Understanding police-Indigenous relations in remote and rural Australia: police perspectives

Understanding police-Indigenous relations in remote and rural Australia: police perspectives Thesis

Faculty of Law

  • Author(s): Dwyer, Anna
  • Published: 2018
  • Publisher: Queensland University of Technology
  • Volume: Master of Philosophy

Abstract: Indigenous people in Australia are vastly over-represented within the criminal justice system. While there has been fierce debate in academic circles regarding the nature of this overrepresentation, discriminatory policing practices and generally poor relations between Indigenous peoples and the police have been regularly highlighted. The dramatically higher rates of criminalisation and police intervention for Aboriginal people compared to non-Aboriginal people reinforce their exclusion from social and economic participation. Given the high proportion of Aboriginal people residing in rural and remote communities, such places are often viewed as sites of racial conflict and/or crime in the Australian context. This research examines police and Indigenous relations in rural and remote contexts in Australia. This research aimed to elicit insights from police officers in order to find further solutions to improve relationships between the two groups. It contributes to the body of knowledge seeking to identify ways to rectify the issue of Indigenous people being overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Whilst various themes surrounding drivers of police behaviour have been recorded in the literature, the perspectives of what influences individual police officers to choose certain police practices in the context of discrete Indigenous communities has not previously been explored in depth. Historically, the relationship between police and Indigenous people in Australia has been, for the most part, contentious. This dynamic between police and Indigenous people has been particularly evident in discrete Indigenous communities in Queensland, which were formed during the colonial period. Colonisation saw police responsible for forcing Indigenous people from their traditional lands and onto reserves, in order to control Indigenous people and manage their assimilation into white society. Ultimately, these discrete Indigenous communities set the scene for a history of ongoing tensions between police and Indigenous people. This research uses a grounded theory approach to gain insight into how social factors such as ecology, and organisational and occupational culture influence police in the course of their duties in the context of a discrete Indigenous community. In depth interviews were conducted with 15 police officers who work or have worked extensively in discrete Indigenous communities in Queensland. The research found that ecological factors, such as community dynamics and Indigenous culture, heavily influence how police respond to situations more than factors relating to organisational and occupational culture. It also found that ecological factors shape various policing practices directed at maintaining peaceful relationships and legitimacy. Overall the relationship between police and Indigenous people in Australia has been one of tension and conflict. However, in contemporary times the relationship between the two groups has been examined with a view to finding solutions to bring about better cooperation. The insights provided in this research contributes to that body of knowledge seeking to better understand what police do to manage tensions and improve relationships with Indigenous people; furthermore, it provides valuable insights for police organisations to consider to ensure future relationships are kept peaceful.

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Suggested Citation
Dwyer, Anna, 2018, Understanding police-Indigenous relations in remote and rural Australia: police perspectives, Volume:Master of Philosophy, Thesis, viewed 15 August 2022, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=13920.

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