aboriginal people who have died.
As the name suggests one of the very important services they performed was man tracking to identify offenders however they also often provided language skills, local knowledge, cultural advice, survival advice, general support and community liaison roles. As children from Aboriginal communities the tracker would learn how to find and interpret tracks and signs and an 'experienced tracker could read the ground like a story book' (Pat Lowe, 2002 - Hunters and Trackers of the Australian Desert)
Police Trackers in the Northern Territory Police Force were phased out in the late 1980's. Aboriginals continued to serve as either Police Constables (and ranks) or Aboriginal Community Police Officers. NT Police continue to use trackers drawn from skilled community members where appropriate. Teddy Egan from Yuendumu is a well known Tracker who for several decades has assisted police track offenders.
"Neighbour" was a well known Police Tracker from Roper River who received the Albert Medal for Bravery in 1911 for rescuing a policeman during a flood (at the time of the rescue he was actually a prisoner being transported).
An example of a manhunt involving multiple trackers was the search for murder suspect Larry Boy near Mataranka in 1968
The story of Aboriginal Police Trackers around Australia can be read at Culture.gov.au
Neighbour receiving the Albert Medal of Bravery in 1911
Photos used with permission of www.ozbadge.com
Aboriginal Police Liaison Officer
In 1974 a scheme was introduced to draw more aboriginal employees into the Police Force and to remove any possible reluctance of Aboriginals to make reports to Police. The Scheme introduced was that of Police Liaison Officers. Their prime function was to take any complaints from aboriginals and others and to assist any aboriginal who came into or who was brought into the station for any reason. It was their role to assist in the welfare of aboriginal prisoners, suspects and prisoners family. These positions were created in Alice Springs, Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Nhulunbuy and Groote Eylandt.
An induction course was held between the 28th January and the 28th February 1975 Sergeant 3/C J.A. Wilson in Alice Springs for seven students. The course comprised of;
Robert Francis Stuart
George Ernest Bray
Billy Jungala Watson
Table 1- Police Liaison Officers Induction Course participants - February 1975
Another induction course was held in Darwin between the 2nd and 26th January 1979. The course participants for this course were;
Sammy Cooper Narumalu
Of this group, Sandy, James and Cooper went on to become Police Aides.
Eventually this concept was replaced by the Police Aide and Aboriginal Community Police Officer Schemes.
Police Liaison Officer Joy Obrien / Cardona joined 1978 till 1981- then again from 1996-99.
The Northern Territories Native Police Corp was established in November 1884 at the request of MC Willshire who made a representation to the South Australian Police Commissioner. Six men aged between 17 and 26 were recruited from Charlotte Waters, Undoolya and Macumba. They were issued with a horse and equipment and their uniform was that of the SA Mounted Police distinguished by a white band on the hat and a little piping on the jacket.
Aboriginal Police Aide
The Constable, Police Aide Liaison Officer is directly responsible to the Chief Inspector, Training for the effective and efficient operation of the Police Aide Training Programme.
2.1 The development, implement and co-ordination of the basic training programme of sufficient scope to convert an aboriginal recruit into a Police Aide who can operate effectively within the law, with moderate supervision.
2.2 Co-ordinate, administer and deliver such training programme as required.
2.3 Liaise with all sections of the Police Force, educational institutions, and other similar organisations to ensure that programmes are achieving set objectives.
2.4 Monitor direction and effectiveness of Police Aide Training Programme and recommend adjustments and changes if necessary.
2.5 Conduct interviews at Aboriginal Communities relevant Aide applications, submit reports on suitability of same, also prepare situation reports on Communities as required.
2.6 Ensure that Police Aide expenditure is kept within the level of the allocation of funds.
2.7 Other duties as directed by the Chief Inspector, Training.