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06 Sep 2016


SSI collaboration helps refugees connect with police

More than 60 participants from the police force and settlement sector gathered for the roundtable.

Representatives from the NSW Police Force, the settlement sector, community associations and leaders, gathered last week at SSI’s head office in Sydney for a roundtable event designed to enhance understanding between police officers and the workers who support refugees and people seeking asylum.

As part of an extensive orientation program, SSI provides refugees and people seeking asylum with information about policing in Australia.

However, as SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said, some new arrivals remained fearful of police officers stemming from experiences in their home countries that can affect interactions between the two parties.

“In 2013, we had a similar roundtable event with the NSW Police Force and what came from that was a wonderful initiative called ‘Coffee with a Cop’, where a uniformed officer engages with an asylum seeker or refugee on that human level; which at the end of the day is what we all desire – to be seen as a human and not as a label or a uniform,” Ms Roumeliotis said.

“These sorts of initiatives are what come from opportunities to discuss very human issues, like this roundtable. We can collectively put our heads together and achieve great outcomes.”

NSW Police Superintendent Peter Lennon, Commander of the Fairfield Local Area Command, said these opportunities were vital for both the Police Force and the community.

“You can’t put a value on how important these informal discussions are. They are certainly beneficial to our officers as I hope they are to the community, including the workers who support refugees and people seeking asylum. A number of settlement issues where police and service providers can cooperate to the benefit of refugees and asylum seekers were discussed,” Superintendent Lennon said.

“It is equally important that refugees and asylum seekers transition as smoothly as possible from being new arrivals to established members of the community.

“We recognise that being in a new country, with no or few friends or family, is difficult and we’re here to assure you that police officers are your friends and we can all work together for a safer community.”

Over the course of the day, more than 60 participants from the police force and settlement sector worked through real-life scenarios where refugees or people seeking asylum might encounter police, with the aim of helping all participants to feel better equipped to jointly respond to such scenarios and achieve better outcomes for new arrivals.

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