Martu host 18 leaders from Police, Border Force and Fire and Rescue services on country

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In August, a number of executive leaders from the Australian & New Zealand Police Leadership Strategy, an initiative of the Australian Institute of Police Management (AIPM), spent five days with over 50 Martu leaders deep in the Western Desert region east of Newman.

This leadership group included the WA Commissioner of Police, Chris Dawson, the Chief Police Officer ACT Australian Federal Police, Justine Saunders, two Deputy Commissioners from the Queensland Fire & Emergency Services and Australian Border Force and three Assistant Commissioners from WA and SA. They were also joined by a number of senior WA Police.

Before the visitors arrived, Martu worked together over two days in Parnngurr to talk about the key messages that they wanted these senior police leaders to hear about from Martu. In the end Clifton summed it up by saying we want them to learn about respect justice and Martu power. The team wanted to show how Martu are using the Martu Leadership Program to work towards a new story for Martu in the Criminal Justice system.

The first day was all about getting to camp. Police leaders from around Australia had arrived early that morning in Newman and before they knew it they were in Toyotas heading to a camp located near Parnngurr Community, (about 5 hours east from Newman.)

They arrived at the camp that evening and were welcomed by Martu who had camp fires, snacks and a BBQ dinner ready to serve.

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The next day the workshop sessions began after a very warm welcome from all Martu who introduced themselves to the visitors. Once introductions were finished, everyone split into two groups and the focus for the day was social structures, Martu kinship and the police hierarchy structure. The police were very honoured to learn how the Martu kinship system works.

Day three was a little more challenging. Martu did well to explain their systems of punishment which can be difficult to understand for police who work from a lawbook. Mr Williams provided some good examples of how Martu punishment is different from whitefella law.

The police leaders heard that in a Martu way, somebody can get punishment from whitefella law and then get further punishment from Martu law.

One clear difference is that Martu law is quick and doesn’t include prison. Once it is done then everybody moves on. They don’t look back whereas whitefella law always keeps the record.

On day four the Martu leaders presented their leadership journey, the lessons they have learnt about the whitefella law system and their plans for a different story for Martu away from prisons. It was a positive message to finish on and one that was welcomed by Police Commissioner Dawson, inviting and supporting Martu to keep talking to the ‘big bosses’ of all government agencies.

While Martu and police worked hard over the four days, it wasn’t without some fun. Martu took police on hunting and gathering adventures bringing in kangaroo, camel, bustard, bush tomato and witchetty grubs. Our visitors had the opportunity to visit a number of sites and continued to learn many stories from the Martu elders. The evenings were spent with a lot of talk around the fires and some movies under the stars.

As the sun went down on our last night Martu performed their traditional dance. This showed a big respect for the leaders who attended and was followed by Martu presenting each of the visiting officers with a gift pack to say thank you.

In a huge display of thanks by the police the police commissioner, and a number of his other staff presented the elders with their uniformed belts.

There was a good feeling in the camp and both Martu and the visitors are looking forward to continuing the journey to find a better way of working together.

The camp would not have been possible with the massive effort of the camp manager Marc Huber. Thank you to the leaders for joining Martu on country and for the Martu leaders for sharing their knowledge and stories.

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