Bridging the divide

Latrobe Valley police have rolled out a cultural competency training program to improve relations with the multicultural community amid criticisms of racial profiling hurled against Victoria’s forces in 2013.

Fifteen police from Moe attended the two-hour training session conducted by the Gippsland Multicultural Services in December where issues such as professional policing, cultural awareness and community engagement were discussed.

Moe police multicultural liaison officer Sergeant Andrew McCrorey said the course was tailored specifically for the Valley to enable officers to improve their understanding of the region’s migrant and refugee communities.

Sgt McCrorey said the training also covered migration and demographics, cross-cultural differences, myths and facts concerning faith-based groups, and even practical examples of using the telephone interpreter service.

“Just the awareness helps us to perform our duty,” Sgt McCrorey said.

“Latrobe Valley is an increasingly diverse region and this training allows us to engage with emerging communities.”

The training used case studies and examples of policing practices exploring decision making and instances where members of the community may have felt marginalised based on their interactions with authorities.

Sgt McCrorey said it was important for police to engage with the multicultural community as services provided by Victorian authorities differed from their home countries.

GMS director Lisa Sinha said one barrier between police and the multicultural community was the “fear of authorities”, which is more prevalent among refugees.

“I think for some areas such as family violence, it’s not understood that it’s not a private matter, it’s a crime and the police can assist,” Ms Sinha said.

She said although police officers received training on multicultural issues while in academy, it was important to update and localise their knowledge when they were assigned to communities.

The GMS is set to conduct the same training among police officers in Traralgon and Morwell.

Ms Sinha said the training was an offshoot of the regular dialogues police and council have been conducting with the multicultural community since last year.

Thirty per cent of Latrobe Valley residents come from a cultural background where either or both of their parents have been born overseas.