In her opinion piece 'Racism against white people' does not exist (Opinion, NH 27/4), Genevieve Triemstra offers two statements that require challenge.
I agree that Police Minister David Elliott's comments about students at Lindfield Learning Village (who made posters featuring slogans such as "Black Lives Matter" and "Stop Killer Cops" as part of a class activity) were intemperate.
But Triemstra goes on to write that "police cannot be relied upon as impartial allies. We only have to look at the horrifying rate of indigenous deaths in custody to reveal the extent of systemic racism on our shores".
This implies that police racism is behind Aboriginal deaths in custody, which is a false and simplistic view.
The majority of the 474 Aboriginal deaths in custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody have not been in police custody.
In NSW there have been 30 deaths in police custody since the Royal Commission (up to 30 June 2019), only two of which have been in police cells (the definition of "death in custody" includes any death during or following interaction with police, whether confrontational or welfare-related).
There have been 138 Aboriginal deaths in police custody in other states and territories for this period (168 in total for Australia).
Triemstra also wrote: "If police officers in Australia truly practised integrity, accountability and fairness as they purport to, they wouldn't have an issue with schools teaching about the reality of racism and policing in Australia".
Where is the evidence, or the suggestion, that police have an issue with what schools teach? Has the police commissioner, or any other officer, been reported as commenting?
Police would welcome more enlightened understanding of racism, not just in school children but in adults too, as they are continually required to deal with its manifestation. They are also involved in many activities to counter the involvement of young Aboriginal people in criminal behaviour.
Police would welcome more enlightened understanding of racism, not just in school children but in adults.
Take Bourke as an example. About one third of its population is Aboriginal, but they account for a disproportionate amount of police time, responding to domestic disputes and petty or more serious crime.
But police are involved in a multitude of programs to keep young Aborigines out of the criminal justice system. They work closely with the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project and the "Return to Community" program, supporting young Aborigines returning after imprisonment or detention. And all around NSW, the police are engaging with Aboriginal communities.
Incidentally, another newspaper recently reported that between 1989 and 2012 a total of 951 Aborigines were murdered in Australia, 80 per cent by other Aborigines. Sixty seven per cent were domestic homicides. In that period there were 143 Aboriginal deaths in police custody Australia-wide.
There are many factors contributing to the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system: substance abuse, unstable upbringing and neglect, interpersonal violence and poor education, all contributing to the commission of crime that police cannot simply ignore. Simply blaming the police does nothing to resolve these problems.
Many young Aboriginal people lack identity. They are not blind to the dispossession, oppression and slaughter that their forebears suffered. Police cannot fix this. But one positive step would be to acknowledge the rights of First Nations people through the adoption of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the modest measures for recognition and change that go with it.
Most important, we should enable our First Nations people to have the first and last say in their well-being and destiny.
Their ancestors occupied this land before humans reached Europe. They developed sophisticated laws, customs and land-sharing arrangements. They survived extreme climate change - the last ice-age lasted 12,000 years.
They adapted to sea level rise of more than a 100 metres. Their Songlines have carried knowledge and understanding of Country. Their skills in agriculture, engineering and design, science, architecture, healing and plants, have been handed down through generations. They traded with other nations many millennia ago.
We should all be proud of their achievements and should support them in their quest to regain the independence and resilience that Europeans took from them.
Hopefully, this will put them on the path where deaths in custody cease to be the scourge it is today.
It is not a problem just for the police; it is a challenge for all of us.
John Ure is a retired NSW Police assistant commissioner. He was NSW Police Liaison Officer to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody
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